Where: Baba Coffee, 2727 State St #100, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday-Saturday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
What: Baba Blend Dark Roast black drip-Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatemala, and Sumatra beans
Tasting Notes: Caramel, chocolate, molasses, cherry
Price: Small (10oz) $2.35
What I’m listening to: El Michels Affair, Piya Malik, “Murkit Gem”
When Baba Coffee opened in Carlsbad Village, there was a dearth of competition. Things have changed. There are two coffee roasters and at least three other coffee purveyors within a few steps of downtown State Street alone. Go a few blocks east or west of downtown, and those numbers double. Rumor has it more are on the way.
Still, Baba always seems to be busy when I pass by. The bartop outside, the pew along the wall, and the communal seating inside are always full of families eating and drinking. Focused laptop users tap away, and a couple of older gents swapping complaints about local government bureaucracy.
Even today, despite the grey, despite the cold, despite the wet, nearly every seat is full when I arrive. I order a small black coffee. I bring my own mug, and the barista fills it to the top despite it being two ounces larger than their small size. It’s the Baba Blend dark roast.
There are two baristas working in concert this morning, both of whom greet me with a smile and a casual, “Be right with you.” While I wait, I try to take in all that the shop offers. There are bottles of wine and coffee equipment next to a Bitcoin ATM near the back. More than half the coffee bar is a food and beverage case filled to the max with beer, San Pellegrino, donuts, and croissants.
Shelves mounted next to the menu on the concrete block wall behind the counter hold dozens of tea varieties, more wine, and bags of coffee from Pannikin. The Baba motto, “Smuggling Good Vibes,” is mounted to the left of a T.V. screen near the roll-up garage doors up front. It feels like someone blended the buzzwords local, wellness, and coffee together into an aggregator, and out came Baba.
There is a lot going on in a small space.* Flowers from the nearby plant shop fill buckets in front of the black and white decorative tile that lines the front of the coffee counter. I take a moment to peruse the food menu, which is much bigger than I expected from such a small shop. They serve acai bowls, hummus plates, various toasts, and smoothies.
Baba’s coffee drink menu is expansive, and if you’re looking for variety in your Boba options, you’ve come to the right place.** There are CBD products, cold brews, pour-overs, and something called the Prison Break Frappe — coffee, sugar, and milk shaken and poured over ice.
I take my simple cup of coffee outside and find a dry spot under a teal blue umbrella to take in the vibe. The music is upbeat. Some combination between jam band and electronic dance beats. There is a sign on the door that says, “No Pets Allowed,” but more than a few furry friends pass by me on their way to the counter inside.
State Street has undergone (and continues to undergo) a revitalization in recent years. I look at Nick’s on State, Pure Taco and Lofty Coffee in the modern, new buildings across the street. It takes me a few moments to recall the antique gallery that was torn down. Construction sounds come from the soon-to-be-finished new theatre space on the Baba side of the street, and more retail construction is on deck for 2023. Baba has maintained through it all.
I wander around the corner towards the acclaimed Campfire restaurant to see more seating between the two buildings and a sign touting the Baba Top Lounge upstairs. I never find it, probably due to the rain. Dear god, the rain. Will it ever end?
My coffee is a true dark roast. I don’t get much cherry, but the chocolate and molasses come through just fine. I take it with me on a stroll through the village. It keeps me warm as I try to imagine what this block will look like next year.
*Somehow, Baba Coffee hosts live music events here. Follow on Instagram @babacoffee for event announcements.
**I don’t know anything about Boba other than my wife loves it.
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