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Pannikin Coffee & Tea in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Pannikin Coffee & Tea in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
ColumnsRoast! San Diego

Bean Journal: Pannikin Coffee & Tea

Where: Pannikin Coffee & Tea, 510 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Open: 6:00 AM – 6:00 PM Daily
What: Black Drip Costa Rica – $4.31 after tax
Tasting notes: Rich, hearty
Find them at: • @pannikincoffeeandtea on Instagram
What I’m listening to: The Shivers, “Hearts On Fire.”

A well-worn wooden placard is on the wall just outside the Pannikin* Coffee & Tea entrance, a nod to the building’s origins as the Santa Fe Railroad train depot in Encinitas.

“Built in 1888, the Pannikin is located in this historic Santa Fe Railroad Station on historic Coast Highway 101,” the company’s website reads.

The cafe has been serving coffee and tea in Leucadia since 1968. That’s a lot of history in one building.

The building is one of the big reasons I’m here this morning. The vibrant yellow paint job and the matching umbrellas catch the eye like a yellow warbler in the thicket. I pull over, and a dozen minutes later, I’ve managed to parallel park in what I think is a fair game parking spot on a side road. Parking is why I try to ride my bike as much as possible.

Even before I enter the cafe, I’m struck by the many options for sitting, sipping, and eating outside. There are grassy areas, a patio filled with patrons wraps around the upper level of the building, picnic tables are lined up out front, custom wood loungers are bolted into the sidewalk, and a white bench runs nearly the length of the patio facing out towards the street.

The historic Pannikin Coffee & Tea building served as the original train station for Encinitas since 1888. Photo by Ryan Woldt
The historic Pannikin Coffee & Tea building was formerly the Santa Fe Railroad train depot in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Around the corner, in the shade, you’ll find colorful mosaics topping concrete patio furniture and Adirondack chairs. If you’re rolling deep with the crew on any given morning, you’ll likely be able to find a place to sit at Pannikin.

I’m overwhelmed by the choices and haven’t even gone inside yet. Just in the door, you’ll be confronted by a merch wall and an even bigger display of loose-leaf tea and coffee beans. To the right is the store, of which the options are many. Without breaking a sweat, I could drop $100 on mugs, beans, and kitsch.

To the left is the counter. A sign says, “Coffee roasted in house with Organic Beans.” Then you’ll see the pastries and pies. There are cinnamon rolls that look bigger than my head, which says something. You should see my head.

The expansive breakfast and lunch menu includes eggs, bagels and toasts, bowls, salads, sandwiches, soups, and quiches. Did I mention the pie? There is a lot to choose from. Like many homes someone has been in for a long time, there is a sort of organized hoarder clutter system to the whole place that feels quaint.

I order my standard batch-brewed black mug of coffee. Pannikin roasts their beans, after all. In what is impressive in retrospect but annoying at the moment, the gentleman who takes my order manages to pour the coffee, ring me up, and hand me the coffee without ever taking a break from scrolling Instagram on his phone. I ask what I’m drinking, but he’s already gone. Another barista leans over to say they think it is a Costa Rica, which goes into my notes.

Pannikin coffee. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Pannikin coffee. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Cinnamon rolls and other pastries are available at Pannikin Coffee & Tea. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Cinnamon rolls and other pastries are available at Pannikin Coffee & Tea. Photo by Ryan Woldt

An upper level is inside, with tables and seating leading to the wraparound porch. I’m more interested in the bowels of this old building. I take the stairs down to the landing overlooking the coffee roaster. It is undergoing maintenance of some sort.

The arm rotates in the cooling tray, but no beans are to be seen. No matter, the smell of thousands, maybe millions of roasts, has seeped into the wood railing, the walls, and the essence of this space. I breathe it in for a moment before heading outside.

I join many hip-looking seniors in Brixton flannels or McGill Skate tees, flip-flops, and wraparound polarized shades there. Pannikin is a local meeting spot. There are also a lot of brunch eaters, and dozens of cyclists roll up during my visit. They lock up to custom-designed racks.

Labradors lounge on the lawns. Moms and daughters split pastries. Couples hold hands and coffee mugs, looking for the best seating area for their needs. I post up on one of the sidewalk chairs and watch it all. This is a historic building, a historic spot, and the people here today may remember this moment in their shared history with Leucadia.

Behind me, the train rolls by. The first of many horn blasts pierces Pannikin’s thrumming buzz of commerce.

*I want to call it “The Pannikin.” I don’t know why. Did you know that pannikin is another term for a small cup or pan for drinking from? I didn’t.

Want to hear the stories of local coffee entrepreneurs or learn how to brew a better cup of coffee at home? Listen to the Coffee People and Coffee Smarter podcasts featuring lots of local coffee roasters like Crossings Coffee, Mostra Coffee, and Ignite Coffee Company. You can even stream the latest episodes on The Coast News!