Where: X [REDACTED], Unknown Location, North County
Open: Daily at 7 a.m.
What: Espresso shot, medium roast with flavor notes of sweet, syrupy, and rich chocolate.
Find them at: www.[REDACTED].com
What I’m listening to: Father John Misty, “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”
I want it on the record that I went into this week’s coffee exploration with the same optimism and excitement as always. I went to [REDACTED] looking for an opportunity to uplift a local business, drink a (hopefully) good cup of coffee, and, in this case, meet up with some other coffee industry professionals to swap stories about entrepreneurship.
It’s an important note, considering all of the redactions sprinkled throughout this week’s column to prevent you from knowing where I actually went! If you read this column regularly, you’ve probably noticed a few consistencies. One, I don’t drag a coffee shop through the mud if I don’t like the coffee.
Taste is subjective and to each their own. I will compliment roasters and cafes that I believe create a quality offering, but there are so many variables associated with taste that it would be a disservice to you, the reader, to dismiss cafes based on my taste buds alone.
Second, there isn’t a lot of negativity in this column generally. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I’m not fond of writing mean things about my experience at a particular coffee shop, even if they are true. If I have a bad (or really bad) experience, I don’t write about that coffee shop!
Why should I? There are enough good, better, and great coffee shops to explore. The industry is rife with talent, creativity, and exciting innovation. You can throw a stick and find half a dozen places to get a cup of coffee. Most of them are pretty good. They have to be if they want to survive.
This is why I find myself at a crossroads this week. I went to a local coffee provider. It was really busy. I went right to sit with my colleagues on the deck. It was a hot, sunny morning, but [REDACTED] has some lovely shaded outdoor spaces under umbrellas and foliage.
The vibe is classy yet casual. It is coastal with a hint of New England-inspired design. A never-ending hipster, indie rock soundtrack floated above the customers and puppies — so many puppies this morning — frequenting the cafe.
When the line came down, I ordered a shot of espresso. They offered a side of tonic water, which I always appreciate as a palate cleanser. I’ll interject that I was clear about wanting to drink my espresso “for here,” meaning at the cafe. The staffer behind the counter nodded and smiled.
The service was quite pleasant and more than competent. It was clear that they had hospitality training and skills. I returned to my chair in the shade, but I definitely considered moving to the faux-grass picnic space. The music was louder there, and the dog seemed anxious to hunt for crumbs.
I could see this column shaping up in my head. A glowing report on my experience at [REDACTED] and some exposition on what a comfortable vibe they managed to convey despite the nearly constant line of traffic at the register. Only rarely were there no customers spilling out the wide-open sets of doors.
And then they called my name.
The espresso and tonic were served on a tray in a similar fashion to other local roasters that skew to the crafty side of coffee. Unlike other local roasters, each of the items in front of me — the tray, the espresso shot, the side of tonic — were served in or on single-serving containers.
My coffee order was responsible for three pieces of waste, commercially compostable waste, but waste nonetheless.
I can’t honestly say I recall if I enjoyed the coffee. I was surprised by the presentation of my order by the aesthetic of the off-white cup against the off-white tray. Perhaps they ran out of reusable glassware. It is quite busy, I thought.
I peeked back inside. No coffee mugs. No Gibraltar glasses for shots. No pint or Collins glasses for iced coffees. [REDACTED] doesn’t offer any reusable product of any kind.*
Drinking an espresso is a quick affair by design. Even if you wanted to take it slow, it wouldn’t last more than several minutes of focused sipping. Espresso is a ritualistic endeavor for many and an immediate influx of caffeine for the rest.
Proper glassware aids the ritual and prevents untold quantities of waste from hitting the landfill. Compostable doesn’t mean sustainable, nor even more environmentally friendly.
This isn’t a column about sustainability. Nor is it meant to discourage coffee exploration, hence the crossroads I’ve found myself at. I enjoyed 90% of my experience at [REDACTED], but I feel uncomfortable uplifting them due to the impact they are causing in a world continually reminded that excessive human consumption doesn’t often lead to positive results.
The 90% wasn’t worth the remaining 10%.
Being a consumer is hard work. Being a responsible consumer is even harder. Know that while you’re out there making choices, I’m here cheering you on, hopefully, with a good cup of coffee in my mug.
*I went back to confirm this on multiple occasions. I brought my own cup and avoided the espresso.
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!