Where: Café LaTerre,1022 N. El Camino Real, Encinitas, CA 92024 (inside Salon World Suites)
Open: Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
What: Crossings Coffee Guatemala Huehuetenango*
Tasting Notes: Lemon, praline, caramel**
What I’m listening to: John Hartford “Joseph’s Dream”
There is no sign*** for Café LaTerre when I pull up in front of Salon World Suites in Encinitas. Next to the Target? Check. Some patio tables and chairs out front? I think this is it? Imagine my voice raised at the end of that sentence. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I’m in the right place.
I push through the salon’s front door and get a smile from the receptionist.
“Can I help you?” she asks.
“Coffee?” I respond. She points. I turn the corner, and there is the cleanest white coffee bar I’ve ever seen, stopping me in my tracks. The top sparkles and the chrome on the back bar shines. I take it in. I’ve been in some small cafes, but the footprint of this space might be one of the smallest.
Alden Hozouri pops out from somewhere. I’m not even sure how he could hide in a space this small, but he managed. In addition to being the operator for the burgeoning Café LaTerre empire, he has been the founder and head roaster of Crossings Coffee Roasters based in North County San Diego since 2015.
Hozouri’s dialing a new brewer and offers me a made-to-order Guatemala coffee he roasted earlier in the week. It’s not quite up to his standards—which are incredibly high—yet, so there is plenty of coffee for me to sample.
The small space is by design. Everything is within reach. The local Salon World Suites owners would like to have a cafe inside all of their locations as a collaborative business that offers coffee, tea, drinks, pastries, and pre-packaged foods.
The original location is in Solana Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. It has a strong following from the cycling community, who take advantage of the outdoor window and patio space.
While I sit at the bar waiting on another coffee, several hairstylists come by to order lattes for themselves and their clients. As a bald man who shaves his decently shaped skull and lets his beard grow wild, I don’t have a lot of need for a hairstylist these days, but if someone tossed a good cup of coffee in with the deal, I might reconsider.
I make my way back out the front door to test the patio. It is cool in the shade of the building’s overhang and deceptively quiet, considering the location in a strip mall near the road. I can hear birds chattering from the shrubs covering a big green embankment that acts as a sound barrier to the west. I must admit some surprise, but the atmosphere is quite serene. Wind rustles through the palms, and I do feel like I’m at a spa. The excellent coffee helps.
This little corner of Encinitas used to be a craft coffee desert. I’m not saying there wasn’t any coffee to be had here. I’m just saying that it wasn’t anything that someone had put their heart into crafting. Alden joins me for a moment between customers and asks for my opinion on the coffee.
I’m flattered. He has a better palate than I, but I offer a few notes to make conversation until he is called back to the espresso machine.
I finish my coffee while listening to music, letting myself stay cool. It’s hot out there in the real world, but this little corner of Encinitas just became a little bit less of a coffee desert.
*Huehuetenango is fun to say.
**Do you say car-mel or cara-mel? I wonder if that is regional?
***The lack of signage was due to an agreement with a huge, not local, coffee chain that had priority. They’ve since closed their doors, and a Café LaTerre sign will hopefully be out shortly. Until then, go through the doors at Salonworld Suites and take a left. You’ll find it.
The Bean Journal is a new column by Ryan Woldt, host of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast, which can be streamed at: TheCoastNews.com. Look for features on North County coffee shops, cafes, and coffee roasters.