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Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort in Leucadia. Photo via Facebook/Alila Marea
Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort in Leucadia. Photo via Facebook/Alila Marea
ColumnsFood & WineRoast! San Diego

Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort

Where: Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort, 2100 N Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA 92024
Open: Daily 6:00 AM – 2:00 PM
What: 12 oz Lofty Coffee batch-brewed drip, Origin unknown.
Roast: Medium
Tasting Notes: milk chocolate
Price: $5.00
What I’m listening to: Fugees, “Ready or Not”

Did you know there was a coffee shop inside the Alila Marea Beach Resort?* I didn’t. Recently, a wrong turn on the Google machine led me to the tip of Leucadia, where the Coffee Box is located near the entrance to the resort.

The hotel’s entrance is quite intimidating. There is a lot of reflective glass and vertical lines skewing my perspective. Dudes in wraparound shades and windbreakers guard, I mean welcome, guests exiting the black SUVs and Teslas that keep pulling into the turnaround.**

The welcoming crew all seem stuck in wide-legged stances, and every time I look over, one of them puts a hand up to their earpiece. To be fair to them, I look sketchy in my mustard yellow sweatshirt and climbing khakis.

By contrast, the Coffee Box seems quite open and accessible. You’ll have to walk between two imposing concrete columns to get there, but that’s the end of the intimidation. Thick wooden patio tables with matching chairs fill the outdoor space, mostly shaded mid-morning, save for a curved bench separating the cafe from the sidewalk. An expansive garage door is rolled up, and the walk-up window has been slid open.

Cross the threshold, and you’ll find yourself in a rectangular cafe space (a literal box) that reminds me of a container park cafe. Coffee is on the right, and an array of merchandise is on the left. Beyond the standard branded gear, you’ll find some resort-specific essentials. Forgot your beach towel or sunscreen? They got you covered.

The outdoor patio at Coffee Box. Photo via Facebook/Alila Marea
The outdoor patio at Coffee Box. Photo via Facebook/Alila Marea

The coffee bar looks like any other coffee bar. There is an array of pastries, coffee mugs, and one of the tiny tablet point-of-sale systems that have replaced the old registers opening up countertops across America.

I ordered a batch-brewed drip coffee** which is poured out of a tall thermos. They exclusively serve locally roasted Lofty Coffee and even have Lofty Cold Brew on draft.

And now, a brief economics interlude. I’m not often surprised by the price of a cup of coffee, but I was at the Coffee Box. I forgot to account for a resort-style increase. I’m very much in favor of paying more for good coffee. For way too long, the price of a cup of coffee has been intentionally depressed to benefit consumers despite the hardship caused to producers.

Third Wave coffee — arguably the wave we are currently in as we look toward a future fourth wave  — has done a great job of educating consumers on the challenging work being done by coffee farmers.

Coffee to go at Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Coffee to go at Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas. Photo by Ryan Woldt

Paying more for a cup of coffee means that local roasters can also pay more for coffee from producers. That often means better working and living conditions on the production side and better coffee.

All of that said, I was still surprised by the price because Lofty Coffee is just down the street. The same cup of coffee is priced considerably cheaper there, even though I know Lofty actively pays higher prices to try to uplift coffee producers.***

End of interlude. My first sips of coffee are pretty nice — a taste of light milk chocolate and caramel seems to expand in my mouth. I’m not sure how to explain it other than to say it feels rounded in my mouth. The flavors are subtle and calming, with a very light bitter zest pulling them together.

If I had to guess, I’d say this is Lofty’s Morning Dove blend, which serves as their house coffee. They blend Costa Rica and Guatemala beans to make a smooth, easy-drinking roast.

Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Coffee Box at Alila Marea Beach Resort. Photo by Ryan Woldt

A concrete garden box houses a wall of snake plants, adding warmth and life to the environs. A cute little succulent is also on the patio table to keep me company. Together we look out at the intersection and watch the cars go by.

There isn’t a lot of foot traffic outside of a few yogis stopping in to order lattes after a session at the beach. The chairs are pretty comfortable. I could probably sit here all day, maybe even fall asleep to the white noise of the highway and the reggae beats softly floating out the walk-up window.

I only don’t because the salty scent of ocean spray is in the air. I take my coffee for a walk. We leave the safe confines of the cafe and head towards the street. I don’t look back. I can feel the eyes of the front door dudes drilling into my back. I’m sure they are waiting for me to make a move. I don’t realize I’m holding my breath until I turn around the corner. I’m safe out of the line of sight.

As lovely as the Coffee Box patio was, it can’t compete with the view of the North County coastline stretching out before me. I walk towards South Ponto Beach. A walking path leads down to an overlook and a stairwell to the sand. This is where you want to drink your coffee. The breeze is chilly off the ocean, but the sun and my cup of coffee keep me warm.

*The sliver of the moon shape of the resort is incredibly deceptive. From the street, it looks like a modern, if small, boutique hotel. Wander around the corner, and you’ll be confronted with the sweeping enormity of the resort that curves around the South Ponto Beach parking lot—huge.

**I think I need to start ordering something different. Next week, a single origin pour-over.

**There is no public parking (to my knowledge) at the Coffee Box. Look for street parking or beach parking nearby.

***Siri Simran Khalsa is the Executive Director of Coffee at Lofty Coffee and a frequent guest on the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast. She has shared her view of the industry from the roasting side, taught me how to make a better cup of coffee, and enlightened me on the insane logistics of getting coffee from the farm to the roaster and into our cups. Link to the podcast below.

Always tip your baristas, and be sure to drink good coffee. Get more Bean Journal on or listen to the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast on Spotify. Follow @RoastWestCoast on Instagram.