Where: Ignite Coffee Company, 605 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92054
Open: Wednesday – Monday 7:00 AM – 1:30 PM
What: Espresso – Blend of Honduras & Ethiopia coffee beans
Tasting Notes: Caramel, Citrus, Cocoa, Peach
What I’m listening to: Tom Sanders, “Little Human.”
Ignite Coffee Company opened its cafe doors in early January. I went to the grand opening. I snagged a donut, locally sourced from Hill St. Donuts. Then, Mateo, the new manager, offered me and everyone else a cup of coffee. Customers sat at the open front window, spread out on the bigger tables at the front of the space.* From the outside, one might consider that the beginning.
One would be wrong.
The owner, Tyler Whitehead, invited me to the space in early 2022. It was wide open and full of potential. At the time, the opening was slated for mid-year. I stopped by again last fall to see a large trench running the length of the future coffee bar and an oversized crate housing the future San Franciscan Roaster Co.** machine. Opening day had been pushed to late 2022.
Opening a business is hard and fraught with roadblocks ranging from hiring contractors, meeting the demands of the health department and even equipment delays.
When I received an invite to the grand opening, I was relieved on Tyler’s behalf.
But you can’t judge a the cafe experience on a grand opening. Everything is new, everyone is happy, and operations are still tinkered with. That is why I walked through the doors again in early February. Things are still new, but the first day’s shine has been worn away.
A cute front patio has a table and a few bench seats. This is new. Inside, I’m confronted first with the coffee bar and the menu hanging down from the ceiling. To the right, the garage door-style window is rolled up, and the seats looking out a shockingly quiet Mission Avenue are full.
The largest of the inside tables is covered with papers and laptops. A group of colleagues is brainstorming.
Small two-top tables with reclaimed wood tops run along the west wall. A plant display is mounted high on the wall adding a simple depth. The coffee bar takes up most of the space. Its face is composed of the same reclaimed wood as the tabletops, and it runs back to the iconic black and gold San Franciscan Roaster that stands watch, stoic in its momentary silence.
Tyler is behind the counter at the register, which makes sense. He’s a small business owner, and it is a hands-on job. When he’s done chatting with the customers in line, he takes my order—an espresso made with his house-roasted beans.
Today he is using a blend of ⅔ Honduras and ⅓ Ethiopia beans that he’s dialed in as being the best representation of his product for the current moment.
We chat about the neighborhood. Oceanside is Tyler’s home and where he grew up. A few doors down, his father own’s Ty’s Burger House. There was nowhere else except downtown O’side for Ignite to come to fruition. Tyler asks if I’m heading to the Thursday morning farmers market. I am.*** I ask how he’s feeling now that he’s opening. Relieved and tired is his answer.
Tyler isn’t happy with the first pull of espresso. I watch as he pulls another and mentions some of the kinks he’s working out with his batch brewer and a brand-new refrigerator that seems to have forgotten how to get cold. As I said at the top, small business ownership is fraught with challenges. I leave him to serve a local couple that has stopped in for the second time that day.
I sit at the patio table out front to sip on my espresso and people watch. Unfortunately, it is just the occasional passing dog walker and me this morning. Tragically, none of them stop to let me pet their dogs.
I still have my espresso to keep me company. It’s a genuinely great espresso. I sigh after the first sip. It is salty, yet sweet. It has a smooth, creamy finish that practically drips with rich caramel flavor softened only by a hint of peach.
Oh yeah. That hits the spot, and The Spot is what I visualize Ignite Coffee Company being in downtown Oceanside for a long, long time.
Pro-tip #1: Downtown Oceanside has more than one coffee roaster. Go on a coffee crawl with stops at Ignite, Camp Coffee, Jet Fuel, and North County Roasting Company. Am I missing anyone?
Pro-tip #2: Check out the menu, avoid the line and order freshly roasted coffee beans from Ignite Coffee Company online here.
*This location formerly housed Steel Mill Coffee, which operated as a coffee cart.
**I’m interviewing the head honcho of San Franciscan Roasters on an upcoming episode of Roast! West Coast. Check it out. Always tip your baristas, and be sure to drink good coffee. Get more Bean Journal on roastwestcoast.com.
***I bought a book and a blu-ray from the library stand. The morning market hosted by Mainstreet Oceanside is much more relaxed than the Sunset Market. Making it much easier to traverse, but with many of the same great local vendors.