Where: Invita Cafe, 6806 Embarcadero Ln, Carlsbad, CA 92011
Open: M-F 7 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m.-noon
What: Caffe Vergnano black drip coffee
What I’m listening to: Dean Martin, “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let It Snow!”
Why is it so cold? What is this random wetness that keeps falling from the sky? I thought Southern California didn’t have winter! I need to get a new coat.
Those could be my thoughts from my first winter in San Diego a decade ago, or they could be from my visit to the Carlsbad location* of Invita Cafe in the past week.
The difference is that 10 Decembers ago, I was wandering around in flip-flops and swim trunks, and now I’m rocking fleece-lined pants from Costco and a puffy coat. This is coffee-drinking weather.
Invita is on the ground floor of the live-work complex next to the Carlsbad Poinsettia train station. In a previous life, I commuted on the Coaster. I would occasionally pop out of the early train to grab a coffee here and hop back on the next one.
The cafe is next to Common Grounds Workspace, making it convenient for the co-workers to get caffeinated. I just pull into the parking lot, where there are plenty of spaces available at 9 a.m. on a Wednesday.
The first thing you notice when walking up the steps is that there is a lot of great outdoor seating. There are benches for lounging, tables for working and even some chairs by a complex fountain if you’re looking for a little ambiance.
Despite the cold, the flip-up window doors are open, making the corner space open-air.
It’s fairly quiet this morning. Only one table is occupied outside. I like that I’m here alone and can revel in the grayness of winter, but I doubt that is a view shared by management.
While I wait for several moments for the barista to come out from a back room, I let my eyes wander over the brass-colored espresso machines and pour-over drippers. Bulb lights hang down over the coffee bar. There are pastries and some pre-made sandwiches in a pastry case. They also offer a variety of toast, flatbreads and breakfast foods. Belgian waffle, anyone?
The space design fits in well with the modern complex and, through color and lighting, has managed to create a permeating warmth.
I order a black drip coffee. The barista isn’t sure of the origin or roast details other than it is from Caffe Vergnano. They are a large-scale coffee supplier that started as a family business 130 years ago but is now part of the Coca-Cola HBC umbrella of companies.
On the other hand, Invita is owned by San Diego local Sara De Luca. She grew up enjoying traditional Italian espresso with her family and is now attempting to offer that coffee experience in Southern California.
My coffee is a medium roast, but it definitely drinks dark. Anyone who grew up drinking second-wave coffee or got started drinking coffee in Europe pre-2010 will recognize the darkness that is flooding over my palate.
The traditional coffee style invokes images of senior citizens sitting around a round table arguing over hedge heights or the time the garbage gets picked up. Instead, I find myself in this millennial complex waiting for the train to whistle as it leaves the station.
The roast-heavy flavor of the coffee sits on my tongue. The coffee keeps me warm as a light mist settles over the coastline. I glance over the menu and wonder if I might have enjoyed one of the coffee drinks a little bit more. I usually do with a darker roasted coffee.
Invita has a few menu items that stand out as unique, including a seasonal Tiramasu Latte and even a London Fog, which most cafes can do but you don’t generally see on the menu.**
Another blast from the Coaster train breaks my concentration. I decide to save the coffee drink for another visit, perhaps on a day when the sun is shining.
*Invita has another location in Rancho Santa Fe.
**The London Fog is an Earl Grey Tea-based latte-style drink that blends the tea with a splash of vanilla, sugar and steamed milk. Some baristas will add a bit of lavender to spice it up a bit.
Always tip your baristas and be sure to drink good coffee. Get more Bean Journal on roastwestcoast.com or listen to the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast on Spotify. Follow @RoastWestCoast on Instagram.