Where: James Coffee Co., 341 East Pennsylvania Ave, Escondido, CA 92025
Open: Daily 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
What: Batch Brew Shop Blend (Washed)
Tasting Notes: Vanilla, chocolate
Price: $3.25, plus $1.50 reusable jar with coozie
What I’m listening to: Electric Light Orchestra, “Telephone Line”
It was gloomy, grey, drizzly, and gloomy out. Did I say gloomy twice? Good. The morning was that much of a bummer. That was the attitude I brought to James Coffee Company in Escondido.
Figures, I thought as I walked up. The exterior is painted a matte black, and the James Coffee owl logo — also matte black — was the only indicator I was walking into the right place.
It was later in the morning than I like to get my first cup of coffee, so it took me a moment to figure out which door was the entrance and which was the exit. As soon as I opened the door, my brain fog started to lift. The cafe’s inside was just as bright and welcoming as the exterior was toned down.
The walls are painted bright white, and the counters on the bar in the oversized picture window are light blonde. The space is wide and narrow, with the coffee bar straight ahead after you walk in the door and a small seating area for guests down to the right. The James owl oversees the scene.
To get to the register, I had to come face to face with a bunch of pastries. They all screamed, “Eat me!” Seriously, they looked really good. There was a big window behind the counter looking into a kitchen, so I assumed those goodies were made on-site. I forgot to ask. Did I mention my brain fog had lifted? I meant it was lifting.
I ordered my standard batch brew black coffee. I had inconveniently forgotten my own reusable coffee mug. Conveniently, James Coffee has a glass jar sustainability program. The barista patiently described it for me since I missed the details on the huge sign I had just walked past to get to the counter.
According to the company’s website: “Instead of serving our to-go drinks in disposable paper and plastic cups, we will be offering a 100% recyclable and reusable jar with a koozie for a minimal deposit of $1.50. You can bring in your used jar with koozie, and there will be a clean one waiting for you, or you can return it and get your deposit back.”*
The jar was your garden variety jelly jar housed in a snazzy James Coffee Company koozie.** The coffee was their Shop Blend, which is currently a combination of beans from Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras. I was quite impressed with the simplicity of the jar system and the idea of using koozies instead of paper sleeves. It is an easy solution to an oft-overlooked problem.
You may not realize it, but almost no takeaway coffee cups are recyclable. Even the cups labeled compostable generally require disposal in a commercial composting facility, not your standard consumer composting bin. More than 500 million cups of coffee are drunk every day in the United States, many of them in takeaway cups. Any effort to reduce that number is appreciated.
The space had a minimalist feel. I stood at the window sipping my coffee and surreptitiously scoping out the cafe. It’s harder to do inside, and there weren’t any tables set up on the sidewalk yet.*** There were a half dozen tables in the seating area, mostly filled with people working on computers and nodding along to the house stereo, which was tuned to a power ballads mix.
I had another meeting nearby, so I left the coffee in the car and walked. James Coffee Co. is just a few blocks from Escondido’s downtown and housed in the short building on the side of Pennsylvania Ave, primarily home to auto parts, auto repair, and smog inspection operations.
Across the street, single-family homes and dated single-story apartment complexes haven’t yet received the facelift found in other parts of downtown. Literally one block behind JCC on the corner of Valley Parkway and North Ivy, a fancy new apartment complex is being built.
None of that is terribly relevant to my James Coffee Co. experience, but it serves as context. The meeting ran longer than expected, and I returned to the car more than two hours later. My glass jar of coffee was still hot. The koozie held the temperature as well as any double-wall stainless steel mug I’ve ever used.
And the coffee, wow. In addition to the chocolate and vanilla tasting notes, I pulled out hazelnut and peanut butter flavors wrapped in a subtle yet appealing dried fruit note. It was a hint of raisin and a bit jammy. I left really impressed.
Since most of my time is spent in coastal North County, it has been years since I’ve visited a James Coffee Company location. The Escondido location just opened in mid-summer 2022. I won’t let that much time pass again.
*I was offered a paper cup if I didn’t want to get the jar, but if I can prevent the waste, why would I not?
**Is it koozie or coozie?
***There weren’t any tables and chairs set up outside when I arrived, likely due to the morning rain. When I came back to my car, which I had left parked out front, there were plenty of tables and chairs set up under umbrellas.
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