Where: Manzanita Roasting Company, 301 E Grand Ave M, Escondido, CA 92025
Open M-F 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
What: Black Drip Coffee – El Gaucho Blend
Tasting Notes: Chocolate, smooth, rich, light floral
Find: @manzanitaroasting • www.manzanitaroasting.com
What I’m listening to: Kevin Kaarl, “Prenda del Alma”*
¿Qué haré lejos de ti, Prenda de mi alma?
Sin verte, sin oírte y sin hablarte
The song coming through my headphones isn’t about coffee; at least, I don’t think it is. But the lyrics abstractly yet accurately reflect how I’m feeling in the moments before I order my second cup of coffee for the day. I’m in Escondido, and it is gray and raining for a second straight day. What the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on here?
I’m equally torn between angst and appreciation. I didn’t move to Southern California all those years ago for the rainy days, but as someone squarely in middle age, I’m compelled by the dropping of any rain to lean against the nearest door frame and remark, “Welp. We need it.”
Manzanita Roasting Company’s satellite tasting room is the entrance of a renovated theater on the corner of Grand Avenue and South Juniper Street. Despite the chill, the garage door is rolled up, and most of the tables under the marquee are full.
There is a line inside, and a baby is crying. The barista seems quite comfortable in the chaos. Over the silky R&B elevator music on the stereo, they asked for my order and informed me that it would take a few minutes. They are brewing a fresh pot. I’m happy to wait.
I’m clearly arriving right after the morning rush. The pastry case is nearly empty, and the merch shelves are in disarray. MRC has somehow combined the country wine store vibe of their Rancho Bernardo location with a more streamlined urban coffee shop without convoluting their brand identity.
The morning customers — many of whom seem to be regulars — have empty mugs or plates with crumbs on their tables. The corner space dictates that the seating areas, inside and out, are tucked in next to columns or around corners.
I meander past the coffee bar, where there is another entrance with an automated sliding door and some comfy green chairs for lounging. I wait here until I spot a table outside opening up. It is under the overhang and somewhat private. I toss my raincoat over the chair and head back to collect my fresh cup of coffee.
The El Gaucho Blend of coffee I’m drinking consists of beans from Guatemala, Colombia, and Ethiopia.** It is very rich with chocolate notes that don’t diminish even when the coffee has cooled.
I sit, sip and ponder the MRC motto stamped on the side of my takeaway cup — “Drink Good Coffee Naked.” The coffee keeps me warm, and I can’t help but be aware that I’m connected to coffee producers around the globe while sitting in downtown Escondido.
I’m also acutely aware of how rarely I find myself in the Esco area. I live in Carlsbad and find my life much more north-south than east-west. The streetlights are flashing red this morning, making the intersection a full stop unless you are driving a big truck. Then you can apparently roll right through.***
I’m joined at the table by a friend who lives nearby. He says he made an effort because he doesn’t get out to the coast often, either. Coffee brings people together. I genuinely believe that.
He gets a cup of coffee and a breakfast sammie. The menu isn’t extensive, but it covers everything you want from a good coffee shop — coffee, tea, breakfast sandwiches, toast, smoothies and pastries.
There is also something called Aunt Devi’s Savory Pies, which I don’t see on the board until I’m about to leave. In a way, I’m glad I missed it. Now I have one more reason to make the journey east.
*This song was originally recorded by Chalino Sánchez, whose story is worthy of the Peter Jackson music documentary treatment.
**The coffee beans in a blend often rotate throughout the year as the beans available from producers change or lose their freshness. Roasters aims to maintain a consistent flavor profile more than keep the exact ratio of the beans in each batch. Coffee beans are an ever-evolving organic product. It takes a talented roaster to maintain the consistency of a blend over time. Single-origin coffees are often expected to have differences based on season, weather and terroir in a manner similar to wine. This particular blend was a Bronze Medal Winner at Golden Bean Awards in the “Milk Based Espresso Category.”
***This is me being snarky, in case that wasn’t clear. Please don’t roll through a red light. It isn’t safe, and a human being might be crossing there.