Where: Zumbar Coffee & Tea, 111 Chesterfield Dr #115, Cardiff, CA 92007
Open: Mon-Fri 7:00 AM – 1:00 PM, Sat-Sun 7:00 AM – 5:00 PM
What: Individual French Press Ethiopia Jibacho Washed
Tasting notes: Peach, tangerine, hibiscus
What I’m listening to: Al Green, “Love & Happiness”
It takes about four minutes to make a French press cup of coffee. Five, if you include the grinding and weighing of the beans, the pressing of the, umm, press, and the pouring of the coffee into the mug. While I wait for my coffee, I wander the cozy Cardiff coffee shop, Zumbar Coffee & Tea.
The barista and I chat about the book I have with me to read, “People of the Whale.” I read the simple chalkboard menu on the wall. I wander over to look at the framed coffee flavor tasting wheel. I step outside to look out over railroad tracks and the San Elijo campground at the ocean in the distance. A monster ship heading southwest is illuminated on the horizon.
I step back inside when I hear my French press order called out. I collect my mug from the dark-stained wood-fronted counter and find a spot on the ledge next to the three steps leading down from the sidewalk into the cafe. It’s a great spot for petting dogs and people-watching. Why is that guy carrying a giant potted ficus?
It’s about 9 a.m. The cafe faces south, meaning you can see the sun beating down across the road, but here the patio is merely comfortably warm in the shade. A pair of common song sparrows peck at vegan pastry crumbs on the ground near my feet. They get dangerously close to a golden retriever, who insists on being best friends with everyone and everything within a paw’s length.
I sip my coffee. I love a good French press. It is a brewing style that I believe leads to a rich cup of coffee that enhances the roasted and chocolate notes. This particular Ethiopian is naturally juicy and fruity, and the juxtaposition is quite pleasant.
Customers zip in and out, picking up their cold brews and batch brews and bags of freshly roasted beans. This seems to be the local pre and post-workout spot for the morning beach runners, yogis, and gym goers in the neighborhood, which is the only explanation for why everyone here looks like they walked out of a Vuori catalog.
Zumbar’s patio seating combines ledges with stools up under countertops that frame oversized planters or tucked between a wall and decorative column. The counters are wide enough for a laptop, and most provide a view down to the ocean. When a spot near the door opens up, I snag the stool until my coffee is nearly gone.
I step back inside to chat with the baristas. They are set off against the honeycomb white tile back wall and just hidden by the La Marzocco espresso machine and a pastry case filled with delicious-looking, vegan pastries. The interior decor is quite simple.
The aforementioned flavor wheel leans up against the wall next to a framed black and white photo of a Probat roasting machine. The occasional houseplant softens the corners.
It isn’t a minimalist design. It is no-frills. It is honest, hard-working, and comfortable. The focus is on crafting a good cup of coffee, the kindness of the service, and the community of Cardiff. I’m not a regular here, but seemingly everyone else is. Most of the incoming customers say hello to each other, and the baristas greet everyone with a smile. It is notable how nice everyone seems. No coffee shop cynicism here.
As I leave, I hear shop manager Adam uplifting a fellow barista’s cappuccino skills. “You’ve got it!” he says, and even though it wasn’t meant for me, I feel uplifted too. I walk out into the world. I do got this, I think.
Pro-tip #1: You can always walk down to the beach, but if you’re commuting and pressed for time, there is a pullout just around the corner with a great view of the ocean and the surf break. From Zumbar’s front door, head towards the ocean 50 yards and turn left at the stoplight onto San Elijo Ave. The pullout is about a block down the road.
Pro-tip #2: Since the beginning of the pandemic, Zumbar has only been accepting credit or mobile payments only.
Pro-tip #3: Zumbar ships coffee, or you can order online to pick up in the store. I order the Hummingbird blend on a regular basis.