Coffee + Creativity

Communal Coffee
2335 University Ave. (at Texas)
San Diego, CA 92104

The more we visit coffee shops the more I realize that there are so many ways to offer an unusual coffee experience. Communal Coffee is definitely a switch from other coffee spots I’ve enjoyed and I love it! Communal Coffee shares space with Native Poppy so their pairing line is “Coffee + Flowers.” How’s that for a unique collaboration?

They are located on University, a busy street, but as soon as I took one step inside their shop it felt like I was walking into a new taste and sight adventure. I was fascinated by the ambiance they created mixing industrial with mid-century modern with touches of clever and a dash of femininity. Both spaces merge seamlessly sharing the same design aesthetic.

Chemex coffee is one of the options at this creative cafe.

Chemex coffee is one of the options at this creative cafe.

Their coffee menu offers interesting combinations such as maple cardamon latte and lavender honey latte. I saw the traditional and seasonal flights of lattes too late for my order, but I’m certain to return for a flight. I watched with interest as a customer walked to his seat with three small lattes balanced on a wood flight board. Ah! I tried the batch brew to taste their regular cup of coffee. It’s brewed by Sightglasss Coffee in San Francisco (

Native Poppy, the flower portion of the enterprise, is named after California’s state flower, the poppy. Their floral design aesthetic is a natural look of flowers—as if you simply walked through a field of wildflowers and carefully selected and arranged the flowers with love. Their arrangements are lovely and welcoming and even they provide a flow chart for deciding what best meets your needs and a menu of flowers. A selection of quality gifts completes the space.

Open every day from 6:00 to 6:30 (with the exception of some holidays). There are a few parking spaces on the Texas St. side of the building, otherwise there is free street parking on Texas St.

I love our monthly outings and they never cease to amaze me and remind me that San Diego is full of treasures around every corner.

We couldn't help but smile at this character in their garden seating area.

We couldn’t help but smile at this character in their garden seating area.

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Thank You to Santos Coffee!

Santos Coffee House
3191 Thorn St. (near 32nd St.)
San Diego, CA 92104

Sixteen years ago after a class at City College I went looking  for a place to enjoy a good cup of coffee. That wasn’t easy 16 years ago when coffee shops weren’t so common. I finally found one at Santos in South Park. While I enjoyed my coffee, curiosity got me out of the coffee shop wandering the sidewalks of this charming neighborhood. An idea was born that day: Urban Safaris, my walking tour business.

Sixteen years later I now have 15 different neighborhood walks, but not from Santos Coffee in South Park…Santos is now in North Park. They have picked another charming neighborhood in a small pocket of local businesses and bungalows along Thorn Street. Open from 6:00am-7:00pm daily, it’s a great place to begin your day with a cup of their dark joe or take a break in the afternoon with their Banana Cream coffee. That’s right, Banana Cream! It didn’t sound good to me, but I had to try it & I’m glad I did…it does taste like banana cream and that’s not a bad thing. They roast their own beans and get creative with their roasts. They also have a nice array of baked goods and a comfortable outdoor patio (pictured) where dogs are welcome. In Old Town they serve coffee from a cart near the Cygnet Theatre on Twiggs St.

Mural by Alex Julian

Mural by Alex Julian

Parking is free on the side streets off Thorn with little competition for a spot (unless it’s close to closing time when new customers are heading to Thorn Street Brewery across the street). Come for coffee then go on your own neighborhood Urban Safari!

Sixteen years & counting my Urban Safaris are going strong. Walks are Saturday mornings, January-October. The 2017 Saturday schedule will be posted by late December on

Thanks, Santos Coffee, for getting me started!

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It’s All About the Space, ‘Bout the Space

Corner House Coffee
2902 San Marcos Avenue (off US Route 154)
Los Olivos, CA 93441

I always enjoy finding a new coffee shop with an interesting point of view, a new-to-me local roaster, or a great way of serving a super cup of coffee. That said, many times it’s all about the space. The space.

It’s the space that welcomes me and beckons me to come in, sit down, sip and savor. It begs me to return. Not all coffee shops are the same. There are some places that have great coffee, but don’t rank so high in the ambience department.

With Corner House Coffee in Los Olivos . . . it’s all about the space. Sure, they serve Peet’s Coffee which is always a fine and dependable offering, but it’s more about the house. On my recent trip to Los Olivos I asked two employees working behind the counter about the house. One said, “I know it’s older than me.” I laughed and said, “I know it’s older than me, too.” I found out from the Corner House Coffee facebook page, that CHC is “housed” in one of the first buildings in Los Olivos and dates back to the 1880s. I bet it has some stories to tell.

The house has a large wrap-around porch with handsome tables made from thick wood planks and a towering pine tree adds to the yard’s ambience. Folks sit inside and work on their computers with free wifi while motorcyclists stop and chat before heading down the road to visit Fess Parker Winery. Locals gather and chat, planning and comparing their days. It’s the town’s gathering spot.

Bob and I went there to plan our day.

Bob and I went there to plan our day…

It’s perfect. It’s a perfect space.

It’s perfect. It’s a perfect space.













This is what Helen sent me from her road trip, so when I was on a recent road trip I stopped by. I’ll add that it’s all about the tree, that huge old tree in front.

dedicated to Meghan Trainor for All About That Bass

dedicated to Meghan Trainor for All About That Bass





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Happy Coffee Day!

Refill Café
3752 Park Blvd., near Robinson
San Diego, CA 92103

Raise your cup today, Sept. 29, to coffee! For some reason this date was selected to celebrate America’s favorite hot beverage. (I’d say “beverage”, but that claim might belong to beer.) If you missed your chance on Sept. 29 you have another chance on Oct. 1, which is International Coffee Day. The international day even has a website ( with a search option for Coffee Day celebrations in your area. None were in San Diego so I chose Refill to celebrate today. Why Refill? Truthfully, it was the building that drew me…see for yourself at Refill is at street level of this intriguing Jonathan Segal apartment building. Why that name? Not Refill, but Mr. Robinson…I’m guessing because it’s on the corner of Park & Robinson, although I would have preferred Mrs. Robinson.

So let me get back to the important topic of the day: coffee! Their coffee is roasted by Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (, a San Diego roaster known for responsibly sourced organic & fair trade certified coffee. I enjoyed a cup of Ugandan cold brew. I was originally drawn to their Ethiopian coffee for the promise of a hint of cardamom, but the barista let me try both & that swayed me to the stronger Ugandan. I was also tempted to try an affogato, Italian for drowned, which is a scoop of ice cream drowning in a shot of expresso. But I felt the cold brew gave me more of a coffee taste on this National Coffee Day. Affogato, you’ll be next…

Given the modern building I was not surprised to see their tables & chairs have a Scandinavian look. Their mugs were a surprise, though. I was told they were made (“thrown” I think is the proper word) by Steve Cook, the owner’s high school pottery teacher. I can’t get over how special that is to have every single mug made by hand. It’s extremely rare, actually. The next time you finish a cup of coffee flip it over & I’ll bet it was made (not “thrown”) in China, Thailand, or any number of countries other than the United States. This business was developed with lots of thought & TLC from friends.

A stunning setting to get a blog posted. The tables are made with repurposed cedar.

A stunning setting to get a blog posted. The tables are made with repurposed cedar.

Your coffee will be served in these mugs thrown by Steve Cook. They are also for sale.

Your coffee will be served in these mugs thrown by Steve Cook. They are also for sale.








Parking will be your biggest challenge. Bring quarters for meters on Park Blvd. or there’s a pay-to-park lot across the street. Centre St., parallel to Park Blvd. one block west, should give you some free options. But it’s worth the extra effort (or the extra parking fee). Head over between 6:00am & 9:00pm daily. And go hungry for their crepes, sweet or savory. The name Refill implies free refills, but they told me they come at a price of $1.08 only for select coffees. Alas, there are no free refills at coffee specialty shops, anymore.

If you missed Sept. 29 & Oct. 1, check this list of other coffee dates celebrated around the world: (scroll down to History where you’ll find dates starting with April 14 when it’s celebrated in Portugal).


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Life Is Better Buzzed

Better Buzz Coffee
Mission Beach (open 6:30am-8:00pm):
3745 Mission Blvd. (near Queenstown Ct.)
San Diego, CA 92109

Point Loma (open 5:00am-9:00pm):
1480 Rosecrans St. (at Hugo)
San Diego, CA 92106

Better Buzz started 12 years ago with a cart that has grown to 6 locations. How’d they do it? Selecting good beans to begin with…organic, fair trade beans.  These beans are locally roasted & baristas well trained at their Vista headquarters. Friendly baristas are part of their success, too. Put this all together & you get a better cup of coffee, or as they say, a better buzz.

I prefer strong, black coffee, which they do very well. But every now & then a flavored coffee captures by interest. They offer a drink called The Best Coffee Ever. The skeptical side of me wasn’t interested, but then I overheard a couple in line behind me raving about it. So the curious side of me asked the barista just what was the secret ingredient to make it the best coffee ever. “Vanilla powder” was her answer. “That’s it?” I replied. So of course I had to try one. I tweaked my order a bit by getting half the amount of this magic powder…perfection!

Lucky for us there are 3 Better Buzz shops near our homes: Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, and Point Loma. I prefer the one in Mission Beach for the neighborhood vibe. Maybe it’s because there’s no drive-thru at this one…most of their customers live within walking or biking distance. It’s also enjoyable to sit at their front window & watch the beach traffic go by. But Point Loma works if I need a quick coffee to go.

While I haven’t been to the other locations, they are Encinitas, Fashion Valley, and San Marcos. Their headquarters in Vista is where their beans are roasted & barista lessons given. Call for an appointment (760-542-6397) or fill out a barista application online ( You can also get coffee preparation training at their Ivy League Barista Academy ( in Vista.

Better Buzz Coffee is certified by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) as an Organic Coffee Roaster and strives to source Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance coffees.

Check out the Specialty Coffee Assn. of America ( for coffee facts, merchandise, & trips.

Check out the Specialty Coffee Assn. of America ( for coffee facts, merchandise, & trips.

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Asian Daycation

Paris Baguette at the San Diego Zion Market
7655 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. (at Convoy St.)
San Diego, CA 92111

Sometimes you just need a little daycation and this month we decided on an Asian Daycation. We zipped on up the highway to Zion Market, a Korean marketplace, in the Kearny Mesa area of San Diego. The large building houses the supermarket, but also a variety of restaurants and services including a travel company, hair saloon, and clothing stores. We first did a spin around the building looking at each restaurant’s menu and then browsed the market’s aisles. From freshly prepared to frozen foods are all there to entice you to try a Korean inspired menu for your next meal. They “strive to give customers a deeper understanding to the culture of Korea by the distribution of various foods and household goods.” Here’s their website:

Paris Baguette caught our eye and we strolled the rows of their sweet and savory coffee cup cakeofferings. We, of course, were completely impressed with the cappuccino-coffee-cup styled cake (pictured). Can’t wait to figure out when I can buy that cake to share with friends!

We split a coffee croissant and each had an Adagio Coffee: one traditional and one hazel nut. Both were delicious, but just the awesome smell of the hazel nut coffee was reason enough to select it. Besides pump pots of these two coffee choices, they also offer the usual coffee shop selections from lattes to Americanos and from hot to iced, all at reasonable prices. Adagio beans “are responsibly sourced from an eco-friendly environment and certified by the Rainforest Alliance”. (By the way, the croissant was delicious, as was the garlic croissant that I took home.)

Paris Baguette was established in 1986 and opened its 100th store in 1992 the same year they opened their Korean-French Institute of Baking in Seoul. This premier baking franchise now has more than 3700 worldwide locations with two of them in San Diego. To learn more about the history of Paris Baguette and see their menu, visit

We noticed a small sign stating there was a Korean Library and it piqued our interest. The library is tucked away upstairs, but the librarian was charming and so kind. What an outstanding selection of books for all ages waiting for those who want to find a book in Korean.

As we made our way towards the highway to return home we swung by Daiso Japan (8199 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.), the equivalent of a Japanese $1.50 store. The store is cheery, bright, well-lit, clean, and full of interesting items all with Japanese packaging and labels.

A full morning of all things Asian left us feeling like we had been on a mini vacation with each of us knowing we’ll have to figure out another daycation adventure soon.


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The Magic of Nitro Coffee

West Bean Coffee Roasters
2820 Historic Decatur Rd.
Liberty Public Market
San Diego, CA 92106
619-542-9142 (downtown location)

Nitro coffee is served in a goblet at their downtown store.

Nitro coffee is served in a goblet at their downtown store.

Perhaps you’ve heard the buzz about nitro coffee, but like me, you don’t really understand what it is. The word “nitro” doesn’t sound like something safe to drink (a little like drinking cleaning fluid), but when it’s infused in coffee magic happens! First of all, you’re not going to buy a bottle of nitrogen to put a splash in your coffee. It’s a colorless, odorless gas that is shot through a tap to make the magic happen. Somehow when nitrogen meets the black cold brew coffee at West Bean Coffee a creamy rich texture with the illusion of cream results. Look at the photo to the right & surely you’ll think that this isn’t just a goblet of black coffee. It is, but it isn’t…it is black coffee with the invisible addition of nitrogen.

There’s a double meaning to my use of the word “buzz” above. Cold brew coffee has more caffeine than standard drip coffee. Another magic trick? No, it’s simply the fact that cold brew coffee has a higher bean to water ratio & takes at least 24 hours to brew. Don’t be confused by the word “brew” as it doesn’t brew with heat, it just sits in water for around 24 hours. Here’s a recipe to try at home: But it’s much easier to go to West Bean for theirs. In fact, you can buy a growler of their cold brew coffee to take home.

I’m a huge fan of their nitro cold brewed coffee, but they have other intriguing sounding coffees. Take their Long Black, which they tell me is an upside down Americano…I’ve got to go back to see this one! They also have a salted caramel latte, but there’s no magic here…anything combining salt & caramel is a proven hit.

The West Bean is in Liberty Public Market which is in Liberty Station, the former Naval Training Center off Rosecrans Street or Harbor Drive. Go hungry as there are plenty of fabulous food options in the market, but if you go on a weekend there might be a wait. There’s also plenty of free parking here. Their website will give you directions: The website says they’re open from 11:00am-7:00pm, but that’s just when every business will be open. Of course West Bean Coffee will be open at 7:00am for your morning nitro.

Their downtown location at 240 Broadway has even more drink choices, as well as bakery goods. They’re open weekdays 6:00am-6:00pm, weekends 8am-3:00pm, but parking is tough to find on Broadway. Their beans are roasted at 5839 Mission Gorge Rd., but it’s not a coffee shop. Call if you’d like to schedule a tour: 425-359-7565.

Very friendly baristas will explain the nitro coffee process if you're still confused.

Very friendly baristas will explain the nitro coffee process if you’re still confused.

Posted in Coffee shops in San Diego, cold brewed coffee, downtown San Diego, farmers market coffee, nitro coffee | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment