Third Wave Coffee: I'm Late to the Party but OH Portola!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It’s really exciting to be in a local business that is at the apex of it’s popularity and influence. The buzz, the lines out the door, the all-of-a-sudden rushes and the camaraderie among the employees is a fun thing to observe. And the way Portola Coffee Lab is set up, you feel like you’re a part of the excitement.

I know I’m a bit late to the Third Wave Coffee party but I stopped being embarrassed about being late when I started having kids several years ago. I’m sure you’ve been drinking coffee like this for years, but it’s a little like when you finally discover what ROFL means. Or LOL. Then it’s all you can do to NOT use it. Or in this case, not drink coffee like this.


At Portola, the baristas are in the middle, so you can see all the magic up close and personally. I always love watching someone do what they love; it makes you love it too. These baristas are coffee evangelists. In fact, their motto, so it seems, is “try it black.”

I’ve been a black coffee drinker twice over. Once when I gave up all creamer and sugar when I went on Weight Watchers 15 years ago and then once again 3 years ago when I began giving up processed foods one by one.

So I’ve been an I’ll-take-my-coffee-black girl for quite awhile.

All the ways that coffee is brewed, both hot and iced at Portola is enough to make a newbie like me crack. But they’re nice and they explain well, and even though they are “evangelists” as it were, I didn’t feel like they were snobby. Some of the Yelp reviews disagree with me in this regard, but my experience was great.

I ordered a Kyoto cold-brew drip. I can’t even begin to explain to you the unique taste. There is almost a tangy sweetness to it and so don’t you dare put sugar in it.  That would be like putting A1 sauce on a nice steak. Ketchup anyone?

No. Don’t do that. And yes, try it black. The coffee, that is.

They also have a Chai that I hear is wonderful so that should be my next venture when I visit.  It’s located at the super-cool, super-hipster marketplace called the OC Mix at SoCo (details below) and shares some common seating space with the nearby gelato shop, a tea shop and a wine bar. Theorem, an extension of Portola with a different vibe, is also next door.

If you enjoy coffee, every stop in Orange County must include Portola Coffee.  And I hear they’ll be opening another one up across the street from my workspace at Batch in the next few months.

Welcome to Santa Ana, Portola!

Portola Coffee Lab is located at 3313 Hyland Ave in Costa Mesa. It is inside the OC Mix in the SoCo marketplace center.

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