“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
Nostalgia comes to mind as we make our way past San Clemente, leaving Orange County, into the openness of Camp Pendleton to our left and the Pacific Ocean to our right. As we pass familiar places that seemed like minuscule details as a child, we smile and think of a fun memory attached to the place we once called home – Oceanside, California.
Seeing Oceanside now as an adult is a funny feeling and certainly the only early memories we have of coffee back then are Starbucks frappuccinos or the Folger’s that our parents would drink every single morning before work. It’s hard to forget Folger’s and its catchy little jingle – “The best part of waking up….is Folger’s in your cup!” See, nostalgia! You can’t help but go back in time when revisiting a place you haven’t been to in awhile.
Coming back, we noticed how much the city evolved since we were young. It’s evolved into a place filled with trendy small businesses, restaurants with beautiful architecture and third wave coffee shops….oh my! There are about a dozen coffee shops in North San Diego County, but today we’re going to talk about two very unique ones just down the road from one another…
Revolution Roasters and Steady State Roasting are exactly one mile apart from each other, yet there’s a sort of “je ne sais quoi” about each coffee shop that allows us to truly appreciate both places for what they are – and we think you will, too! You see, there’s this unwritten rule in coffee that we’re starting to understand as we delve into this well-caffeinated world and talk to more people about why they love coffee shops: “good” coffee is in the eye of the beholder. Some people have an aversion to Starbucks, some people think Starbucks is the best coffee ever. And somewhere in the middle, you’ll find us. We love coffee. We love espresso and milk drinks. Black coffee. Cold brew. A nice cafe cubano. Starbucks version of the caramel macchiato and a true macchiato, which is a shot of espresso with foamed milk on top. We think you get the picture. What’s more, we love the environment of the coffee shop, the baristas, the decor, the people, etc. We’ve met some of the coolest people while hanging out at coffee shops and some of the reason why we go back to certain shops over and over again is because the baristas make us feel at home by being kind and knowledgeable (without seeming pretentious).
Enter: Revolution Roasters, a few blocks from the beach, their main goal is to “revolutionize the way people experience their daily coffee ritual.” Sign us up! And it seems like the shop is in good company too – as we made our way to the coffee shop, we curiously peered into all the other cool spots next to it. Like the vintage store, which had a walk up coffee shop attached to it called Captain Grounds Coffee. Then, there’s a handcrafted jewelry/accessories store that actually has the jewelry makers creating pieces right in front of you. Then, in all her glory, there’s Revolution Roasters with its wooden beams, plenty of outdoor seating and a garage door that opens to make it a great indoor/outdoor space. It was a little too “California cold” on the morning we came, so we didn’t get the full effect, but we’re sure it’s great for those warm days with an ocean breeze.
It was a Saturday morning so the line was out the door with patrons buzzing in every corner of the aesthetically pleasing space. We gazed at the gigantic menu on the wall for the longest time – everything looked so good – until we both decided on our respected drinks. One butterscotch latte for Whit and a simple cortado for James. Bonus points for the free stickers (we’re suckers for stickers)!
As we waited for our drinks, we perused the merchandise section and almost bought another camp cup. You see, we have this slight addiction to coffee mugs…anybody else have the same issue? We’re almost certain that if a small army needed a place to stay with enough coffee mugs, we could be that place. Alas, we decided to set it down and reminded ourselves that we can always come back another time. Feeling a little under-caffeinated, we anxiously waited for our drinks and took in the beautiful bar with its white subway-tiled walls and fun knicknacks around the shop like two canoe paddles on the wall and tasty pastries enticing us through the glass case.
Once we heard the barista cheerfully call “Whitney!” we hurriedly got our drinks and decided to enjoy them on the patio; mostly because there was a super cute lagotto romagnolo puppy (kinda like a golden doodle) named Maggie that we NEEDED to say hi to, but also because we love the smell of the fresh ocean breeze and the view of the palm trees peaking above the buildings. We could hardly wait to have our first sip of coffee from Revolution Roasters…I mean, we did just drive an hour south to try it. And after tasting both drinks, we’d drive another hour just to have it again! The butterscotch latte was exactly how we imagined it to be…deliciously sweet, which was a perfect contrast to the well-balanced taste of the cortado.
What is so great about this coffee shop is that it’s a nice mix of people – old, young, locals, travelers…you get that this is a nice spot for people to start their day and can be a haven for a weary traveler in need of some good coffee and a place to regroup.
After getting a quick buzz at Revolution Roasters, we drove the short gaunt to Carlsbad Village, where we found an inconspicuously placed coffee shop situated in the middle of a woodworking shop and a ceramics store. There, you’ll find Elliot, the man behind Steady State Roasting. Elliot, a cyclist who realized he enjoyed his coffee shop stops a little more than cycling, is all about hospitality in his humble shop. As he put it, if you’re going to have a setup that’s hidden, you need to focus on making the best cup of coffee for each person that walks in. And my oh my, did people walk in throughout our visit praising his coffee or getting their “usual.”To think, we wouldn’t have even heard of Steady State Roasting if it hadn’t been for San Diego Coffee Network and their Caffeine Crawl. Sadly, we aren’t able to make it, but if you’re in town January 20-22, sign up for one of their coffee crawls that weekend. It looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun, so hopefully we can make the next one!
What intrigued us about Elliot’s shop was how he’s able to make such a small space (“I have until that crack [on the floor]”) feel so open and big – 250 square feet, to be exact. In his shop, he has his work space with all the usual suspects inside a coffee shop, his micro-roaster, a bar for about six people to talk and watch him make drinks and a few custom speakers playing classic rock tunes. Not in some ‘cool’ way, either. You could tell that his shop, his music, his coffee, they are all symbiotic with one another and are apart of who he is.
If you haven’t noticed yet, we didn’t even tell you about the drinks we had at Steady State and if that is any testament to what kind of coffee shop this is, then there you go. But, for our blog sake, we had the (dirty) Indian Summer – a ginger chai concoction with a shot of espresso and a cappuccino. Both we would highly recommend, but it doesn’t seem like you can make a bad choice here. For instance, he told us how earlier that morning a Q-grader (quality grader for coffee) came in from China and tried his offerings. Her friends asked if she wanted to go anywhere else and she said she didn’t have to because she was so happy with the quality of his beans. What a compliment, right?
So, there you have it. Two coffee shops who roast their own beans and are located a mile apart, yet both have their own special qualities to bring to the table. We saw a hashtag floating around that said #CommunityOverCompetition and that really resinated with us because it shouldn’t be about comparing one coffee shop against the other. It’s realizing that there’s something to offer at every shop. Some places will be a perfect spot for students to study and get work done, some will be a great space to catch up with a friend without seeming like you’re bothering those around you and other shops will allow you to talk to the roaster/owner/barista and gain a better insight on coffee and their vision of what coffee is to them. This isn’t school. There isn’t a right or wrong answer on how to enjoy coffee. Just sip and stay.
It was nice to enjoy our coffee concoctions at Revolution Roasters and get a pulse for the people of O’side. Then, down the road at Steady State Roasting, we were able to relax and ask questions to get to know the owner and his coffee shop. We can’t wait to go back to both places because the one thing they have in common is a positive atmosphere and that’s important to us when it comes to coffee shops. You can have all the best gadgets and have an awesome space, but if you don’t know how to approach customers who might not understand “third wave coffee,” then it’s not worth it. And to be honest, some of us aren’t even fully awake when we go to a coffee shop, so bear with us until our first few sips of the good stuff. And we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: coffee is simple and shouldn’t be exclusive when it comes to how it’s enjoyed.
So just like in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, in the famous opening lines when he depicts the “drama” during the French Revolution as something we could only understand if we compared the two – some people will say it’s the best, some people will say it’s the worst but we like to say that it’s different and there’s nothing wrong with being different, in fact, let’s take it for what it is and embrace it.