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Portola Coffee Lab's Jeff and Christa Duggan Are the Deans of Caffeine

With their Costa Mesa coffeeshop, plus a second location opening in Old Towne Orange, the Tustin couple are re-defining OC's coffee culture, one cup at a time

Back home, Jeff is working on some final details for a Portola coffee bar at Provisions Market, a new craft-beer and specialty-food shop in Old Towne Orange. It will be a stark contrast to the original Lab. There will be no traditional coffee equipment visible; instead, everything will be formatted for easy interaction between baristas and customers, giving it a feel more akin to a cocktail bar. As for what's after that, Jeff simply says, "I don't think we're done in Orange County." 

And then there's Seventh Tea Bar, a modern, yellow-and-black space with design elements inspired by the Victorian era. A menu focuses on single-estate unblended teas, hand-picked from different regions around the world. The machine marvel in the room is the Alpha Dominche Steampunk, a $15,000 computerized brewer that gives tea makers complete control. "We're coining the phrase 'second wave tea,'" Jeff says. "In the same way that third-wave coffee has transformed specialty coffee, no one has really taken that approach with tea. We're really geeking out on tea brewing, every bit as much as we did with coffee."

At the World Tea Expo held this month at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Jeff paced the aisles in a sea of tea makers, tea buyers, shop owners and equipment-manufacturer representatives. At every turn, there were mounds of teas displayed on little plates, some stringy like ghost chili threads, others shimmery like dried anchovies, with names such as African Chai, Bamboo Passion and Polynesian Plunge. Exhibitors in various ensembles—kimonos, Korean hanbok, safari hats—presented samples of brewed tea in tiny cups.

Christa and Jeff Duggan
Austen Risolvato
Christa and Jeff Duggan
Truman Severson at Theorem: Dig the Clark Gable hair!
Austen Risolvato
Truman Severson at Theorem: Dig the Clark Gable hair!

Location Info

Map

Portola Coffee Lab

3313 Hyland Ave., Ste. C
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Category: Restaurant > Bakery

Region: Costa Mesa

Jeff was searching for unique teas from lesser-known regions such as Nepal or Malaysia. He sniffed teas and tasted them. Meticulous sourcing, of course, is the first vital step. 

And then comes the science.

"We want to really push the envelope and look at brewing science for no other reason than to produce the best cup of tea," he says. "It has nothing to do with customs, nothing to do with tradition. There's no mold for this. There's nothing like it anywhere. We're forging our own way."  

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6 comments
rashoop
rashoop

Nice to see the popularity of a place like this, and kudos to the Duggans for making it happen. Further educating people about how good coffee CAN be is fantastic. I just want to let readers know that coffee is NOT science, although there are some important details to be aware of, and learn, in order to produce basic coffee easily on par with Portola at home. Won't get into those, but do know that you can do this at home (don't be intimidated by all the fancy gear at Portola). Spend $50-100 or so on basic gear, get some fresh-roasted coffee, and you're on your way to producing world-class manual-drip coffee (OK, you'll also need to read a bit about HOW to properly make coffee too). Espresso is a more challenging, and having a piece of kit like the Slayer is good, but not imperative (lots of people produce espresso on par with the Slayer at home on sub $1000 machines... which many would think is still a ridiculous amount to pay for an espresso machine).

Also, if the beginning of the article really is how it happened, I'd recommend that Truman listen to what people ask, and answer their questions (which I'm sure he typically does). The question was about adding (I assume cold) milk to a cup of "pour-over" coffee, to which he went off into a "lesson" about the affects of steaming/heating milk. While that was awfully "fascinating", and I'm sure some folks would be impressed, it didn't even come close to answering a simple, and legitimate question.

mpro
mpro

Wow, the coffee is great, that's what I want from a Coffee House.  I can't wait for the Orange shop to open, its a little closer to me

swag
swag

You lost me when you brought up the self-promotional marketing lies about the "Third Wave", a term which Trish Rothgeb coined to describe coffee consumption ... not coffee purveyors.

But then this bit: "an educational approach that was far beyond any other coffeehouse in existence." In existence? Portola Coffee Lab always struck me as a me-too knockoff of the Espresso Lab Microroasters in Cape Town, who well before them took the lab concept far further than they have to date.

ph232323
ph232323

"We want to really push the envelope and look at brewing science for no other reason than to produce the best cup of tea," he says. "It has nothing to do with customs, nothing to do with tradition. There's no mold for this. There's nothing like it anywhere. We're forging our own way."

Yeah, not pretentious at all. /sarcasm

CaliforniaEtonMum
CaliforniaEtonMum

Hmmm ... I doubt you'd find an Eton College professor -- called a Master or Beak -- in anything other than School Dress (black tails, black waistcoat, white bow tie) or Formal Change (dark suit and tie).  (Tweed is for weekends, if that.)  Check out "Eton Style" on YouTube or the Eton College website itself.  Cheers!

 
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