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


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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