Our coffee culture, sadly, tends to run toward Starbucks and drive-through at It's A Grind. Largely missing from la naranja is the local, artisanal small-batch roaster whose singular focus on the product raises the coffee bar. Sure, we have Martin Diedrich, and the lines out the door at his two coffeeshops prove his ability, but surely in a county of some three million people there is room for more.
Enter Jeff Duggan, whose Portola Handcrafted Coffee Roasters is a cell about eight feet by four feet in an alcove at Irvine's Layer Cake Bakery. Every Saturday, Jeff sets up shop in his pod and roasts coffee to order.
Yes, that's right, the coffee is roasted to order. Single-origin organic coffees from Peru, Uganda, Brazil, you name it. Duggan is hardly a stranger to the denizens of OC (he's got some 1,300 followers on Portola's Twitter feed), yet there was only one other customer in 45 minutes of my hanging around and making a total pain in the ass of myself.
The coffee, when I brewed it at home the next day, was outstanding. It's easy to see why coffee snobs are so snobbish about roasting dates; the flavor was bright and forward in the mouth, and not the least bit bitter. I felt slightly guilty doctoring the coffee, but only slightly--you can take the boy out of Jersey, etc.
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Stop by Layer Cake, get yourself some brioche French toast or a canelé and a cup of Portola joe, and revel in the smell of the beans on the way home. He roasts starting at about 10 a.m.; stop by and customize your morning cuppa.
If your Saturdays can't include a stop on Barranca Parkway, and you live in Irvine, Tustin or Lake Forest, you can have fresh-roasted coffee delivered to your home or office. You can also sample brews of Portola's coffee at Paradise Perks (on Irvine Center and Jeffrey) and you can buy bags of beans at the Whole Foods That Ate Tustin.
Duggan said they are looking to move into premises in Costa Mesa, near South Coast Plaza, this fall: stay tuned for more news on that.
Portola Handcrafted Coffee Roasters, inside Layer Cake Bakery, 4250-I Barranca Parkway, Irvine; (949) 713-7318.