It seems as though you hear about a new coffee shop opening and adding to the world of latté art and vegan scones everyday. However, as hip and prim as they are, not many of these joints actually roast their own coffee. That's no fun.
Here's a list for you of the places that do. For these guys, getting from coffee berry to cup involves hand-picking, manual roasting and no shortage of attention and care. Yes, yes there's Portola at the OC Mix and Kéan Coffee too, and they're great, but here's to the little guy in no particular order.
The Lost Bean Organic Coffee & Tea — Tustin
Housed in the Plaza LaFayette, which looks like it fell out of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Lost Bean is the right balance of all things good: coffee and booze. These organic micro-roasters harmonized alcohol and caffeine when they decided to add The Lost Vine, a wine bar, to their second room about two years ago.
While their Monkey Mocha pleases the masses with its banana and chocolate blend, their simple drip coffee delights just the same. Most coffee lovers aim for a light roast to get the most caffeine possible and to avoid those harsh, burnt notes that many dark roasts carry, but at The Lost Bean, their dark roast is perfectly smooth and their espresso, rich and silky.
Hidden House Coffee Roasters — San Juan Capistrano
True to its name, this micro (and I mean micro) roaster finds itself nestled between a few oak trees just past the San Juan Capistrano Amtrak station. With hardly much room between the register and the door, Hidden House manages to squeeze its roaster, large sacks of beans, and even a few tables into its establishment. And while the coffee shop's appearances may charm all who enter, their cold brew coffee and cappuccinos could convert any non-coffee drinker in a caffeine-accelerated heartbeat.
Another thing to appreciate is how they serve their espresso with a glass of mineral water, as is proper in order to cleanse the palate after its consumption. To pair with their hot, cold, frothy and foamy beverages, Hidden House also offers a variety of house-made baked goods, including their carrot cake and muffins.
Chocxo Coffee and Cacao — Lake Forest
Coffee and chocolate have gone together ever since someone decided to associate the word "Mocha," a coffee port in Yemen, with adding chocolate to coffee. And while many coffee roasters have offered their mochas with fresh chocolate, few roast their own coffee and chocolate. That's what Chocxo Coffee and Cacao, formerly Green Earth Coffee Roasters, has done in Lake Forest.
Despite its rather out-of-the-way location deep on Lake Forest Ave, this java shop is worth driving that extra few miles. Richard Foley bought the location only months ago and has brightened up the shop by offering fresh sandwiches and salads, his gourmet house-roasted chocolate and a new paint job. Did I mention the fresh roasted coffee, from Mexico, Ethiopia and everywhere in between, is rather fantastic?
Tru Bru — Orange
Few think to venture away from the Orange Circle when talking about must-sees in Orange, but Tru Bru Coffee, like Green Earth, is worth a little adventure. The shop's big windows and tailored atmosphere makes you feels like you're in a magazine. A big communal wooden table greets you as you enter with a fireplace and lounge area surrounded by volumes of Shakespeare and issues of The New Yorker to the right and tables for more serious work to the left.
Onward, the bar exposes a fire-powered oven to toast the walnut-date cookies or poppy seed muffins from the cold case. While most micro-roasters use a manual roaster, Tru Bru roasts their beans in an automated popcorn-machine-esque contraption. Serene and comfortable, True Bru, like the rest named on this list, is something like a perfect coffee shop.
Recreational Coffee — Wandering
While he does not roast his own coffee, Bobby Hernandez of Recreational Coffee, is a coffee curator. He searches Southern California for primo-roasted coffee to enhance his pour overs and cappuccinos. Popping up around Orange County, this freelance barista serves finely crafted coffee and espresso drinks to crowds at various events, farmers markets and private parties. Most would never venture to call a milkshake "complex" but Hernandez's specialty proves contrary. Thick and buttery, his signature espresso milkshake, made with organic milk, Alden's vanilla bean ice cream and topped with fresh espresso grounds, has layers of decadent flavors. To find Hernandez at his future events, look to Recreational Coffee on Twitter and Instagram.