Anne Marie Panoringan
Voice of OC’s food columnist — reporting on industry news, current events and trends. Panoringan’s prior work includes writing about food for eight years at the OC Weekly in which she interviewed more than 330 chefs, restauranteurs and industry professionals for her weekly “On the Line” column. She has been recognized by the Orange County Press Club and she also is a recurring guest on AM 830’s SoCal Restaurant Show.
Orange County runs on coffee even in the heat of summer. Ask any parent, chef, teacher, student, writer and every other individual who needs the life-giving elixir, and they’ll tell you how they like it ordered. I may be a self-proclaimed fan of all things tea, but there’s something about an iced latte on an 80-something-degree afternoon that hits different – and that’s a good thing.
I was inspired to explore coffeehouses further while penning a recent article on breakfast spots. In lieu of an exhaustive list of places specializing in hot and cold brews, I’m featuring three destinations I’ve started frequenting beginning with one dedicated barista transitioning from pop-up status to proper operation in Old Town Tustin. Then it’s off to a community-focused roaster in Placentia before concluding at the sassy, not-so-small business that launched a flagship in Costa Mesa.
White Sparrow Coffee: Hometown Barista Does Good
Alexander Tejeda began his deep dive into coffee in 2011. His goal: to someday open a coffee shop of his own. By the beginning of 2020, Tejeda was comfortable enough in his craft to walk away from full-time employment at Google, as well as his part-time gig working as a barista, to go into business for himself via a mobile coffee bar. “I felt the timing was right and was prepared to go all in,” he said.
Selecting the name White Sparrow came from an inspirational story Tejeda read regarding a struggling farmer who was able to improve his lot in life when he started waking up early each day in the hope of glimpsing a white sparrow. The story is summarized by the motto: “He that would thrive, must the white sparrow see,” Tejeda quotes. He could relate to the farmer’s work ethic, watching something that he loved flourish.
Tejeda became discouraged when booking his initial pop-up. “I had been reaching out to so many places to see if anyone would take me, but I never heard back or people would tell me they weren’t interested,” he explained. Finally Vegan Playground, a weeknight vegan food market, took the mobile bar in. Tejeda’s close friends helped with operations. After a few more bookings, COVID shut down everything.
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In late summer of 2020, Tejeda learned a bookstore in Tustin wanted to have a coffee bar, and so he partnered with the shop. It would provide a space for him to sell coffee every day it was open. There was zero access to water, so Tejeda needed to provide his own. “I had to haul 10 gallons of water and two coolers of ice every single day to the shop,” he said. The bookstore didn’t provide any storage either, so Tejeda converted his own living room into a stockroom, keeping all of his inventory there. White Sparrow would be based out of the bookstore for roughly one year.
At this point Tejeda was ready to invest in his own spot, signing a lease right across the street from the bookstore in a former barber shop known as the Wooden Indian. “It was perfect for me since I had already established a great relationship with a lot of the locals and people loved us in that area,” he said. Tejeda almost didn’t acquire the space, because the landlord initially wanted another barber to go in; fortunately, that applicant backed out.
Born and raised in Tustin, Tejeda was fixated on establishing himself in the community he grew up in. “We went through so much trying to make this space work. A lot of delays, setbacks and uncertainties. But we kept pushing to make sure everything came out perfectly,” he said. He’s thankful for everyone who’s supported White Sparrow since the beginning, from people believing in his vision before it came to life through seeing it become a reality.
During the buildout, Tejeda even managed to score a vendor spot this past April at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. A stressful but incredible experience, he looks back with satisfaction. “The days were long and the lines were never ending, but I had some amazing friends come out to help and we all just had a great time,” Tejeda said.
Featuring blends from coffee roasters both local and from areas as far as Barcelona, White Sparrow Coffee’s soft opening was on July 9 with a line out the door and down the street. I stopped by the following day to admire the coffee shop’s minimalist aesthetic accented by lush plants and to try a specialty iced beverage named Love on the Weekend which combines espresso with rich vanilla, earthy honey and cinnamon. It had just the right amount of sweetness for my taste.
White Sparrow Coffee is located at 100 W. Main St., Suite 3 in Tustin.
Golden State Coffee: Roasters With A Heart
Coffee spots roasting their own beans have an additional layer of complexity to their business. Roasters are acutely aware of their core ingredient while also supplying beans to smaller coffee shops. In the case of Golden State Coffee Roasters, it was strictly a roastery when its owner Eric Scott established the brand in 2012. It wasn’t until 2019 when GSC planted roots in Placentia as a place to also request a cup of coffee.
Golden State Coffee roasts Monday through Friday, filling the exceptionally spacious brick-and-mortar with a robust aroma. The newest specialty blend is La Primavera, a washed Columbian coffee with flavor notes of lychee, raspberry and brown sugar. Local spots such as Pilgrim’s in Fullerton pour coffee utilizing GSC’s medium-bodied Winchester blend plus its bold and complex 1850 Espresso blend, which combines single-origin beans from Brazil, Sumatra and Ethiopia.
I peered into what looked to be a classroom adjacent to the roasting space. Home brewers seeking education are in luck, as Golden State promotes lessons on correctly using a French press, a Chemex and a V60 pour-over for a quality cup of coffee in a small group setting. These progressive methods of preparing a beverage are taught as one-day training classes. Space is limited to 15 students and additional information is located on GSC’s social media.
Services additionally offered by Golden State that go beyond a typical coffee shop include cafe consulting (shop layout, menu building, technical support), wholesale coffee purchasing, water filtration recommendations, plus espresso equipment supply and maintenance. The more I learned about Golden State Coffee Roasters, the more I realized that it is here to support both the local and coffee community any way it can.
Its square footage allows GSC to host a variety of events including holiday pop-ups and most recently photoshoots for customers wanting a professional-quality portrait. While it typically closes at 5 p.m. (7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday), Golden State Coffee even offered later hours during school finals, locking up at 9 p.m. for 11 nights straight.
One more reason to appreciate this roastery and coffee provider is its seasonal touches when it comes to drinks. GSC maintains a practical menu of beverages in addition to unique offerings that give folks like myself even more excuses to trek through Orange Crush traffic for a visit. I stopped in on a recent Sunday to check out a summery Blueberry Skies iced latte made with its Balboa bean blend.
First visit tip: The street directly in front of Golden State is closed to vehicle traffic, so park in the lot behind the building and enter through the back entrance – you can’t miss it.
Golden State Coffee Roasters is located at 109 W. Santa Fe Ave. in Placentia.
Coffee Dose: Bitches Who Brew
The third destination is what sparked an idea to work on this coffee-themed column. My original experience with the Coffee Dose brand was at its very first location (which closed at the end of June) inside a hair salon off East 18th Street in Costa Mesa. Somewhere between the pink and green-hued menu and my cup randomly labeled “Anti Bitch Serum,” I knew this place was special.
According to founders Jeni and Oscar Castro, “We pride ourselves on creating a space that is friendly to both the coffee snob and the basic bitch,” they state on Coffee Dose’s website. The Irvine shipping container branch (a.k.a. Dose in the Box) is convenient for a quick visit, while Stanton’s Rodeo 39 food hall welcomed another Dose on Valentine’s Day of this year. CD’s newest location (nicknamed “the flagship”) off Irvine Avenue in Costa Mesa is the bougiest of the bunch.
Giving off retro soda fountain vibes, the flagship is my preferred branch for reasons that include cozy bar counter seating, additional attention to interior design plus an all-day brunch and beverage menu that includes booze. My preferred espresso-based drink is the Goldie, an oat milk latte with turmeric, cinnamon and vanilla bean syrup. Factor in Coffee Dose’s consistent customer care and one can begin to understand the weekend waits.
The unapologetically feminine development may not be for everyone, and it’s OK with that. Everything I’ve ordered thus far has been tasty, including the chi chi breakfast burrito, so don’t be surprised if this joint ends up in my favorites for the year.
Coffee Dose’s flagship is at 2675 Irvine Ave., Suite E in Costa Mesa.
Anne Marie Panoringan is the food columnist for Arts & Culture at Voice of OC. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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