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Roast up

Green bean sourcing? Friendly whale mascots?

The best coffee spots offer

more than a caffeinated kick.

By Tigist Layne / Oct. 16, 2018

Originally published in CityBeat Magazine


Despite the mellow atmosphere inside their quaint

interiors, Dark Horse Coffee Roasters has become a

local powerhouse. In its small, modern-style coffee shop

in the heart of North Park (3794 30th St.), there’s a

sign of a literal dark horse telling passersby to “relax,

it’s just coffee.” Dark Horse Coffee Roasters has four San Diego locations offering pour-overs, cold brews, espresso drinks, vegan donuts and more. Their “green bean sourcing team” partners with communities and villages around the world to bring customers fresh coffee produced by high-quality beans.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters is the North County powerhouse. It prides itself on being one of the first specialty roasters in the city to practice direct trade sourcing. Winner of Roast Magazine’s coveted “Roaster of the Year” title in 2012, Bird Rock even has a Q-Grader certified roaster on site. The newest location in Del Mar (2212 Carmel Valley Road) offers a large outdoor patio with a scenic view of Torrey Pines. 

Fun fact: Modern Times is named after a utopian community that was built on Long Island in 1850. It’s also one of the first beer breweries in the country to roast its own coffee. In Point Loma, the company has a large, unassuming warehouse (3725 Greenwood St.), but there’s a spacious, contemporary-style café and bar inside. 

One of the premier coffee roasters in the U.S., Coava Coffee Roasters’ journey began in Matt Higgins’ garage in Portland, Oregon. Coava participates in farm-level sourcing, and partners with producers from all over the world to achieve sustainable practices and produce exceptional coffee. Its downtown location (400 W. Broadway) is the only one outside of Portland and offers indoor and outdoor seating in a large, modern space.


Heartwork Coffee Bar is a hidden gem located in San Diego’s Mission Hills neighborhood (3993 Goldfinch St.) and specializes in coffee that’s primarily sourced locally from James Coffee Co. and Dark Horse. The quaint café, started by musician and San Diego native Rob Moran, along with a group of former punk and hardcore musicians, offers indoor and outdoor seating and the occasional art or music show.


Tucked into Ocean Beach’s beloved Newport Avenue, 

OB Beans Coffee Roasters isn’t on the level of the brewers

in the “Hot” section. Not yet, at least. The local

micro-roaster is still making strides by working directly

with small lot coffee farmers around the world. With a

mission to do good “from farm to cup,” they also promise

to donate back to their nonprofit partners. This hip,

rustic-looking space is also home to Wailua Shave Ice,

which offers Hawaiian-style shave ice made with local fruit.

El Cerrito’s Scrimshaw Coffee  (5542 El Cajon Blvd.) is

hard to miss what with the giant logo of a whale greeting

customers as they step into the contemporary, but cozy

atmosphere. Scrimshaw’s motto, “Waste Time Together,”

fits seamlessly with the shop’s playful décor and friendly

staff. Their commitment to serving high-quality joe also stems from this mission to build community. 

At Coffee Hub & Café (2907 Shelter Island Drive), coffee and biking culture come together to create a bicycle friendly community. The café is a cozy, cycling-themed shop in Point Loma serving locally roasted coffee beans, along with homemade breakfast and lunch. Its walls showcase a collection of cycling caps, jerseys, bicycle-themed art and a bicycle in celebration of cyclists everywhere.

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