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Eat | Drink

Our coffee obsessions in honor of National Coffee Day

Cup of coffee surrounded by coffee beans.
National Coffee Day is Sept. 29.
(ValentynVolkov/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If there’s one thing you should know about a newsroom, it’s that most everyone is fueled by coffee. In honor of International Coffee Day on Sunday, we asked various coffee-obsessed staffers from PACIFIC and The San Diego Union-Tribune about their coffee quirks and obsessions.

Nina Garin, PACIFIC Editor-in-Chief
My favorite go-to coffee shop: I guess I have to say Starbucks? I spend a lot of time at my desk and in the car, so I blame the convenience of online ordering and drive-through windows. My usual drink is a Tall Cascara Cold Foam Cold Brew, but lately it’s the Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: I love everything about Influx Cafe, from the minimalist decor and Goth-adjacent music playing in the background, to the homemade pastries and coffee that’s always smooth and strong.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: Philz Coffee for an iced Mint Mojito, a sweet and creamy coffee muddled with fresh mint leaves. R3Fresh Juice Bar in Kearny Mesa also has a Mint Cream cold brew that’s less decadent, which is good because I tend to go there way more often.
Best cafe for working: Pannikin in La Jolla has a giant deck that offers a perfect balance of quiet corners and people watching. Plus, the (aggressive? overly-friendly?) birds keep you from ever getting bored.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Nescafe instant coffee, I actually really love it - I think maybe there’s sugar in those crystals?
This is how I make coffee at home: Nespresso over ice, mixed with water and milk, or sometimes a chocolate protein shake. On cold days or weekends, I use the Chemex.
I will never drink: Coffee without milk.

Communal Coffee

Communal Coffee in North Park.

(Rick Nocon)

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Sara Butler, PACIFIC Staff Writer
My favorite go-to coffee shop: Every weekend you can find me at Dark Horse Coffee Roasters, where I always order “The Champ” — a honey and cinnamon latte — with oat milk. It’s the best (and cheapest) latte I’ve found in San Diego so far, and their service at all four locations is top notch.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: James Coffee Company’s latte has a slightly higher price point, but both the taste and presentation of the coffee — plus the industrial aesthetic of its Little Italy location — make it worth the trek and fight for parking.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: For days I’m feeling a little fancy, Communal Coffee (known by some as Coffee + Flowers) serves a beautiful flower latte flight with original flavors like Lavender Honey and Rose Vanilla. With plenty of greenery and a mean avocado toast, the North Park and South Park locations are a millennial dream.
Best cafe for working: Tie between Hawthorne Coffee in Normal Heights, and Coffee and Tea Collective in North Park. Though small in square footage, they both have a calming atmosphere, are usually quiet enough to write or transcribe, and have terrific menus to boot.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: A plain, black coffee — not my favorite, but I’ve found it’s usually the safest choice at most cafes. Not all lattes (or brands of oat milk) are created equal.
This is how I make coffee at home: Chemex + Fellow Stagg Electric Kettle + 30 grams of Dark Horse beans + 500 ounces of water = my strong, weekday pour over I bring to the office every morning in my Dark Horse branded Hydro Flask. (I’ll admit it’s a pretty pretentious process.)
I will never drink: Starbucks. I refuse to believe that’s coffee.

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Jennifer Ianni, PACIFIC Managing Editor
My favorite go-to coffee shop: I’m not a huge coffee person, so my go-to is Starbucks. I’m basic and coffee culture intimidates me. Starbucks is accessible and it never changes, which is what I like about it.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: I probably wouldn’t go out of my way for coffee…
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: Better Buzz in Hillcrest, but only if I have time to park and wait in that line. There’s always a line. It’s a highly Instagrammable coffee shop, so be prepared for influencers clogging up the place.
Best cafe for working: Refill, because I can walk there and it’s usually pretty easy to find a table.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Water?
This is how I make coffee at home: I don’t.
I will never drink: Coffee I’ve made at home.

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Staff from WestBean Coffee Roasters serve customers a variety of coffee drinks in their downtown San Diego cafe.
(Giana Leone)

Michele Parente, U-T Dining Reporter
My favorite go-to coffee shop: Starbucks. Yes, I’ll admit it. It’s across the street from the office, the baristas are charming and the straight espresso is good and strong. Plus, I want to support the company that single-handedly raised the quality of coffee in America.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: The WestBean Coffee Roasters, Liberty Station and Broadway, downtown. Their nitro cold brew is the gold standard. (The service could be a little friendlier though.)
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: La Colombe at Westfield UTC. The draft latte has too much latte IMHO but a little macchiato-like splash of it in the pure black draft cold brew is dreamy.
Best cafe for working: Lofty Coffee in Little Italy. The single origin pour-overs (which we used to call Melitta-style or Chemex) are super rich and flavorful and the indoor/outdoor urban-chic space is perfect for meetings.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Anything. Old, (unintentionally) cold, from a buffet urn, the diner-pot dregs or even a vending machine. I’m discerning but I’m also an addict.
This is how I make coffee at home: Nespresso. Lots and lots of Nespresso. Both the Vertuo and Original lines (I use my Tiffany blue Original machine for traveling. It’s only 5 pounds). My pantry looks like the wall in the Beverly Hills Nespresso store, with boxes of Altissio, Diavolitto, Oadacio, Elvazio, Long Black, Colombia, Giorno, Aflorazio, Double Espresso Scuro, Kazaar, Arpeggio, Roma, Ciocattino ... Did I mention I was an addict?
I will never drink: Pumpkin Spice Latte. To quote the owner of a taco shop on hamburger tacos, “don’t do that to yourself.”

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Wake up and enjoy a cold brew coffee to celebrate National Coffee Day on Sunday, Sept. 29. (Courtesy Photo)

Abby Hamblin, U-T Community Opinion Writer
My favorite go-to coffee shop: Sorry, coffee snobs, but I’m a Starbucks fan. And feel free to judge me because I love the Pumpkin Spice Latte.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: Pannikin Coffee and Tea. I don’t get up to North County much but I love to stop at the one in Leucadia if I’m in the area! The baked goods are amazing.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: Better Buzz Coffee’s “Best Drink Ever” really is one of the best drinks ever. I don’t know what’s in their vanilla powder but it’s magical.
Best cafe for working: Lestat’s! I spent many late nights there in college and find myself heading back there if I have any extra work to do in the evenings or on the weekends.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Some coffee lovers might judge me but I drink 7-Eleven coffee all the time. There’s one right by my place and I can make it how I like it and the price is right!
This is how I make coffee at home: I use a knock-off Keurig to make one cup at a time of whatever pods I can find from a grocery store. Extra vanilla creamer, no sugar!
I will never drink: Black coffee. I see it as gasoline, not a drink.

Achilles Coffee Roasters
Achilles Coffee Outdoor Cafe @ The Rey also offers outdoor seating.
(Courtesy photo)

Karla Peterson, U-T Columnist
My favorite go-to coffee shop: Santos in North Park, where I get super-smooth house-made cold brew in the summer and fall, non-fat cappuccinos when the weather cools off, and friendly service all the time. The revolving cast of neighborhood dogs is a wonderful bonus.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: WestBean Coffee Roasters in Liberty Market. I am crazy about their lavender latte with house-made syrup. It is floral without tasting like I’m drinking a candle.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: Achilles Coffee Roasters (either downtown location) for a Dealer’s Choice on ice. It’s their Sunset Cliffs dark roast with house-made vanilla syrup, cinnamon and cream. So addictive. I could use one right now.
Best cafe for working: Santos, again. I don’t work there, but I do love to hang out with my journal and/or a book. I guess it’s where I work on myself. That counts, right?
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Canned iced coffee.
This is how I make coffee at home: During the week, it’s Trader Joe’s Organic French Roast Cold Brew Concentrate with milk and a splash of vanilla coconut milk. On the weekends, it’s brewed Illy Bold Dark Roast with milk that I foam with a handheld gadget, with some cinnamon on top. I don’t mess around.
I will never drink: Pumpkin Spice anything.

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Better Buzz Coffee

The welcome sign at Better Buzz Coffee in Hillcres: It’s Time to get Buzzed.

(Leslie Hackett)

James Hebert, U-T Drama Assessment Specialist (or you can call me Theater Critic)
My favorite go-to coffee shop: Achilles Coffee Roasters near the El Cortez; it’s uphill (both ways!) but worth it, especially for the across-the-street view of the former KPRI radio studios where part of “Almost Famous” takes place..
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: St. Joe’s Coffee in York, Maine. (Or, closer to home, Better Buzz.)
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: Coffee ‘N’ Talk downtown for the iced mococo.
Best cafe for working: Lazy Acres in Encinitas, my office away from home (with good coffee and free car charging).
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Bottled Dunkin’ iced.
This is how I make coffee at home: Nespresso original line; good excuse to visit the tasting bars at UTC and Fashion Valley.
I will never drink: “butter coffee” again.

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Lauren J. Mapp, U-T CaregiverSD Staff Writer
My favorite go-to coffee shops: When I’m at home in University Heights, I go to Meraki Café for the delicious, house-made lavender syrup lattes. I also love the cold brew at the newly opened Yipao Coffee Patio.
Coffee shops I’ll go out of the way for: I’ll travel to North Park for Holsem Coffee‘s innovative list of flavored lattes, and amazing sea salt-dusted brownies to nibble on. At Caffè Calabria, I go for the bicerin, a Torino-style espresso drink with a healthy dollop of Nutella resting at the bottom of the glass.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: The drinks at S3 Coffee Bar are made to be extravagantly Instagrammable, but in the best way possible. I usually sip on the rose gold or rainbow latte, but sometimes opt for whatever creative seasonal drinks they’re serving instead.
Best cafe for working: Lestat’s on Park is the best place to work because they’re open and serve their full menu 24/7. I spent many college nights studying, drinking coffee, snacking on sandwiches and playing nerdy board games like DungeonQuest there.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: I often drink Starbucks because it is the coffee shop I see most frequently, and because I can easily pre-order my Pumpkin Spice Lattes there by using the mobile app. I also have a long, nostalgic history of drinking Starbucks with my mom after high school cheerleading practices and exchanging their signature mugs with one another for Christmas.
This is how I make coffee at home: I use my French press to brew coffee, then mix in organic half-and-half and cane sugar. We also have a dispenser to make cold brew for when it’s too warm out for hot coffee.
I will never drink: I never say “never” to a new coffee experience (something would have to be pretty weird for me to want to avoid it).

And then we have perhaps the one staffer who doesn’t drink coffee ...

George Varga, U-T Music Critic
My favorite go-to coffee shop: None.
Coffee shop I’ll go out of the way for: Also none.
When I want to indulge/splurge I go to: A place that doesn’t serve coffee.
Best cafe for working: The one I’m not in.
In-a-pinch I’ll drink: Gruel (well, maybe), but not coffee.
This is how I make coffee at home: Effortlessly, since I never do.
I will never drink: Um, let’s see: Coffee?


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