SACRED GROUNDS: A coffeehouse tour of La Jolla

Coffeehouses are one of many changes that time-traveling La Jollans from the 20th century would notice about their hometown today.

While the notion of flavoring coffee goes back several centuries, in America, coffee was something that mostly came in four varieties until the 1990s: 1) black; 2) with cream; 3) with sugar, and the fancy-schmancy version; 4) with cream and sugar.

Sure, there were coffee shops then, as there still are now. (We love you, Harry’s Coffee Shop and Coffee Cup!) But this is a guide only to establishments with coffee menus bigger their food menus — and smaller stores and chains without a green mermaid logo.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters
5627 La Jolla Blvd.
(619) 272-0203
6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
birdrockcoffee.com

Since 2002, Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (BRCR) has offered dizzying array of java in stone-and-wood digs with giant windows.

Thanks to the direct ties it maintains to farmers in developing countries, BRCR has also defined itself as the farm-to-cup choice in La Jolla. One of its most celebrated finds was its Geisha varietal from the Esmeralda Estate in Panama, a coffee named one of only three California winners of a 2016 Good Food Award. (Since coffee is seasonal, the closest they currently sell is the Geisha from Panama’s Auromar Estate, a washed varietal from the same producer described as having notes of honeysuckle, vanilla and lychee. It runs $11 a cup or $60 an eight-ounce bag.)

BRCR’s flagship shop has a hipster vibe that seems invited by its art cooperative — a space next door that features local artists on the wall and local musicians on the stage during weekends.

Brick & Bell
928 Silverado St.
(858) 551-0928
4:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Peter Schumacher is a former truck driver who slept in his rig to save money to open his dream, this tiny European-looking coffee shop, in 2003. Ever since, it’s been packed with loyal locals. In fact, there are usually many more waiting in line than there are seats for them on the patio. (There are no seats inside.)

Brick & Bell’s coffee rings customer bells, but the scones are the signature item. The shop claims to move more than 100,000 each year. (Business got so good, a second, bigger location opened at 2216 Avenida De La Playa in La Jolla Shores.)

La Clochette du Coin
6830 La Jolla Blvd. #101
(858) 291-8071
6:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday., 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday
laclochetteducoin.com

The French name — which translates as “the bell on the corner” — isn’t just aspirational. Brother-and-sister owners Willy and Karine Wu Jye Hwa grew up in French Madagascar, where they learned everything about French coffee. (Lesson 1: It’s strong.)

Featured in their European-style café, which they opened in 2015, are Café Virtuoso’s signature Virtuoso and single-origin Yirgacheffe espressos, in addition to other artisan coffee drinks and French pastries.

The Living Room
1010 Prospect St.
(858) 459-1187
7 a.m.-1 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
livingroomcafe.com

This two-story spot with a patio is the only La Jolla coffeehouse with a nightlife. Of course, it’s the only one open late, so that helps. But so does the full bar and the brand’s origins on the campus of San Diego State University in 1991. (Its La Jolla location — opened two years later — continues the party tradition.)

Situated right above Kellogg Park and the ocean, the Living Room also has the best views of any coffeehouse on our list, plus Mediterranean cuisine and upstairs wine/cigar/hookah bars to boot.

Pannikin Coffee and Tea
7467 Girard Ave.
(858) 454-5433
6 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
pannikinlajolla.com

In 1968, late Pannikin founder Bob Sinclair began perfecting his many roasted blends at the Green Dragon Artist Colony. While the Pannikin’s coffee still draws raves, as does its brunch, probably the biggest reason three generations of La Jollans have gravitated here is because it just feels like a home. Some people grab a cozy couch corner, or a seat by the crackling fireplace, with a Chai tea and chill for hours or telecommute via their laptop.

The Pannikin actually was someone’s home before 1971, when Sinclair convinced Dennis Wills of D.G. Wills Books to take over and split the property with him. And the friendly, longtime staff enhance the homey feel by engaging in genuine, funny conversations with customers instead of sticking to corporate scripts.

Parakeet Café
927 Silverado St.
(858) 412-5627
6 a.m.-7 p.m. daily
parakeetcafe.com

To open a coffee shop directly across from the original Brick & Bell takes chutzpah. But husband-and-wife owners Carol Roizen and Jonathan Goldwasser were so confident in their new brand, its name doesn’t even appear on its storefront. (There’s only a pink line drawing of a parakeet.)

The Parakeet, which debuted in July 2017 on the site of La Tavernia, serves an assortment of hot and iced coffees including espresso, Nitro cold brew on tap, and flavored lattes. And the coffee and food is organic and health-minded. (One of the latte flavors is turmeric!)

Roizen and Goldwasser hail from Mexico City, where she was an attorney and he ran an optical business. When their second daughter was born with a rare disease, they relocated to the U.S. and dedicated their life to healthy eating. (Before the Parakeet, they opened a string of Juice Crafter’s, including La Jolla’s.)

Pinpoint Café
7855 Ivanhoe Ave.
(858) 519-6635
7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-noon Saturday
pinpointcafe.com

For seven years, Aline and Caroline Comenale worked at Brick & Bell, which is where the sisters say they developed a passion for working with coffee and people. For the past two years, they have owned the coffee kiosk near the La Jolla Post Office.

The smoothies and Açaí bowls they added to the menu of the former Latte by the Sea — as well as pastries from VG Donuts in Cardiff — have proven a big hit. They also added a lending library that encourages patrons to take a book and, if possible, replace it with a different book.

Copyright © 2019, La Jolla Light, © 2019, The San Diego Union-Tribune, LLC. All rights reserved.
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