Brewing Up California’s Coffee Scene

San Franciscans take their coffee seriously. Very seriously. Sightglass is one of the best independently owned and operated roasters. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT CALIFORNIA

The Pacific Northwest, home of Starbucks, may have invented modern “coffee culture,” but California has embraced the love of the caffeinated brew and offers up its own celebration of the hallowed “cup o’ joe.”

Tourists from around the globe arrive daily to seek out California’s “artisan” coffee culture. What better excuse to travel than finding that perfect cup of coffee? From cute and quiet cafés to bakery cafes and local hangouts, here are some of California’s growing coffee scenes, including a few bakery/coffee shops worth a visit. 

North Coast: Mendocino Joe

Visitors exploring the beautiful North Coast can find a variety of coffee destinations. The baristas of Black Oak Coffee Roasters offer a cup with a side of history, telling the stories of each coffee. While in Fort Bragg, be sure to check out Headlands Coffeehouse for chill vibes and hot coffee. In Eureka, Gold Rush Coffee offers “expresso” drive through service.

Black Oak Coffee Roasters

476 N. State Street

Ukiah, 95482

Headlands Coffeehouse

120 E Laurel Street

Fort Bragg, 95437

Gold Rush Coffee 

2742 Broadway Street,

Eureka, 95501


When in Sebastopol stop at The Barlow, a hip and upscale outdoor mall featuring a variety of epicurean hot spots, shops, tasting rooms and galleries. Once an apple-processing facility, the 18 industrial buildings that make up the destination were renovated in the early part of this decade.

Taylor Lane Organic Coffee’s flagship Coffee Bar & Roastery offers an organic coffee experience you won’t soon forget. From handcrafted, espresso-based beverages and single origin pour-overs, this cafe is the ultimate gathering place for the coffee-obsessed. The coffees come from bio-diverse, certified-organic family farms.

Taylor Lane Organic Coffee

6790 McKinley St.

Sebastopol, 95472

617 E. Washington Street

Petaluma, 94952

San Francisco Craft Coffee

San Franciscans take their coffee seriously. Very seriously. The authenticity and provenance of beans matter to customers, and as a result, third-wave coffee companies abound.

Sightglass is one of the best independently owned and operated roasters. Brothers Justin and Jerad Morrison helped reinvent and redefine the city’s café scene when they opened their flagship SoMA in 2011 — adding lots of warm wood and matte Carrera marble to a warehouse space.

Enjoy perfect cortados, pour-overs and kouign-amann pastries. You can also watch the roasting process in the open space. Don’t miss the affogato bar on the second level. True coffee geeks should call ahead to see about hour-long cupping classes (think winetasting for coffee).

For a true “thrill,” visit the “Best Coffee Shop in Fisherman’s Wharf” — so dubbed by the online website Thrillest — Pier 39’s Biscoff Coffee Corner.


270 Seventh Street

San Francisco, 94103

Biscoff Coffee Corner 

39 Pier Ste 213

San Francisco, 94133

Central Valley Grounds

Since the Central Valley is California’s most productive agricultural region, it is no surprise that there is a growing coffee scene. Located in Fresno County’s trendy Fig Garden Village, Café Van Ness is the perfect hangout spot with a cozy interior and outdoor patio. Another local favorite is Lanna Coffee Co. Lastly, one of Fresno County’s trendiest coffee shops, Kuppa Joy Coffee House, offers several selections that cater to the palate of all coffee lovers.

Café Van Ness

3204 N Van Ness Blvd.  

Fresno, 93704

Lanna Coffee Co.

617 Broadway Street 

Fresno, 93721

Kuppa Joy Coffee House

1900 N. Echo Ave. #6004

Fresno, 93704

Big Sur

You might drive right by the Big Sur Bakery as you make your way along the wild coastline that artist Francis McComas once called the “greatest meeting of land and sea.” But if you do miss it, turn back. This casual roadside bakery and coffee shop, which used to be known as “that place behind the gas station,” is a can’t-miss destination for its freshly baked bread and pastries and coffee.

Big Sur Bakery 

47540 CA-1

Big Sur, 93920

Central Coast Roast 

For visitors making the epic drive down the historic Highway One, be sure grab a cup of joe along the way. For coffee lovers stopping in San Luis Obispo, check out Scout, Kruzberg or the recently revamped Ascendo.

Scout Coffee 

1130 Garden Street

San Luis Obispo, 93401

Kruzberg Coffee Co. 

685 Higuera Street,

San Luis Obispo, 93401


974 Monterey Street,

San Luis Obispo, 93401

Orange County Coffee

Before you experience beautiful beaches and world-renowned shopping options, be sure to get a taste of Orange County’s coffee culture. On the coast there are a myriad of coffee shops, and two that you must try.

The Koffee Klatch, in Laguna Beach, dispenses coffee drinks, sweet treats and casual café fare, and is a local favorite. Visitors should also try the award-winning Portola Coffee Roasters in Huntington Beach. The views are amazing.

When local chefs start frequenting a spot, you know it’s onto something. And that’s in part what helped propel Hopper & Burr from a pop-up coffee shop to a permanent fixture in downtown Santa Ana. The bright space is sparingly decorated in Scandinavian style, all the better to put the focus squarely on the craft brews.

The shop rotates its coffee bean selection from five roasters around the country, and the almond milk, chai and syrups are made in-house. A list of clean, classic espresso drinks is always available, along with inventive ones like the Kaffee Tonic, which is espresso poured over tonic water and Nico #2, a double shot of Saint Frank espresso with peach syrup, steamed half-and-half and a dusting of cinnamon.

Hopper & Burr

202 W. 4th Street

Santa Ana, 92701

Koffee Klatch

1440 S Coast Highway

Laguna Beach, 92651

Portola Coffee Roasters

21058 Pacific Coast Highway, Space 170

Huntington Beach, 92648

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