Thursday, July 18, 2024

Essential Long Beach coffee shops

Share

The Long Beach coffee shops that make up our city’s richly caffeinated scene are an essential cog for our cognitive functioning.

And the Long Beach coffee scene has been shifting—but perhaps no more heavily than in the past few years: Black Dog Roasters has taken over Lord Windsor, the shop that basically brought the third-wave of coffee to the city and shuttered mid-pandemic. Coffee Drunk has expanded into three locations while Rose Park’s Pine location, once revolving around its kitchen as well as its coffee, returned to solely serving coffee while occasionally hosting food popups (like the stellar Breakfast Dreams). Portfolio Coffeehouse permanently shuttered after 30 years on Retro Row to open Alder & Sage while Portola also closed after announcing Long Beach expansions. Cafablanca attempted a move to Downtown Los Angeles only to return (much to the happiness of us)…

The Long Beach coffee scene is continually evolving and changing—and with that, let’s explore 20 of the best of that very scene. In no particular order…


Recreational Coffee

237 Long Beach Blvd.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The staple that has altered its color.

long beach coffee
Recreational Coffee in Downtown Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

If you haven’t noticed, there’s a slightly different, queer-er vibe at the always-welcoming Recreational Coffee in Downtown Long Beach. Coffee bean labels are brighter and outright cartoon-y in the best way possible. There are more events. There’s a little pink coffee mug cart… And that’s all for a reason. It’s fairly-newly minted owner Brooklyn Warden who has taken over—and she’s ready to let the rainbow shine bright on the continually growing, always gorgeous world of Long Beach coffee.

For the large part of nearly a decade, Recreational Coffee has been a steward of the third-wave coffee scene here in Long Beach, following coffee shop-slash-roasting giants like the much-missed Lord Windsor and the still-going strong Rose Park while acting as a buttress for those to follow like Black Ring Coffee.

And the face of it all was Bobby Hernandez. Charming, kind, and a quick-to-become-a-local-fave kind of person, Hernandez exuded the qualities of a smart business person while never losing light as a loving human—and on that last note, it would take someone of deep character to realize that they are not taking take of the baby they helped built.

But with a kind, caring person comes the weight of knowing when to let go. And with Recreational, he understood he wasn’t giving it the love it needed as he expanded his professional experience. With Brooklyn—a longtime barista at the space who has also taken on the role of roaster—there is a wonderful play on the idea that Recreational was inspired by recreational therapy: We all have a bit of room to grow and alter.

For Brian Addison’s full feature on Recreational Coffee, click here.


Stereoscope

4925 E. 2nd St.

What kind of coffee? The one that supports other Long Beach businesses.

Long Beach coffee
Stereoscope in Belmont Shore. Photo by Brian Addison.

For those in the Los Angeles coffee scene, Stereoscope is an example of some of its most stellar caffeinated offerings—and its first shop in Long Beach, which opened in Belmont Shore in 2022, only adds to our city’s own stellar coffee scene.

It is the bean to which Nonna Mercato trusts their own namesake coffee to be put on. And, even more, they go beyond the coffee, especially with their matcha. While you will never fail on a brew or espresso, their matcha is a thing of wonder: Using your choice of three different Japan-based Mizuba ceremonial matchas—ceremonial grade matcha means the tea is made using the youngest of leaves, which have more chlorophyll and provide an earthier taste with a brighter green—it is truly a worthy drink for the matcha lovers.

Plus, they carry pastries and breads from Nonna Mercato. And they’re open later than usual (closing at 8PM and not 5PM). Win, win, win.


Rose Park Roasters

3044 E. 4th St. | 800 Pine Ave. | 455 E. Ocean Blvd.

- Advertisement -

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that started on a bike.

Long Beach coffee
Rose Park on Pine’s interior. Photo by Brian Addison.

For those that don’t know, Rose Park Roasters began caffeinating the world in 2010—when its original location took over the former Roasted Nōtz space in Bluff Heights—right as L.A. was starting to get its own specialty coffee scene. (That scene was largely led by Intelligentsia when it opened in Silver Lake in 2007. Here in Long Beach, a group of sadly gone warriors like True Beans and Lord Windsor Coffee and Makai and…).

Phillips, then a roaster for coffee boss Martin Dietrich at his Costa Mesa-based Kean Coffee, decided to pair up with design and business friend Tourtellotte to offer something that, at the time, didn’t exist outside the now-defunct True Beans Roasters in Long Beach: a local roaster dedicated to specialty beans.

Since then, Rose Parks has taken on many iterations. There’s their cutest location in DTLB, complete with a courtyard and historic building. There’s another (also beautiful) DTLB location (which used to have much-missed food-centric version).


Black Ring Coffee

5373 Long Beach Blvd.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? North Long Beach’s finest.

Long Beach coffee
Black Ring Coffee had the most humble of starts—and now resides in North Long Beach. Courtesy of business.

Black Ring Coffee’s rise to recognition has been one doused in the Long Beach spirit.

Bottling cold brew by hand and selling it out of their home and MADE by Millworks, the success of their individual bottle sales led to their brick-and-mortar on Long Beach Boulevard in North Long Beach. And that makes it the north side’s first independent coffeeshop, a stark contrast to Downtown and Alamitos Beach’s heavy saturation of well-known coffeeshops.

In 2019, the crew had their cold brew on nitro named the best in the country. Yes, in the country.


Good Time

1322 Coronado Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The non-binary one that’s besties with Hamburgers Nice.

long beach coffee
The breakfast croissant from Hamburgers Nice’s popup at Good Time. Photo by Brian Addison.

Tucked into the quiet-but-lovable pocket of small business that is Coronado Avenue in the Zaferia district, Good Time came in at, well, a very good time. Commodity—Alan Gomez’s once-a-coffee-popup, then a coffeeshop in the space that Good Time now occupies—had anchored itself in an intersection where Los Compadres and Pho Hong Phat have long ruled the plates of passersby. Having taken over the quick-lived-but-much-loved butchery-meets-sandwich shop that was Working Class Kitchen, Gomez really shifted the shop toward something much more than coffee. Food. Beer and wine. Art.

Good Time owner Joey Villalobos has unkept that aura, if not outright exceeding them by making the space incredibly inclusive, especially for the trans and non-binary community.

Even better? They have Hamburgers Nice. There’s no doubt that grill master and overall solid human Jairo Bogarín of Hamburgers Nice—the Long Beach-based popup that is honestly the real steward of the smash burger since they started serving at Commodity (aka Good Time) nearly five years ago—serves one of the best burgers


Coffee Parlor (COPA)

2944 Clark Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one attached to a pizza parlor.

long beach coffee
Coffee Parlor—or COPA—is East Long Beach’s best coffee shop. Photo by Brian Addison.

The original brain child of Chef Josh Knight—the guy behind one of the city’s best pizzerias, the neighboring Pizza Parlor—Coffee Parlor, or COPA as it is called colloquially, is one of East Long Beach’s best coffee shops.

The coffeeshop-meets-mini bistro is precisely what is needed for the neighborhood, one that has yet to see the specialty coffee scene that has exploded in Downtown even approach its borders. With it, they are introducing specialty coffee that focuses on medium and light roasts along with some special tricks, including a stellar caffeine-on-caffeine concoction that combines a Mexican Coke with espresso.


Caffe Luxxe

6420 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #145

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The OG specialty coffee shop.

Long Beach coffee
Caffe Luxxe’s location at the 2nd & PCH retail complex in Long Beach. Courtesy of business.

Long Beach has long prided itself on being a city of caffeination that went beyond corporatized fare like Starbucks while attaching itself intimately to the present, third-wave coffee movement. That has been solidified now that Mark Wain and Gary Chau have brought their widely respected Caffe Luxxe brand to Long Beach for the first time.

Wain and Chau launched Caffe Luxxe in 2006, years before Los Angeles saw a seemingly endless barrage of Blue Bottles and Stumptowns. With it, they helped educate the region on specialty coffee, fair trade sourcing and the art behind the work baristas do—and truly inspired SoCal to become the coffee beast it is today.

Having opened in December of 2019 at the massive 2nd & PCH complex, this marked the pair’s seventh location in nearly 15 years of doing business.


Good Day Cafe

416 Cherry Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The very happily gay shop-meets-bistro.

Long Beach food scene intel
Lindsey Mark and her wife Nikki will open Good Day Cafe. Courtesy of 4th Street Business Association.

After owners announced back in April they would be shuttering their much-loved Wide Eyes Open Palms bistro off 4th on Cherry Avenue, plans were clear that there was already a queer women-led effort to take it over and rebrand as the Good Day Cafe.

Owners Lindsey Mark and her wife Nikki have officially soft-opened the space, with current hours running Thursday through Monday from 7AM to 2PM. It’s a welcomed (re)addition to 4th Street—and brings in a re-branded version of what WEOP did so well: Creating a queer-friendly and -owned space that treated its coffee as importantly as it does its pastries and food offerings.


Confidential Coffee

1241 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that owns their Mexican heritage.

Long Beach coffee
Confidential Coffee in Downtown Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

Confidential Coffee owner Denise Maldonado is no stranger to coffee (as is co-owner Gustavo De La Rosa). Heading to Long Beach by way of Demitasse, coffee master Bobby Roshan’s well-respected coffee staple in L.A., Maldonado’s harkens to her own Mexican roots by offering up everything from cajeta lattes—a homage to Mexican caramel—to mazapan lattes—this latter drink giving a tip-of-the-hat to Mexico’s famed peanut candy, de la Rosa. (I always feel a little flutter of happiness at successfully unwrapping a piece of mazapan without breaking it.)

Opening in 2018, the shop has been an underdog in the scene, facing not just steep competition from the coffee-rich Downtown neighborhood it is in, but the troubles that come with the Downtown. Multiple break-ins have not broken their spirit but rather strengthened it. And as an underrated space on the coffee spectrum, it is also one of the quietest places you can get your caffeine on. But make no mistake: They make an amazing cup of coffee. And they have micheladas now. Win, win.


Ground Hideout

356 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one with Honduran roots.

ground hideout
Ground Hideout is a Downtown Long Beach coffee jewel. Photo by Brian Addison.

The Ground Hideout is everything you want in a coffeeshop. They serve stellar beans like those from Verve. They offer a limited-but-not-boring selection. And all done so with a truly beautiful, Long Beach twist: It is owned and operated by the Bonilla family, a Honduran crew where dad, often handling pastries in the back, and Mom, have immigrated to help son Alex and daughter Andrea achieve business greatness. And yes, they owned a coffee farm back in the motherland.

Andrea has a great palate for coffee and her creations—like an orange cardamom latte or their insanely-popular-but-rightfully-so blueberry latte—exemplifies their love of coffee.


Viento y Agua

4007 E. 4th St.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that’s been around for a quarter of a century.

viento y agua
Viento y Agua has been in Belmont Heights for nearly 25 years. Photo by Brian Addison.

Viento y Agua owner Bela Mogyorody originally opened the space as a gallery in 2003—but then soon realized how easily and comfortably coffee and art go together. The space has been one that is both well-lived in and somewhat constantly changing: Home to open mics, they scored a piano to put front and center and host Adelina’s Revenge, a queer Latina-owned shop filled with Mexican and Latin American-centric goods.

Its dedication to sticking to good coffee, supporting local artists and vendors, and keeping it Long Beach should never be lost on residents new or old. They’re a goddamned gem if there was one—and we should be wishing them nothing less than another stellar 25 years.


Common Room Roasters

2952 E. 14th St.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that originated in Orange County.

Long Beach coffee
Common Room Roasters is tucked behind Orizaba Park. Photo by Brian Addison.

Common Room Roasters owner Ed Moffatt originally opened his space beyond the Orange Curtain, in Newport Beach. But come late 2022, he frankly needed more space.

Enter Long Beach.

The move to accommodate the growing demand for their third-wave roasting style—ultimately meaning an ability to provide their wholesale and retail customers with an even better overall coffee experience. The Long Beach location features a larger roastery, new tasting room, and perhaps coolest, a pro shop and training lab, where customers and employees alike can expand on their knowledge of coffee.

Having been a staple in the Orange County community for over 6 years, they’re a happily welcomed addition.


Steelhead

3350 E. Broadway | 3768 Long Beach Blvd. #103 | 1208 E. Wardlow Rd.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The three-location kind.

Long Beach coffee
Steelhead’s Broadway and Redondo location is one of its most beautiful. Photo by Brian Addison.

Steelhead owners John and Rany Aguirre expanded quickly before the pandemic. Their flagship location in Cal Heights was warmly welcomed in 2014. Then they were the first vendor to open at Bixby Knoll’s SteelCraft complex in 2017. And then they opened their Bluff Park in 2019, taking over a former sandwich shop. (It was a bank before that; the Aguirres use the old vault as storage space.)

Quietly serving up Penny and Cat Cloud beans across their tenure, their Bluff Heights location is certainly one of the coolest: Old-school tiling with mint greens throughout, one can enjoy their cup of coffee while huffing in the wafting scents of Flamin’ Curry and The Attic (and, if they’re so inclined, grabbing a much harder drink at dive bar legend Reno Room).


CoffeeDrunk

2701 E 4th St. | 4374 Atlantic Ave. | 913 E. Wardlow Rd.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The buzzy one.

Long Beach coffee
CoffeeDrunk’s original 4th Street location. Photo by Brian Addison.

Coffee Drunk, which opened its first location just west of 4th Street and Temple Avenue in late 2020, has since quickly expanded. Owners Breezy and Matthew Church opened a second location in Cal Heights at the northeast corner of Wardlow Road and Myrtle Avenue, just east of the Meat & Vino shop. And then they opened a Bixby Knolls location as well.

While owning their identity as a third-wave coffee spot—the use of the respected 49th Parallel roaster as their house bean makes that clear—the space lacks pretense and doesn’t harp to the stereotypes that such coffeeshops often exude. Their menu acts a sort of middle ground between the third and second-wave coffee people: You can very much enjoy your slow-drip black coffee or indulge in a syrup-based concoction that leans toward the sweet.


Wolf’s Brew Coffee

4145 Norse Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one on the edge.

long beach coffee
Wolf’s Brew sits on the eastern edge of Long Beach. Courtesy of business.

Sitting on the border of Long Beach where it meets Lakewood, Wolf’s Brew Coffee is one of the most underrated shops op this list. The space comes courtesy of married founders and co-owners Bryer Garcia and Vanessa Winn-Garcia, along with Bryer’s brother Jay Garcia. Since opening in 2018, the tiny-but-mighty space offered a coffee-starved neighborhood something beyond the corporate iteration of the bean.

Using Recreational beans and having an aesthetic that echoes Los Feliz Village’s famed Wacko shop—something Bryer said was a direct inspiration—Wolf’s Brew simply serves up stellar coffee. Concoctions like cold brew old fashioneds, events that blend cars and coffee, and hosting the awesome Breakfast Dreams each Sunday, Wolf’s Brew is an East Long Beach jewel.


Rad Coffee

3502 Atlantic Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that should replace Starbucks if that’s what you love.

rad coffee
Rad Coffee in Bixby Knolls. Courtesy of business.

Rad Coffee has been an Inland Empire institution since 2015, blowing up in the viral sense with their over-the-top concoctions like a blended “Cookies ‘n Scream” drink or a heart attack-inducing drink that blends four shots of espresso with cold brew and white mocha. Think of them as Frappuccinos on steroids and high fructose wonder—and in that sense, they are the perfect replacement for the lover of the inescapable corporate overlord that is Starbucks.

Having two other locations—one in Upland, another in Covina—their Bixby Knolls shop is certainly the coolest of three. Husband-and-wife team Rusty and Jade Valore took over the space that used to house Derricks in 2022 and have no signs of slowing down. Horror movie posters, concert flyer memorabilia, anything lightly macabre line the walls, making them almost the coffee spinoff of The 4th Horseman. And that’s, well, really rad.


The Merchant

4121 Long Beach Blvd.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one that goes with a pastry.

Courtesy of business.

Opening in 2017, The Merchant made it feel like it (along with the aforementioned Steelhead) was introducing Bixby Knolls to specialty coffee. Surely, staples like London Fogs and Americanos were on the menu, but beautifully balanced flavored concoctions became their signature: From lavender and horchata to mulling spice and peppermint, The Merchant’s seasonal offerings are stellar.

Husband-and-wife duo Mike and Andrea Gillespie—residents of Bixby Knolls since 2009—also create wonderful baked goods that make this coffee shop rather perfect for the neighborhood.


SALA

3853 Atlantic Ave.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The one with a wine bar and one of the city’s best breakfast burrito.

Long Beach coffee
SALA’s breakfast food items are on par with their coffee’s excellence. Photo by Brian Addison.

Led by partners Brandee Raygoza and Derrick Montiel, SALA is an underrated gem of a space if there ever was one: Stellar coffee meets a wine bar meets a minimal kitchen that serves an equally minimal menu for the morning: a breakfast sandwich, breakfast burrito, chilaquiles, and a chilaquiles burrito.

While the breakfast sandwich is something not to be skipped—a perfect model for The Breakfast Sandwich, with bacon and a full on McDonald’s-style hashbrown accompanying a yolky egg, cheese, and brioche—it is the chilaquiles burrito that is something rather special.

Layers of tortilla chips slathered in salsa verde line with bacon and beans to create an ode to the mighty carb-on-carb masterpiece that is the torta de chilaquiles of Mexico City. The result? A savory, hint-of-heat, textures-abound burrito that is as delectable as it is surprising.


Tierra Mia

425 E. Pacific Coast Hwy.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The thoroughly Latino one (drive-thru included).

tierra mia
A latte from Tierra Mia in Long Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

Blended horchata. Cafecita Cubana. Dulce de leche latte. Mexican hot chocolate. These are the characteristics that define Tierra Mia, a distinctly Latino-centric brand birthed out of South Gate in 2008 and becoming a SoCal powerhouse that spans locations in every major part of L.A.

Founded and owned by Ulysses Romero, while the shop’s popularity may be in their sugary concoctions, Tierra Mia takes its coffee very seriously. Harnessing its beans as fairly and ethically as possible (and solely from Latin America), don’t skip out on their basics. Their espresso is solid, their drip just as good, and their lattes masterfully executed.


Black Dog Coffee Roasters

1101 E. 3rd St.

What kind of Long Beach coffee? The second-wave shop.

long beach coffee
Black Dog Coffee Roasters in Alamitos Beach. Photo by Brian Addison.

Black Dog Coffee Roasters—the DYI roaster-gone-coffee shop that was initially birthed in Signal Hill—officially opened its formal shop in late 2023. And it did so in a space that once held local coffee royalty, Lord Windsor, at the northeast corner of 3rd Street and Cerritos Avenue.

For budding coffee roaster and owner Francisco Portillo-Kessler, the road from El Salvador—where he was born and where his family owns a coffee farm—to the United States, where he moved to Long Beach in 2015, has been both brightened and blighted by the ups and downs of life: Taking on a small air roaster, he signed a lease for a space in Signal Hill in February of 2020 in order to roast and hopefully get some of his beans into shops.

Black Dog’s approach to roasting—medium to the darker range, bringing out the heavier, bittersweet chocolate notes of beans—is antithetical to what has largely come to define independent coffee in SoCal.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.

6 COMMENTS

  1. What? No Sheldrake Coffee? You list one place that isn’t fully open(Good Day Coffee) and others that are primarily bakeries (Merchant) but no love for 2nd Streets Mecca of fresh roasted coffee? I’ve only lived in Long Beach since 1998 so that means roughly have the time the Mike has been roasting coffee. Polly’s originally and now Sheldrake’s has been proudly posting roast dates on its coffee years before others even thought to bother.

    • Came here to say this! Mike Sheldrake has been roasting coffee in Belmont Shore since the 70s, long pre-dating the days when Starbucks put two stores on 2nd Street (and killed Midnight Expresso). I love your site and trust your palate and your takes, Brian, but dang, you can’t ignore Sheldrake’s.

  2. I was thinking the same! They make a good cup at a very reasonable price. And always good service as well. Bravo to Sheldrake Coffee.

  3. Thanks Brian for a great feature of all the amazing coffee in the LB! Many favorites and now some new ones to try.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Subscribe to The Insider

Get weekly updates on Long Beach's evolving culture, urban development, and food scene. Become a Longbeachize Insider today

By clicking "Subscribe," you agree to receive weekly newsletters from Longbeachize and accept our Privacy Policy posted on our website.

Read more

Popular Tags

More From Long Beach