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The Coffee Element
SoCal coffee spots that are breaking new grounds
by Miles Clements

It used to be that coffee was a thing of utility, a dark, elemental elixir designed to get you through the day. It was fuel, the drink of choice for travelers squeezed into squeaky vinyl booths at roadside diners and workers trying to rise before the sun. Today, however, coffee is something much more.

Across Southern California, an emergent crop of artisans and obsessives is transforming coffee culture as we know it. Fair-trade, single-origin beans are examined with the same rigor as the finest wine-producing grapes. Chrome-clad espresso machines are detailed with the same care as the showiest classic cars. And the once-humble coffee shop is now as much a destination as a fine-dining restaurant. Perk up, coffee lovers: These five trendsetting places are sure to hit the spot.

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters

Bird Rock Coffee Roasters in La Jolla is a bucolic place: warm, inviting wood surfaces; the excited whirl of grinders; and a giant roll-up door that lets in the cool ocean air. The shop grew from a farmers market business started by former community college English teacher Chuck Patton and his wife, Elke. Now, as it did then, Bird Rock takes great pride in sourcing sustainable and ‘farm-to-cup’coffee that helps empower growers from around the world. Most cups here are prepared via the pour-over method, a modified, more artful, and slightly slower version of drip coffee. The result is the kind of clean, full-bodied coffee for which Bird Rock has become known. Perhaps inspired by Patton’s professorial past, Bird Rock holds public cup pings (tastings) on Friday mornings where customers can learn what it takes to roast and brew coffee.