The Inland Empire is roughly a 45-minute drive from Los Angeles or Orange County—depending on traffic, of course. But when you are heading into the sprawling landscape of this part of Southern California, there’s no doubt the region has its own distinct personality, including a burgeoning coffee culture. While the scene is small, the coffee spots are mighty and the loyalty is fierce, you’ll be charmed by the unprecedented locations that are not always where one would expect to find a great cup of coffee. But there are a handful of spots where owners and baristas are proud to talk about roasting processes, milk steaming, or barista events in the area.
Here are a few must stop coffee fixtures in the 909:
Klatch (formerly known as Coffee Klatch) is the granddaddy of the Inland Empire’s coffee and roasting scene. They began roasting coffee in 1993 and have a dedicated following amongst those who have watched the family—a family of which two-time United States Barista Champion Heather Perry is a member— business become a caffeinated force. Their spacious but cozy Rancho Cucamonga location is situated along the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Vineyard Avenue, in an all too familiar shopping center. But look a bit closer and you’ll see it’s actually The Old Thomas Winery, the second oldest winery in the United States. The wine country-farmhouse appeal lends to the comfortable and relaxing environment, where you’ll find it bustling with locals taking advantage of their espresso drinks or buying freshly roasted beans to take home. Klatch also has shops in Ontario and San Dimas, and outside the Inland Empire at LAX and in Korea.
Monkey & Son Coffee Company (at Some Crust Bakery)
Claremont is a historical foothill community home to five fantastic liberal arts colleges and a vibrant “village” known for its great food, great shops, and great places to settle in with a cup of coffee and a good book. But one of the busiest places in town is Some Crust Bakery, which also happens to serve beans from Monkey & Son Coffee Company, a 100% certified Fair Trade Organic coffee roaster. The coffee and espresso drinks, paired with the shop’s baked goods, make this the place to be on the weekends. Likewise, a perfect way to enjoy a lazy weekday afternoon is with an organic pour-over or latte before heading to the farmer’s market or just hang out.
Augie’s Coffee Roasters
Augie’s Coffee Roasters tugs at the heartstrings of Redlands locals who have a certain amount of pride when it comes to this independent coffee roaster that “could.” Its first location is in Redlands, a beautiful part of the Inland Empire surrounded by mountains, a university, and plenty of tree-lined streets and Victorian homes. The atmosphere is relaxed and homey and bustles with the neighborhood’s college students, who study and drink copious amounts of cold brew. Stop by for a cup of locally-roasted coffee and stay for the community feel. Additional locations of Augie’s Coffee Roasters operate in the Inland Empire in Riverside and Claremont.
N7 Creamery is an unsuspecting coffee gem found inside the Inland Empire’s open air shopping center Victorian Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Just past the mall trolley and Macy’s, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to discover the newest addition to the Inland Empire’s coffee scene, a charming and comfortable spot that’s also part liquid nitrogen ice cream shop and bakery. N7 Creamery manages to be warm and cozy for its size, and includes a second level that is used for its poetry and coffee nights. Their menu includes espresso drinks, pour-overs, cold brews, and all their flavored syrups for drinks are made in-house. The owners and staff are excited about what they do, so feel free to ask lots of questions. They’ll be happy to chat.
Lift Coffee is tucked behind a business storefront making it easy to miss as you drive past Central Avenue in Riverside. But once you find it, its style and vibe may make you wish that this was your neighborhood coffeehouse. Baristas are warm and happy to guide you through their menu with recommendations and suggestions on their favorites, part of Lift’s goal of making great coffee accessible to all who are interested. Stop in for a pour-over, a French Press or one of their carefully made espresso drinks when in Riverside.
One last note: Locals of the Inland Empire don’t always see Riverside as part of the “909”. Riverside was in the 909 area code until 2004, when the area code was then changed to 951. If you are in the Inland Empire, heading out to the Riverside locations to grab a fantastic cup of coffee is worth the trip.
Cindy Arora is a food and lifestyle writer based in Los Angeles. Arora is the dining editor for Fodor’s Los Angeles and has written for Saveur, Tasting Table, Time Out, and Orange County Register. This is Arora’s first feature for Sprudge.