Located at the southernmost end of Orange County, San Clemente, California, has always been a destination for surfers. Almost anywhere you are, you can see the ocean, and if you can’t see it, you can smell it. And while its beaches draw many, San Clemente has never been a destination for coffee drinkers. That is, until now. In April 2014, Jeff Clinard, former general manager of, and part of the team that opened Portola Coffee Lab, brought Bear Coast Coffee to San Clemente.
You'll find it popped up inside The Cellar, a restaurant, bar, and cheese shop on Avenida Del Mar. Baristas pedigreed by shops like G&B and Portola Coffee Lab serve coffee from 49th Parallel, Ritual, Heart, and Intelligentsia here, on a matte black La Marzocco GB/5 flanked by Mahlkönig EK 43 and K30 grinders. Because of the limited counter space, Fetco is the sole (hot) brewed coffee option. For cold brew, a triple-filtered Toddy system is used. Aside from standard drink options, Clinard's crew will serve up two flavored lattes should you wish them: Lavender Caramel and Nutmeg Vanilla. Both are subtly sweet, with house-made ingredients.
Though situated vaguely within the greater LA area—about sixty miles away— Clinard chose to focus on serving his laid-back local community instead of trying to impress people who were nearly two hours away. His business philosophy has changed since his time at Portola Coffee Lab: he wants to make good coffee, and make his customers happy because his friends and neighbors are his customers. After all, San Clemente is his home, where he lives with his wife and baby girl.
To this end, Clinard is planning the future of Bear Coast in a more permanent location by 2016. He's already picked out his coffee setup—a La Marzocco Linea PB and a manual pour-over station, along with Fetco for those who are in a hurry. The location is yet to be announced, but Clinard is already prepared for staff interviews, which will involve a group interview with a massive game of Pictionary.
“Coffee is a luxury,” Clinard says, reflectively.
“If all the coffee in the world was gone for whatever reason, people would be fine…For five minutes of their day, our customers get to “hire” someone to make them coffee and give them a few minutes to relax.”
And that may be exactly what's needed in this surf community.
Allison Bellows is a freelance writer. This is her first feature for Sprudge.