Are multi-roasters still cool again? Or are they no longer cool again… again? Wherever the fleeting whimsy of the specialty coffee zeitgeist currently lies on the matter, the fact remains that a thoughtful and well-executed multi-roaster program is a thing of beauty and a welcome change of pace from the traditional roaster cafe. It provides a new perspective on the wide world of specialty coffee curated through a specific lens. These are the coffees that are exciting to a specific person or shop at the particular moment.
Southern California’s Play Coffee has been one such high-achieving multi-roaster since their inception back in 2020. A Best New Cafe finalist in the Sprudgie Awards that same year, Play have been thoughtfully sourcing coffee from some of the best roasters in the world, particularly those in the Scandinavian roasting tradition. We featured Play’s first cafe in Fullerton as part of the Sprudge Maps Spotlight series in 2021, and we return now some 2.5 years later to take a look at their brand new cafe in Orange. Residing in the Wells Fargo Building in Old Town Orange, the new Play has all the hallmarks of their first location, including a focus on filter coffee with multiple options from a variety of roasters.
Whether or not they are “cool” right now, it doesn’t matter, there’s something undeniable about a perfectly-executed multi-roaster program like the one at Play Coffee.
As told to Sprudge by Leon Wansikehian.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Play Coffee started in July of 2020 by founder Leon Wansikehian with the ambition to create meaningful public space and to feature coffees from award winning roasters from around the world. Inspiration for the name “Play”? We recognize that play has always taken an enormous place in our social life. We feel like we are engaging in play when we take a moment to enjoy coffee and get ready to take on the day!
All of our coffees are carefully sourced from our favorite roasters based on a philosophy where quality, traceability, innovation, and social responsibility is the main focus.
Having a rotational bar allows us to feature a diverse spectrum of roasters from around the world.
Our goal is to create a product that is as transparent as possible so that you can experience the taste of the terroir and the cultivar of each and every coffee lot that we sell.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
Play Coffee opens its second cafe within the historic Wells Fargo Building in Old Town Orange. The espresso bar is centralized as a 360 degree island, highlighting staff and their espresso preparation—where guests are able to see the entirety of their beverage produced. Play occupies the old Wells Fargo building, marking the first time the space does not function as a bank since the buildings inception in 1928. Steps outside you will find the Orange Circle, where you can walk the park’s illuminating focal point, the “new” fountain and enjoy beautiful outdoor seating in the sun. Inside, you will find our newest espresso bar, featuring a centralized bar design where coffees from our favorite roasting partners are able to be featured on a rotational basis.
The First National Bank of Orange was opened at the same time as its affiliated savings institution, Orange Savings Bank. First National merged with the Bank of Orange (which had become The National Bank of Orange) in 1927 and moved to a newly constructed building on the northeast intersection of Chapman and the Plaza. The First National Bank of Orange remained in the graceful building until replaced in the early 1970s by Wells Fargo. The lobby remains impressive with its high inlaid bevel ceiling. It is the second oldest building continuously occupied as a bank in Orange County, and now home of Play Coffee #2. We worked very hard to build our second location while preserving the integrity and history of the building. With the help and experience of our team, we were able to complete construction in 86 days and couldn’t be happier to open our second location in the town we grew up in.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Because we don’t roast any coffee we carefully partner with our favorite roasters from all over the world that match with our preferred Scandanavian or “Nordic” roast style. Our entire bar is built off an emphasis on coffees, featuring a rational pour-over menu, anywhere from five to seven different single origin coffees on espresso, and a full milk-based espresso menu as well. We work hard to offer a wide range of origins, processes, terroirs, flavors, and prioritize partnering with roasters who not only fit our preferred roast style but produce transparency reports, purchase coffees with a direct-trade model, and respect producing partners by paying well above market prices to value the hard work at the beginning of the supply chain.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
How is your project considering sustainability?
In our opinion, sustainability in coffee starts with financial sustainability for the producers, roasting partners, and internally for our team. We focus on making sure our roasting partners are building sustainable relationships at the farm level by properly rewarding producers for producing high quality coffee. From a construction standpoint, the entirety of the structural component for our second cafe was built pre-fab at a green facility in Portland, Oregon called LIT Workshop. Inside the bar we use exclusively PLA/PET hot cups, industrially compostable straws made by Phade, and recycle all of our glass ware.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Designwork Studios (Architect), Waka Waka (Chairs), Alvar Aalto (Chairs), Muller Van Severen (Tables), Capsule (Espresso Bar), Lit Workshop (Structural), Victoria Rivas (Creative Direction), Raul Pirir (Construction)