Long Beach is the second largest city in Los Angeles County (the first being, as you probably can guess, the city of Los Angeles), best known perhaps for being the home of the Queen Mary ocean-liner turned hotel. But surely in due time, it’ll also be well known for its coffee scene, which has been quietly growing for the past few years. Increasingly, some of the best roasters in Southern California can be found in Long Beach, and there are a number of terrific specialty coffee shops all over town.
Which is where this guide comes in: while by no means a comprehensive treatise to all the caffeine that flows in Long Beach, these five are well worth checking out while you’re in town this coming weekend for the United States Barista Championships. Or any weekend, really.
Lord Windsor Roasters
If you have time to visit only one shop in Long Beach, make it this one: Lord Windsor’s has no relation (that we know of, anyway) to English royalty, but it’s something close to local specialty coffee shop royalty. Wade and Lindsay Windsor opened their shop in 2012, making them one of the earliest specialty coffee roasters and cafes in the area.
The cafe is a beautiful space, with checkered floor tiles, a green Diedrich roaster in the back and a long wood bar where you can watch top-notch baristas pull shots off the La Marzocco espresso machine and brew coffee on Hario V60 filter cones. Or you can just drop in to grab a bottle or two of cold brew in the fridge, screen printed with one of the best labels around.
Located on the corner of Temple and Broadway in a part of Long Beach perhaps best known for its Craftsmen houses, Makai is a comfortable, friendly spot with plenty of space where you would feel at home propping open your MacBook and catching up on emails or, if you’re the more analog sort, opening an actual physical book and enjoying it over a cup of lovely coffee. This is a multi-roaster shop, so the aforementioned lovely coffee you’ll have alongside your reading might be from the likes of George Howell, 49th Parallel Coffee Roasters or local roasters Rose Park Roasters. In addition to espresso drinks, there’s filtered coffee and “not coffee” drinks like tea, chai, and hot chocolate. As is to trend these days, the almond milk is made in-house.
Rose Park Coffee Roasters
Rose Park Coffee Roasters just opened shop in December, making it one the newest kids on the specialty coffee block. Which is not to say that this is an entirely new operation: to the contrary, the crew here initially started roasting back in 2010, delivering bags of their fresh coffee throughout Long Beach by bike and building an ardent community of fans ranging from home brewers to local coffee shops and restaurants who now carry their beans. Rose Park’s new home base is a bright, cheery shop on Fourth Street where you can sip on one of the cold brews on tap or a seasonal latte (recently in season: molasses with ginger and rosemary). As you take in the drink and the space, you probably can’t help but notice that “Welcome to the Process” is painted in huge letters on one of the walls, at which point a barista might casually mention that Rose Park will be opening a roasting warehouse and tasting room later this year. Welcome, indeed.
Wide Eyes Open Palms
Before watching the final rounds of the barista competition on Sunday, you might want to first hit up the Alamitos Bay Farmers Market. Because not only is a stroll through the farmers market one of the best things you can do in Southern California in the middle of February (strawberries are unseasonably in season, by the way), you also can grab a terrific pour over, iced latte or bottle of cold brew from Angie Evans and Kat Mciver’s Wide Eyes Open Palms‘ pop-up coffee booth.
Here you’ll find beans from a variety of roasters, including Rose Park, Kuma Coffee, and Four Barrel Coffee, and, if you’re hungry, eggs on toast and granola. And because Wide Eyes Open is a pop-up after all, you often can find them elsewhere around town; on Friday night, they’ll be hosting a post-competition karaoke and cocktail party at MADE. And on Monday, you can find them at Rose Park Coffee Roasters, pouring coffee and serving brunch. Not a bad way to start and end the weekend.
Flea Espresso Bar
Flea Espresso Bar is tiny and circus themed. If conceit alone doesn’t draw you to the shop, maybe the coffee will, especially if you want a refresher on how good Northern Italian-style coffee can be when it’s done right. Because it’s certainly done right here: owner and ringmaster Jordan Pinches sources top-notch coffee from a variety of roasters (local and otherwise) and pulls terrific shots off his worn La Marzocco. In addition to the great coffee, this is simply a great spot, the sort of place that would be a gem in most any neighborhood. Accordingly, you’d do well to get your coffee to stay just so you can stick around and chat with the regulars and the owner—they can and will talk to you about anything. Just don’t miss them—Flea Espresso is a weekend-only operation.
One last note:
When you come back to Long Beach, look up Heartbreak Coffee: the local roaster has been roasting and bottling cold brews for a while now, and more recently has been popping up here and there with pour over cones and kettles at their ready. They should be opening their own brick and mortar sometime this year.