Jeff Duggan. Owner/Roastmaster

We are not fast coffee.

We brew to order.

We roast to flavor.

Our raw coffee is not cheap, and it is even hard to get.

We don’t have flavored syrups.

Our espresso is made with the Slayer Espresso machine that utilizes pressure profiling.

We do everything thing in our power to get the most enjoyment and natural flavor out of the coffee we serve no matter what it takes.

Our coffee shop may not be for everyone – that’s ok.

Although this style of coffee shop is popular and highly sought out in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and increasingly in LA, there was no way to know how my incarnation of “slow food”, brewed-on-demand coffee would fair here in beloved Orange County.  Would Orange County be ready to treat coffee with the same respect they do wine?  We didn’t know.

Obviously I had confidence that my fellow Orange County citizens would love Portola Coffee Lab since I made that leap of faith and opened shop in May 2011.  It has been four months and It still makes me feel thankful, warm and fuzzy inside to see such a positive response to our efforts daily and I go home happy when people go out of their way to tell me and my wife just how much they love Portola.  In so many ways Orange County WAS ready for this, and we see that playing out in our shop.

Now that we have been open for a few months, I have had many opportunities to interact with our customers on many levels.  Whether it is a casual conversation at the register or table, or during the many tasting and cupping events we have hosted at our shop free of charge.  And there has been one question that has permeated most of these conversations in one way or another.  “Why?”

When I first decided to commit 100% to this business model, I knew we must provide our customers with the knowledge to answer the question of “why?”

  • Why do we offer the brew methods that we do?
  • Why is it important to brew-to-order rather than brew into thermal dispensers?
  • What is pressure profiling for espresso and what does that do to the flavor quality of the espresso?

And the list goes on.

These questions come from the fact that our customers are truly interested in all aspects of coffee – and I absolutely love it!  We are the first coffee shop of our kind that Orange County has ever seen… and being the first in anything is both exciting and scary.  And most of that excitement and fright comes from the daunting and fulfilling task of education and owning up to why we do things the way we do. Challenging?…sure.  Fun?….you betcha!

It has been falsely inferred by some that because of one reason or another that we view ourselves as “the end of all coffee in OC.”

That isn’t true at all, and would be silly.

People who say that are silly.

Portola Coffee Lab is a different style of coffeehouse.  We do things our way for a reason.  Yet I want nothing more than to co-exist with my coffee competitors in Orange County.

From a purely logistical perspective, we can’t be “the end of all coffee in OC.”  It would be impossible to service every single coffee drinker in O.C. everyday, however rewarding that would be.

So rather than argue for people to drink only our coffee while disregarding all other coffee shops in Orange County…I simply want to explain why we are doing coffee the way we are.  Or as I like to put it “the meaning behind our madness.”

I want to answer “why?” and leave the rest up to the customer.

There is a reason for every aspect of our shop and I look forward to explaining in the next couple blog posts what is different about our shop and how we do things.

Portola Coffee Lab is not a traditional coffee shop and may not be for everyone, but … everyone is welcome.

-Jeff Duggan

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