Coffee in the Time of Shelter in Place

In October 2011 we started our tradition of visiting a different coffee shop each month. 
On March 15, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom called for seniors to to stay at home because of COVID19 and four days later called for all Californians to stay home. Some coffee spots remained open for drive thru business, but many closed completely some will go out of business. 
We’re looking forward to investigating additional cups of coffee in intriguing venues in our future, but we decided to virtually meet this month to capture and document this historic moment.
My thanks to Patty for organizing a Zoom meeting. Each of us brought our own favorite cup of coffee, and in a happy coincidence, we each brought coffee cups we gave to each other with the slogans:  Keep Calm and Carry On and Be Calm and Caffeinate. 
My husband Bob enjoys a cup of cappuccino so during these day of much “no-contact” online shopping I bought three different types of instant cappuccinos for him to taste test. I thought this would add a little variety within our daily routine during these unprecedented times.

I hadn’t tasted his cappuccino stash, so my Zoom meeting with Patty was the perfect opportunity. I tried a Cafe Tastlé single serve packet. It was fabulous and so easy! 
Patty was more ambitious and made herself a delicious French press coffee. 
We both enjoyed a cup of coffee while “social distancing.” It’s not the same and we’re making plans for when we can get out and enjoy coffees again. 
Here’s to the future where all of us can get together with friends and enjoy a cup of coffee and explore a new coffee venue.

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Preserving History While Making Great Coffee!

Better Buzz Coffee Roasters
801 University
San Diego, CA 92103
                                                   open daily 6:00am-9:00pm

It was a rainy Monday morning when we set out for our monthly coffee. Our first choice didn’t have indoor seating so we moved on to another option, but they too offered no indoor seating…not good on a rainy day. We wondered if this was a trend, but choice number 3 had plenty of indoor seating, plus great coffee & historic significance.

Better Buzz in Hillcrest is considered the Flagship coffee shop for Better Buzz Coffee, a local chain that started in 2002. They’ve now grown to 11 coffee shops throughout San Diego County, ranging from a coffee window at the Fashion Valley mall to their corporate headquarters in Hillcrest.
Their coffee choices are a traditional selection to quite creative, such as their Rose Water Latte or a Hazelnut Divinity and seasonal specialties. There are also tea options, smoothies, bakery goods, sandwiches, toast, and bowls. Go to their blog to check out the current specialty drinks or other Better Buzz news:

There is plenty of seating on the main floor, plus a small patio if you prefer outdoor seating. A conference room is available for rent with a lovely wooden table seating approximately 12. There is also a room on the 2nd floor offering a quieter space, but it is not available for private events.

Parking is a challenge in the Hillcrest area. There is no parking lot at this location so bring quarters in case you need to use a parking meter. While there is no drive thru at this location many of their coffee shops have one. Check their website ( for which locations have a drive thru.

I especially appreciate Better Buzz for what they did for this historic building that had been languishing for years. Built in 1919 across the street, the building originally was the surgical annex for St. Joseph’s Hospital. It was moved to this current location in 1924.  St. Joseph’s Hospital moved to 5th Ave. & Washington and was renamed Mercy Hospital. Today the hospital is known as Scripps Mercy Hospital.

Signed: A grateful customer at the only remaining building of the oldest hospital in San Diego!

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Coffee Roaster of 2019*

Mostra Coffee
12045 Carmel Mountain Road #302
San Diego, CA 92128
Monday – Saturday 6:00AM to 5:00PM
Sunday 7:00AM to 5:00PM
(Plenty of free parking)

This month’s coffee shop marks our 99th coffee outing since our “official” monthly coffee adventures began. And, what an adventure it was!

When we read Mostra Coffee was voted “Coffee Roasters of the Year 2020” by *Roast Magazine we knew we had to head to the Rancho Bernardo area for coffee.

Mostra is an Italian word meaning “show,” “exhibition,” or “performance.” Across their walls in large and bold lettering they announce, “We are addicted to giving the best performance,” and yes, they accomplish their goal.

Every drink on their menu sounds inviting. I settled for my favorite, a latte, and apologized I was getting my favorite coffee drink instead of being more adventurous. The barista was so kind and responded I should definitely try my favorite on my first visit, but come again and try a little something different on a future visit. Patty ordered Spicy Maya Mocha. Both of us had coffee envy when we saw the Bibingka Crème Brûlée. It’s inspired by a Filipino dessert made with coconut-infused whole milk and topped with coconut powder.

The owners grew up in the area and wanted to share their passion for coffee in the neighborhood they love. The micro-roasting company was founded in 2013 and on January 20th, 2018 they officially opened their first retail coffee chop in Carmel Mountain Ranch. On the day we were there they were doing a booming business.

They’ve had over 400 collaborations with over 60 craft breweries nationwide and some local breweries as well. Their shelves hold examples of many of their beer-brew combos. They aren’t for sale, but it’s a phenomenal display.

Their story is inspirational and you can learn more about them, view their menu, and check out their beer collaborations at their website:

FYI: Their next door retail neighbors are Grub Burger Bar and See’s Candies.

I hope they expand their locations to a place nearer my home!

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Go for the coffee, stay for the wood…

Claro Coffee
5334 Banks St. (off Sherman in the Morena District)
San Diego, CA  92110

Go for the coffee, but stay for the wood…the woodwork of Made Lumber Supply, that is. They are occupants of the same space & creators of the beautiful tables in the coffee shop. The coffee shop name, Claro, comes from wood, a type of California walnut known for it’s clarity & strength.
We were impressed with our drink choices of a cappuccino & a cortado. My cortado even included a small glass of sparkling water, as is often the custom in Europe or South America. Their posted menu choices are traditional, but ask about their unposted specialties.
Their beans are roasted by Zumbar Coffee of Sorrento Valley ( Their pastry comes from Bread & Cie ( But the woodwork is made by Made Lumber Supply  ( As they are perfectionists with their wood products so are they perfectionists with their coffee craft. We watched as individual coffee orders were garnished with an artistic touch in some way.
Read what the San Diego Eater says about them: Ask to visit their wood display space…you’ll be impressed.
There was no trouble finding free street parking the day we went. Banks St. is only one block long, though. It’s in an industrial area where signage doesn’t jump out at you so know that Claro will be on the left, next to Deft Brewing.

Check out this mural on the far side of the building.

Open from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed weekends.

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Go and Drink Up the Experience!

The Invigatorium
631 Ninth Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
7AM to 4:30PM Daily

I’ll start with “Wow!”

This is the first thing we saw when we walked in. See why we said “Wow”?

In October we start our ninth year investigating a different San Diego coffee shop each month so we’ve seen an abundance of amazing spaces (over 96!) and had mugs and mugs of memorable coffee, but this is a spot I loved and won’t forget in a long while.
Our coffee adventure took us to Invigatorium, an East Village coffee bar. Modern Times Beer and Consortium Holdings are responsible for this visual explosion which welcomes and astonishes customers before taking a single step inside.

This fire breathing dragon made of Post-its dominates one wall

Dragons, dinosaurs, a sticky note wall, a gold mirror ball, bar stools trimmed with fringe, and other intriguing decor grab your attention. I was so surprised (and a bit overwhelmed) at the visuals that I didn’t even take a glance at the brief menu before opting for a cappuccino, a personal favorite. It was delicious.

Patty carefully reviewed the options and opted for a cortado with oat milk. (You can select a different milk if you prefer.) It was delicious.

Modern Times, according to their website, is the second brewery to brew their own coffee. Invigatorium has a Modern Times beer bar area too, but opens later than when arrived.

Don’t miss the vintage-looking flooring (with its Consortium Holdings logo) and a visit to the bathroom. Honestly, if I listed all the interesting items to not miss, I’d take away the sheer pleasure of noticing them all on your own.

There’s a surprise at every turn…

Parking was plentiful the morning we visited, but there is a bit of a problem in this downtown area of San Diego as the city has recently reconfigured the parking. The faded curb colors, signage, and meters seem to be at odds with each other. There is 30-minute parking directly in front of the store if that works for you.
My words can’t do this spot justice. I’ll just say don’t miss this fascinating spot. Just zip on over to enjoy the perfect combo of fascinating ambience and a delicious cup of coffee.
Can you tell I love this place?!
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CBD Coffee

La Marque Cafe
3590 5th Ave. (near Brookes Ave.)
San Diego, CA 92103

La Marque is French for brand. Their mission is to offer multiple brands of coffee such as Intelligentsia, Bird Rock, Café Moto, Lavazza, and more. I had a robust Americano Lavazza while Helen enjoyed their drip coffee. They have a breakfast menu, including several muffins, but we didn’t come for food.

Trying coffee with CBD has been on our list of things to try, but finding a coffee shop that offered it was hard. Finally we found La Marque in Hillcrest selling a dropper of CBD that we could put in our coffee. These were 2 separate purchases: #1, buying a cup of coffee; #2, buying the dropper of CBD. We had to actually drop the CBD in our own coffee & they returned $1.00 to each of us when we returned the empty dropper. This must be part of their license to sell.  We didn’t count the actual number of drops but it’s a very small vial.
The product they use is PlusCBD Oil from a local company (  CBD stands for cannabidiol, a non-hallucinogenic derivative of agricultural hemp. CBD is meant as a relaxant, but there are other medical claims. It’s best each person do their own research, though, to see if it might work for them.
Is CBD legal? “CBD products derived from hemp are legal to possess under a new federal law, as long as they contain 0.3 percent THC or less” (according to this UT article: However, laws vary from state to state, so research laws by state before crossing borders or flying to another state. It is not THC…see for the difference between the two.

About visiting La Marque:  They are open Mon.-Thurs. from 7:00am to 5:00pm, Fri. & Sat. from 7:00am-6:00pm, and Sun. 8:00am-5:00pm. Metered parking is available on 5th Ave. ($1.25 per hour up to 2 hours, no fee on Sundays). Snacks, wine, and beer are also available with seating inside and out.


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Soft Serve Coffee: Lick Like No One’s Watching

Better Buzz Coffee
822 Grand Ave.
San Diego, 92109
Open Daily 5AM to 9PM

We’ve been to several Better Buzz coffee shops and have enjoyed watching this local business grow, but when we learned another Better Buzz opened in Pacific Beach and they had coffee-flavored soft serve, we knew we had to give it a try.
We each had a soft serve Best Drink Ever in a cup (rather than a cone). Yes. It was delicious. They also have a vegan matcha.
The space is delightful and they have Bread & Cie bakery items. I got a raspberry scone for Bob and Patty got a mint infused ice coffee to go which was an espresso, muddled mint, raw natural cane sugar, heavy cream, and ice. It looked and, I hear, it tasted delicious.
Their menu has many interesting food and drink options. We saw a server deliver a gorgeous avocado toast to a lucky dude.

There is an outside loft area with a peek view of the ocean. There’s one swing, indoor seating, and outside seating that works well for handicapped visitors. They are a drive-thru location as well.

We happened to visit on a Thursday and every Thursday there is no parking on Grand (on the Better Buzz side of the street) between 8AM and 10AM for street cleaning. We saw one guy get a ticket delivered to him personally as he arrived back to his car after a brief stop. (Bummer.) So, be warned.

There is 30-minute and one-hour parking while you are at Better Buzz, but there was a person monitoring the parking. After one hour, the parking is $5 an hour. I’m not sure what the parking security guy would have done had we stayed longer than one hour, but we each opted for two-hour parking on the street so we didn’t have to monitor our time.

Their website says they’ll have a new location opening in La Jolla on Prospect this summer, so it might land on our upcoming outings list.

Definitely worth a little coffee outing if you are in the area and enjoy a little walk on the beach before or after, but remember to mind the parking signs.


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Coffee Good Enough for a Smuggler

Baba Coffee
2727 State Street, #100
Carlsbad, CA 92009
Open 6 to 6, 7 days a week

This month’s adventure took us north to Carlsbad where we visited Baba, a coffee shop we’ve heard lots of buzz about. It opened in January and has already captured the attention of many who suggested we give it a try.

Baba is named after a 16th century coffee smuggler. Popular Indian lore states Baba Budan discovered the wonders of coffee and was eager to grow his own. He smuggled seven coffee beans hidden in his beard from the port of Mocha, Yemen to plant when he returned home.

Today, you don’t have to be a smuggler to enjoy a delicious cup of coffee. I had a delicious, pretty-as-a-picture, latte and Patty enjoyed a made-to-order dark roast drip. It, of course, took a few minutes, but was definitely worth the wait.

Latte art

We just missed meeting the owner, but he definitely has his finger on the pulse of what people want in their neighborhood coffee shop. The store is modern, welcoming, and a hubbub of activity. They offer an extensive menu (we heard avocado toast is a favorite), lots of bakery items, and, a plethora of coffee options.

They buy their beans and Pannikin roasts them. Parking is easy and there is inside and patio seating.

Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area or you’re in the mood for a coffee adventure.



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A Place to Chill

Cool Down Coffee,
750 E. St. (at I-5 exit E St.)
Chula Vista, CA 91910

Need a place to cool down after a run or just chill after a stressful day at work? This is the place for you! The atmosphere is comfortable & relaxing, encouraging conversation instead of computers. Not that computers aren’t welcome, but in our 2 hour visit no one was on their cell phone or laptop. They also encourage exercise…see the last paragraph here for a direct quote from them on this subject.

Comfortable seating

It’s the coffee we were after and we weren’t disappointed. My cold brew with a splash of cream was excellent! It was bold, not watered down as sometimes happens with iced beverages. Helen’s cappuccino was exceptional. Their beans are roasted in Mexico. If you’re here for food there are the usual breakfast choices, including a bagel with cream cheese & coffee for $4.00 (ask for their “grab n’ go” special).

Friendly staff & delicious choices greeted us

The parking lot is for the trolley blue line, but there are about 8 green spots reserved for Cool Down customers. Cool Down is open Mon.-Fri. 6:30am to 3:00pm and Sat. 7:30am to 3:00pm, closed Sundays.

Inspiring messages in English & Spanish

A direct quote from their website:  At Cool Down Coffee, we would like to serve our community by giving ideas as far as workout routines, different exercises, programs to meet various goals–whether they are to lose weight, gain muscle, move faster, or simply just exercise for stress relief.  Begin with going out for a walk!

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Blue Bottle Has Arrived in San Diego

One Paseo Place
3725 Paseo Place, Unit 1060
San Diego, CA 92130
open 7AM to 7PM
Blue Bottle Coffee was started in early 2000s, but they have grown to a network of cafes across the United States and Japan. One week ago, San Diego got their first Blue Bottle. So, of course, off we went to investigate.

Look for this blue bottle on the building.

The store is sleek, modern, and prides itself in the presentation of its coffee with a Japanese sensibility.

The coffee is made in full view and I watched every step of my Bella Donovan au lait being made. The presentation made my heart soar with coffee delight. I loved the beauty of the glass mug and the art heart and leaf. It is said that we eat with our eyes first, and similarly, we drink with our eyes first in a beautifully presented cup of coffee.

Watch as your pour over is created.

The ambience may not be your typical coffee shop look, but we found a cozy corner to enjoy our coffees and chat and catch upon on our recent adventures. Patty had the Myanmar coffee which had a subtler, less bitter taste than mine. Both of us enjoyed our coffees, the kind and informative employees, and the ambience. 
The shopping area is still being completed and few stores are currently open for business so parking was easy when we arrived at 8:30. 
Be sure to take your credit card as the shop is a cashless one. They don’t have WIFI (also no plugs for electronic devices) as they want to encourage guests to talk with each other, but the mall does have WIFI. 
They host special events to help you learn more about coffee and they’ll be posting them on their website. You can sign up to receive notifications for the events.
They will be opening a downtown location in the near future. 
You can read their whole story and other locations at their website:
Definitely worth checking out!

Their graceful glass mugs are available for purchase.



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