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COffee in the OC: Part 1

Kean1

Name: Newport Beach Coffee House
Location: 2043 Westcliff Drive, Newport Beach, CA

Roaster: Kéan Coffee
Rating: 4

I keep forgetting that Orange County – my destination over the holidays – isn’t really a part of the greater LA Metropolitan area. I also keep forgetting that even within LA, distances between “neighborhoods” constitute what most people might describe as interstate travel. Needless to say, my coffee seeking plans (see all the stops in LA on the espresso map) were a bit overly ambitious, especially factoring the family/holiday variable.

Fate intervened, however, when my mother suggested that she show us her church in Newport Beach. It just so happened that I had filed away a destination for just such an occasion. Although I never made it to any of the other spots on my list, convincing my entire family to stop for coffee at Kéan made up for it, mostly.

We found Kéan Coffee easy enough. It’s in a kind of business complex, not quite a strip mall. They’ve got an almost separate building with lots of windows and some palm trees and tables out front and are surrounded by an intriguing market and some other worthwhile stores. The inside is spacious with a kind of tropical/tribal sort of theme that’s well thought through, even if it’s not quite my cup of tea. They also have a small table set up near the roaster (the machine) where you can grab bags of beans and/or talk to the roaster (the person). That day it was Ted, who guided me through a couple of their coffees. He also was ready and willing to talk coffee with several other folks while keeping an eye on the roaster (the machine).

Kéan Coffee, in case you don’t know, is owned and operated by Martin Diedrich, not to be confused with Diedrich Roasters (the roasting machine company). That company is run by his brother, Stephan. Martin took over the roasting (not roaster) business from his father, Carl. He started and built up the Diedrich Coffee chain, which sadly sold off most of its lot (including The Coffee People) to Starbucks in 2006. By that point though, Martin was only marginally involved and had turned his attention towards Kéan Coffee, named after his son. It’s his venture into to the whole third wave/artisan/micro-roaster thing, but given his coffee lineage, it seems more like a chance for him to get back to his roots.

Between the lot of us, we ordered a latte, a macchiato, and the two current house coffees, the decaf Peru and the Costa Rican. I’ll leave the latte out since I’m not too partial to them myself – too much milk, but not enough chocolate – but I will report that my mother enjoyed it.

I found the macchiato disappointing. I wondered if there might have been too much milk or that it wasn’t well-pulled; it couldn’t have been that sweet and light on its own. I’ve checked Kéan’s tasting notes since, however, and the best I can figure is that this what they want in their espresso. Intriguing choice. Even Ritual Roaster’s espresso which I consider light is super dark compared to this roast. I’d be interested to try this again with the proper intention in mind.

The good news is that the two drip coffees were outstanding. I’ll save the decaf details for later since I bought some to take home, but I will say it was very good. The Costa Rica was even better. It could have been Christmas in the air, but the first taste that came to mind for me was clove and orange, like wassail. It had bright citrus notes and a clean, lightly roasted quality with just enough of that full coffee flavor to keep it anchored. I found out only later that it is actually Costa Rica Helsar De Zarcero, a 3rd place Cup of Excellence coffee. Score one for my palate!

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