My mother had been raving for months about this cafe she accidentally discovered on the way to the drug store, but while I love her dearly and respect her opinion on many things, she’s not on the top of my list of credible coffee sources. She only began drinking coffee a few years back, orders mostly lattes and frozen coffee drinks, and certainly doesn’t hesitate to pick up her “coffee” at Starbucks. While I believed that this café had a pleasant atmosphere, friendly staff and even decent food, I wasn’t ready to accept that it served quality coffee, at least not without trying it for myself.
Kaffa! (yes, the name really does have that exclamation mark in the title), is located in a fairly non-descript strip mall in the city of Orange. It’s nowhere you would necessarily find yourself if you didn’t live in the area, unless, you were willing to make a slight detour while visiting Disneyland. They have a few tables out front, several more right inside, a long bar lined with benches and some leather chairs and a couch towards the back. The place is tastefully decorated and is a pleasant place to sit.
Kaffa! clearly strives for more meeting place/restaurant vibe than it does coffee joint. They serve a variety of coffee drinks but the menu emphasizes their breakfast and lunch items, both of which I hear are quite good. This decision is probably wise since last time I checked, the area wasn’t brimming over with uber-hip, coffee geeks with black-framed glasses. Kaffa! doesn’t hesitate to sneak in the good stuff, however. They get their beans from City Bean, a local micro-roaster I hadn’t heard of previously, but which looks to be a reliable source of quality coffee from my web research and from my limited tasting.
I ordered a press pot of their Sulawesi Toraja, a slightly lighter roast than the barista recommended for a press pot, but I’m often wary of unknown dark roasts. After waiting the requisite 4 minutes, I plunged, poured and sipped what turned out to be quite a good cup of coffee. It was simple, slightly sweet, had low acidity and a pleasant single, earthy note. The bonus was that it was served in a Frieling press pot; I’ve been eyeing them for a while an eager to try one out. Not only is the Frieling more attractive than your typical Bodum, they are heavily insulated. At the end of those 4 minutes, my coffee was still piping hot.
I also ordered a macchiato which did take some time to arrive, but was nevertheless quite good. It was deep, rich and slightly bitter in a good way. It reminded me of a slightly lesser version of Blue Bottle’s, an espresso that for me really captures that true essence of coffee.
Of course the benefit of going to Kaffa! with my mother was getting to meet the owners, who were, as I suspected, extremely nice people. We talked coffee for a bit. It turns out, they recently took over the business from the previous owner, Justin Wong, who reportedly has ties to Ritual coffee. I’m not quite clear on the connection, but it was a fun small-world story nonetheless and says something about the quality of Kaffa!’s influences and origins. Score one for my mother’s palate!