As I pointed out in my Caffe Calabria review, San Diego doesn’t seem to have a whole lot to offer in terms of world class cafes. Caffe Calabria is a good start but falls short of destination coffee in my book, and the other cafes I’ve reported on since fell short of Calabria. While I believe you can still find coffee roasted by Barefoot at Perks on the UC San Diego campus, Barefoot is a Bay Area roaster and La Jolla isn’t exactly in San Diego. Since then, I discovered you can find Intelligentsia coffee at The Linkery. While well worth a visit, this restaurant, not cafe, uses coffee from Intelligentsia in LA. Which brings me back to La Jolla, where I found Bird Rock Coffee Roasters.
Bird Rock is a local roaster, which has all the trappings of a top notch cafe. They own a La Marzocco GB/5, offer multiple coffees with brew to order options on a V60 pour over bar, serve only freshly roasted coffee, have several high marks from Coffee Review, and appear to be sourcing some pretty good green coffee.
When I visited over the summer (yes, I’m playing catch up here), Bird Rock’s filter coffee options consisted of a Fetco-brewed, rotating single origin coffee and a decaf as well four coffees via a V60 pourover. I opted for their naturally processed Yemen Haraz coffee on the V60, which was one of their more expensive coffees, but I wasn’t disappointed. The coffee was a fruit bomb – intense strawberry up front with a full spectrum behind it – with a red-wine acidity and super syrupy mouthfeel. My coffee grew less smooth as it cooled but was otherwise quite good, if a little overwhelming, as a naturally process coffee can be (4-). It was good enough though to inspire me to purchase a bag of this reasonably pricey coffee (which served me quite well on the road in the days immediately following).
The espresso was a little less impressive with a thinnish crema (my photo, taken several minutes after getting this espresso, is not a good portrayal of the initial crema) and slightly tart moving into sour acidity. Otherwise, though, it was a nice shot with lots of dark chocolate notes and deeper profile which nicely contrasted this shot’s brighter notes (3+). It was served it with a little cookie. A nice, but unnecessary touch since it was at least comparable if not better than any other shot I had while in the area.
Bird Rock has all the makings for an excellent cafe and seems to mostly live up to the potential. While my espresso wasn’t quite as good as I would have liked it to be, it was still good and I think my barista my have even still been training. Besides, the filter coffee was by far the best I had in the area. The worst news was simply that Bird Rock had yet to land a local wholesale account so, at least at the time, couldn’t find it closer to San Diego. Unless things have changed since last summer – which they very well may have – you may need to work in a detour to La Jolla during your next San Diego trip if you want to satisfy your jonesing for good coffee.