Category Archives: California


What is it about California? Is it the beachy, laid-back vibes of the people? Or the fact that the local Whole Foods has juice bars?  Or maybe there’s something to be said about waking up to the sound of Pacific waves crashing on the beach?  Venturing out to California is something I now do 1-3 times per year since my brother, Joshua, moved out west (whatareyouuuudoingherrre?). On a recent trip to CA for Joshua’s graduation, we got to try a mocha at Zinc Cafe and Market in Laguna Beach, CA.  Joining us for a mocha and breakfast were some other CT to CA transplants, Nicole and Alex! We arrived at Zinc pretty early, and while it was already busy with breakfast-goers, we scored a beautiful table outside on the patio.


Taste: 5

I ordered a small cafe mocha and I couldn’t finish this; my cup is to the left, Joshua’s is on the right. These are large portions. I had to stir the mocha in order to actually taste the cocoa flavor.  I could not even finish half of this mocha, in part because it was so large but also because it gave me a little stomach ache.  Maybe the coffee was too strong.

Appearance: 4

Obviously no latte art here, so minus a few points for not even trying. But this just looks simply enjoyable, no? The warm, dark color of the mocha latte looks great in contrast to the sleek, white lines of this cup. I would have preferred to see a cup and saucer combination; mochas just taste better in a cup and saucer.


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Ambiance: 6

Zinc is a small chain, and while I have never been to their alternate locations, I can’t imagine any can compare to the beauty of the Laguna Beach location. There is ample outdoor seating, but if you cannot find a seat you can easily stroll down to the beach and relax there with you coffee. There are two entry ways into Zinc, so it was a bit confusing to figure out which door leads to the the cafe and which leads to the market. Luckily, Joshua had been there before so he led the way.

When I walked into the market I was impressed by their large menu. For the both cafe and the market, the menu features breakfast, lunch, and snack choices. I was surprised to see that there are no carnivorous options to be found. Is this place technically a vegetarian restaurant? The market has a small retail section where you can purchase home necessities like candles and cups/saucers. Zinc was smart to place some delicious looking pastries right where you place your coffee order. I had to grab some pastries to go — they looked too good to pass up! This is a great place to meet friends, study by yourself, or listen to live performances by local musicians. Give it a try next time you’re in Laguna.

On a related note, I’ve been getting into Jerry Seinfield’s short series called Comedians in cars Getting Coffee. Jerry basically picks up his comedian friends in cool cars, they drive around, and they grab coffee. It’s pretty funny. The 15-20 minute episodes give me great ideas for places I can try a mocha, plus it’s also fun to see how some great comedians take their coffee! Check it out here and let me know what you think.






Posted by on June 27, 2013 in California


Latte Da

Hello from snowy CT. I thought I’d take this time to reflect and write about a little mocha I tried in a not-so-snowy part of the country – California! Earlier this year I was visiting family in California and we stopped by a sleepy little place called Latte Da in Laguna Hills, CA.  While I would not go back there for a mocha, I would go back for a different type of drink – their freshly squeezed OJ. Mmmm. 🙂

Taste: 3

This mocha tasted more like a latte. There was barely any cocoa flavor, so minus a few points for this one. I wish the steamed milk would have been foam-ier. Major bonus points for the waiter who asked if I wanted my mocha with whip cream, to which I obviously replied no thanks.

Appearance: 2

This is a tiny little breakfast stop so I was not expecting any mocha masterpiece. As you can see, there’s nothing super special about this mocha. It does look delicious though, no? I wish it had been served in a for here cup, though I didn’t think I needed to specify that because we ate breakfast here. Hmm, perhaps I’ll have to specify my mug preferences from now on.



Ambiance: 2

This is a sleepy little coffee shop chain. They serve breakfast all day long, and if you go, I highly recommend grabbing a glass of their freshly squeezed OJ and a whole wheat everything bagel breakfast sandwich.

As my former study abroad professor used to say – ‘I open a parenthesis’ here: It is nearly impossible to find a whole wheat everything bagel in CT, so when I find one while traveling, I make sure to grab one! If you haven’t tried this kind of bagel I highly recommend picking on up.*Close parenthesis.

Back to the ambiance… basically, there was none. The View was on TV in the background, and that was pretty much the only noise at Latte Da – we were the only ones there. I did enjoy the variety of seating options – indoor couches and tables, as well as outdoor dining (which I opt for as often as possible). In essence, if you are looking for an average place to grab an average cup of coffee, head here.

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in California


Portola Coffee Lab

If only high school chemistry included labs like brewing coffee, who knows how many more students might major in Chemistry? Me, perhaps! At places like Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa, CA, it could transform any lay latte drinker into an inquisitive coffee consumer. This place is fun, vivacious, and delicious!



Taste: 8

This mocha was, as my brother proclaimed, ‘bitter but not devoid of sweetness’. I love tasting equal parts dark cocoa, strong espresso, and steamed milk – Portola does just this! It was smooth and just delicious. The only thing is that I would have liked this mocha to be hotter in temperature. Maybe next time I need to ask for it extra hot.

Appearance: 7

How pretty is this? I like the abstract heart design in the steamed milk. I also LOVE the cup and saucer – they are designed by Offero ( I want some of these cups and saucers and glasses for myself!It all just looks delicious and contemporary, just my style!



Ambiance: 9

GOOD MORNING! Holy cow this place is bright. Lime green tiles, mustached baristas, and a halogen heated siphon bar; this place is truly like no other. This is the one and only store, it’s not a chain, and you can tell how good this place is by the consistently steady flow of customers. It’s just so cool here, I would love to come here and study if I lived in California. Between the Michael Jackson music playing in the background, watching the employees roast coffee beans on the premises, and the variety of seating options, Portola will be the mocha place to beat in 2013! When in Orange County, you have to try this place.






Posted by on January 27, 2013 in California


GUEST POST: Joshua Rosenblatt

HURRAY!  The first installment of my monthly Guest Post is here!  My brother, Joshua, has so graciously sampled and reviewed a fabulous looking mocha latte from Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa, CA.  As an English major turned lawyer, Joshua writes with vivid descriptions, perfect grammar, and a factual representation of his client (Ms. Mocha).  And now, ladies and gents, I present to you: Joshua Giraffe.


Hello from Rainy Southern California!   A guest post for my sister has been a long time coming, because a) Orange County has a number of terrific coffee spots, and b) there are more organic grocery and coffee shops than Dunkin’ Donuts.  If there were a third answer, I suppose it might stem from the blessed spring break I now have from law school, so putting together an entry seemed doable…around catching up with Justified and Walking Dead.   Anywho, I resisted the (admittedly easy) urge to start my California guest post with a “Greetings, Loved Ones,” and in that regard, I will jump right in to one of the most well-known stops in South County.

Portola Coffee Lab

I was not familiar with how the Portola story had developed over the years, but if one thing was clear from the six-dollar mocha I had, this shop stands up and matches the bold claim listed on its website…”In every way coffeehouses around the world try to be truly excellent, Portola Coffee succeeds.”  I encourage everyone to defer your judgments until after you smell the coffee beans here.  I don’t quite know how to describe this – imagine the most fragrant coffee beans you have smelled in your travels (or, failing that, what you’ve smelled grinding coffee at the store or at home), and multiply it by an incomprehensible number.

Perhaps a better way to describe the smell is to consider how wine connoisseurs insist they smell hints of aged oak or mountain-top elderberries, or something infinitely more presumptuous.  In that regard, it was as if Portola’s methods for preparing their coffee beans acted as a magnifying glass for my nose, allowing me to smell exactly what a coffee expert might discover, or what that wine connoisseur might taste in that red.

I will say this.  Their methods of preparation, from the siphon bar to the “slayer” espresso machine, are worth simply observing, let alone enjoying.  If I hadn’t come there with the singular purpose of documenting the experience of a mocha, I may have easily forgotten my order at the front of the line.  Onward.

taste: 9.5

I was not sure how to give out grades here for this.  I relied a bit on how Kate has graded other mochae of the past (get some, Latin scholars), and by simply gauging a number that felt right in my mind.  In that regard, I felt this one blew some other high-scorers away, and has set a standard that Kate herself will have to try when visiting.  However, I cannot be so conceited as to announce my only post as the best possible mocha in the world, nor can I take away from the very premise of a mocha quest by announcing a ten-point mocha as yet.

Anyway, the mocha took nearly ten minutes to make.  I enjoyed that time to watch a baristientist take five, timed minutes to brew a single cup of coffee.  He explained that the mocha would have Strauss pasture-fed, nearly-raw milk, specially used by baristas and set at the lowest legal limit for public consumption.  This particular individual seemed genuinely upset that the FDA would not allow Portola to use raw milk, but I honestly have no cause to complain…whatever was in that mocha was incredible.  The substance of the chocolate, in combination with the milk and espresso, created an extremely thick drink that just breathed dark, dense chocolate into every sip.  I am not one of those types who discovers something delicious and wants to savor it so much that he or she is barely eating or drinking it, but I was compelled to do so for this drink.  Incredible.

appearance: 7

Akin to my first point, I relied a bit on how Kate has graded other drinks.  In that sense, I could not grade the appearance of the mocha significantly higher than a number of other previous posts, but the whipped-milk hearts design was a nice touch.  I understand that the white mugs have tradition and elegance, but I felt this was the kind of place that could actually reinvent the wheel in a positive way.


store ambiance: 8  /  closing: 8.167

Next to where you pick up your drinks, there are is a simple motto in white letters printed on to the light lime wall – geek out, sip, savor.  Portola is a highly-recommended experience in a large but quiet outdoor shopping complex (these actually make sense in Orange County, where you can shop outside a solid twelve months out of the year); it provides excellent lighting and outdoor seating, so you can enjoy your drinks in whatever context – reading, conversing, enjoying the air.  There is an IKEA very close by, so if you have the opportunity to come to Portola with your spouse or significant other, be sure to take two cars and split up after your drinks.  Tina Fey knows her stuff.



Posted by on February 28, 2012 in California