There are a lot of things to love about the third-wave coffee movement. For one, it upended the way many people thought about their favorite morning ritual, from considering where those magic beans come from to how best to give them a hot bath. After my own third-wave inspired coffee epiphany, I packed up my Mr. Coffee in favor of methods like pour-over and french press, which offered not just a more flavorful brew, but a chance to slow down and enjoy the process each morning. This eventually led to brazen experimentation, mixing and matching brewing equipment in attempts to overcome the little issues I was facing. I wondered, can I brew two cups at once? If so, how do I keep the second cup warm? And is there a surefire way to keep coffee grounds out of my cup? My Bill Nye-worthy exploration was exciting, but at the same time panic-inducing - what would those third-wave coffee pioneers think if they saw all this brewing blasphemy? It was my own private shame - I was silently breaking all the rules, brazenly ignoring their advice, and brewing my coffee how I wanted to. I kept it to myself, worried that I'd be found out, like a thirteen-year-old desperate to keep her love of Star Trek a secret from her cool friends (oh, is that not everyone's experience?). Then one day, I stumbled upon the liberating Rose Park Roasters manifesto:
"We believe that the ideal cup of coffee is brewed at home- inexact science, improvised brewing equipment, lack of formal barista training, and less than ideal water composition can not diminish the quintessential coffee experience of daily ritual."
So you're saying... I'm not doing it wrong? I can do whatever I want in my own kitchen, and it's nobody's damn business? All right. I liked the way these Rose Park people think. So naturally, a trip to their Long Beach café was soon in order.
Interestingly, a café was not originally in the plan for Rose Park Roasters founders Andrew Phillips and Nathan Tourtellotte. Instead, they'd envisioned their business as a coffee roasting operation that would supply expertly roasted, ethically sourced coffee beans to coffee shops and consumers throughout Long Beach, delivered via bicycle. But while the free local bicycle delivery option still exists, the scope of the project changed over time - and when the opportunity to open a coffee bar came about in 2014, Phillips and Tourtellotte seized it.
The concept of a specialty coffee shop is rather new for Long Beach, a city that despite its rich background in coffee (it was once the home to the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the US Coffee Championships), lagged behind in adopting the trend. It wasn't until very recently that shops like Rose Park started to appear, but a culture has already grown around them and it's already spreading quickly.
The shop itself is open and airy, with a beautifully designed minimalist aesthetic. On a grey wall on one side of the shop, huge letters pronounce, "welcome to the process," while original hand-painted Spanish tiles offer a sense of time and place (this is Southern California, after all) and some mid-century furniture adds modern detail. It all combines into an elegant balance of old-meets-new that feels like a breath of fresh air in a town like Long Beach. When we visited on a Saturday afternoon, the shop was filled with customers quietly working, some on laptops, others on paper, all contributing to a calm, tranquil vibe.
We sampled a cappuccino, an iced herbal tea, and a blueberry cake donut (because sometimes, we really can't resist a sweet treat). The tea was light and refreshing, perfect for a sunny summer afternoon, and the donut was light and flavorful, delightfully sweet with bright fruit flavor.
As far as cappuccinos go (I mean, I'm fairly sure I can be considered an expert now), this one held its own. The latte art was delicate, and the layer of foam on top was thin and velvety. Upon first sip, the espresso's bitterness was robust and prominent, reminiscent of toasted walnuts. As the flavor settled a bit, the subtleties shone through - bright hits of lemon, sweet toasted meringue, a bit of warm hazelnut. It was a delicious, well-made cup of coffee with really good milk, served at the perfect temperature. All in all, a winner.
For a company that believes that the best cups of coffee are brewed at home, the gang at Rose Park Roasters sure know how to provide a wonderful coffee bar experience, and a cappuccino that is leagues better than what I could make myself. But perhaps the lesson is that there should be room in life for both - some days require a beautiful, expertly-crafted cup of coffee, while others call for a make-a-mess-in-the-kitchen, experimental brew. Coffee is a ritual that can be both personal and communal, and that's a wonderful thing.
Rose Park Roasters Coffee Bar
3044 E 4th Street
Long Beach, CA 90814