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Walnut Creek Magazine

Walnut Creek’s Coffee Culture

Mar 25, 2021 12:01PM ● By Harper Klein

For many locals, coffee shops are more than places to get a caffeine fix—they’re meeting spaces, offices, and casual date destinations. But for months now, the COVID-19 pandemic has limited coffeehouses to outdoor seating or grab-and-go service. Will the city’s laptop warriors, first-daters, friends, and business associates feel comfortable enough congregating for these businesses to again become destinations?

Caffe La Scala

It’s the creator of local coffee culture—serving students, professionals, civic leaders, and seniors cappuccinos, pastries, teas, and light meals since 1994. With its distinctly European vibe and plenty of space to plug in while sipping a chai latte before your next deadline, this downtown destination was packed pre-pandemic from morning until night. “We miss seeing the people we serve creating in our space and enjoying the environment we’re known for,” shares one La Scala barista. “Our walls are meant to be filled with our neighbors and we cannot wait to be back again with all that energy.” In the meantime, the café is open for business and ready to serve customers on its spacious terrace.

 Pacific Bay

When Chris Fong purchased Pacific Bay Coffee Co. in 2010, his goal was to make Walnut Creek notorious for top-shelf blends. From his lap-top friendly café on Newell Avenue, Fong meticulously roasts his own beans into medium blends, then turns them into foaming works of art. “Coffee is my passion and I’m in a happy place when I roast it,” says Fong, a former barista at Pete’s Coffee. “This city is valued for so many great restaurants, I want to see our robust coffee scene recognized too.” As pandemic conditions improve, independent roasters like Fong, expect business to improve. Until then, this multi-medal winner is keeping the teachers at Las Lomas and doctors at Kaiser caffeinated with his legendary cappuccinos and lattes.

Bondadoso Coffee & Tea Collective

Inspirational quotes cover the “social wall” at this N. Broadway coffee shop, where loyal locals patiently wait in line for mochi donuts, cold brews, and oat milk lattes. The staff is cautiously optimistic about a bounce back, while relying on their outdoor seating area and adjustments they’ve made during the pandemic a little while longer. Ron, the owner, worked in the coffee industry for over 20 years before opening Bondadosa in 2017, naming it after the Spanish word for kind. His welcoming café has become a popular community space for people to gather and share great coffee and tea in an environment that is uplifting and welcoming.

 Tellus Coffee

As the wave of small-batch roasters continues to grow, Tellus tapped into the trend, recently opening on Main Street. Originally a post office, then Schroeder’s Insurance, Janay McCullough and her partner kept the building’s historic brick walls intact giving it a cool contemporary update. “We offer a little something for everyone,” says McCullough, a professional chef who lines the glass case each morning with her delicious baked goods. “We roast all our own coffee and bake our own croissants. We named our business after the Roman goddess of the Earth, Tellus, we’re an earth focused, zero-emissions roaster.” In addition to the usual lineup of espresso drinks, Tellus has plenty of space to work or relax surrounded by natural light and beautiful plants.

 Brioche de Paris 

This Locust Street bistro began dishing up delicate French pastries and artisan coffee blends in 2019, fortunately building a loyal clientele before the pandemic hit. Pivoting into city streets for outdoor service was a natural fit for this high-speed wi-fi business-friendly cafe and its customers who relish their almond croissants, cappuccinos, and fresh-baked baguettes.

Opening this summer: Rooted Coffee Company

Leasing the former home of Locust Street hot spot Coffee Shop, Rooted is bringing its organic coffee and avocado toast downtown. A mission-focused company, Walnut Creek is the second outpost for this family-owned brand (the first is in Pleasant Hill) known for its delicious brews calibrated to the Contra Costa palate. Las Lomas grad Jon Gilmore, and his wife Jenny, first launched their coffee business in 2013 serving caffeinated cups at local farmers' markets. Since then, community support has been key to their success along with a plant-based menu that boasts everything from gluten-free banana chocolate waffles to strawberry yogurt parfaits. Look for them in July 2021.

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