Our 5 Favorite Third Wave Coffee Houses in OC

You may have heard of the term third wave a thousand times by now. We can’t hide our excitement every time we discover a new coffee house in Orange County that shares the values of this movement, which continues to grow in the LA-OC coffee scene. But in case you still don’t know what the third wave represents, we’re going to explain it by featuring some of our favorite third wave coffee houses in Orange County.

The third wave of coffee is a movement that involves high-quality coffee production. It’s all about considering coffee as an artisan beverage, like wine or beer, rather than a commodity. This involves improvements at all stages of production, from coffee plant growing, harvesting, and processing, to establishing stronger relationships between coffee growers, traders, and roasters, and producing higher quality and fresh roasting.

Third wave means appreciating coffee and its flavor, the region where the beans come from and its characteristics. Direct trade, high-quality beans, single-origin coffee as opposed to blends, lighter roasts or latte art are some of its well-known characteristics.

In the US, the “Big Three of Third Wave Coffee” are Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea of Chicago, Illinois, Stumptown Coffee Roasters of Portland, Oregon (both acquired by Peet’s Coffee & Tea); and Counter Culture Coffee of Durham, North Carolina. In addition, you may also have heard of other third wave coffee houses such as Philz Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee; all of them with locations in the Los Angeles and its surroundings.

Our favorite third wave coffee houses in Orange County aren’t part of big conglomerates. They are small, unique and share the love for coffee. That’s the reason why we love them. Here’s our favorite 5, but we will continue to grow this list as we discover new ones in the area. If you have any favorites, share them with us and we’ll include them too!

Neat Coffee
Neat Coffee is located at The Wayfare building in Costa Mesa. Even though I can’t visit them often because of my working schedule, it’s one of the coffee houses in OC that I admire the most. Try their Golden latte, one of the most special lattes I’ve ever had. It’s made with Rawmond milk (almond milk made locally in Costa Mesa with filtered water, organic raw unpasteurized almonds and Himalayan sea salt), turmeric and cinnamon. Neat Coffee also makes delicious house made syrups such as their blueberry basil mint or toasted coconut.

Hidden House Coffee Roasters 
Located in the historic Los Rios District of San Juan Capistrano, the Hidden House Coffee is a really special coffee shop that serves quality espresso inside an old beautiful yellow house across from the San Juan Train Station. We love their pour over, their mochas and of course their famous bagel bombs! They recently acquired the two existing coffee shops from the bean-to-bar chocolate company ChocXO located in Lake Forest and Costa Mesa.

The Common Room
The Common Room is a very hipster coffee shop in Newport Beach that soon will open its own roastery. They use organic beans from the best farms and their mission is to create the perfect blend of craftsmanship and community. Their creations are absolutely amazing.

Cafecito Organico
Cafecito Organico is a hidden gem located in one of our favorite alterna-malls, The Lab, in Costa Mesa. Working with small sustainable coffee producers from Central America, the founders of Cafecito Organico began roasting in a garage in LA. Today they have five cafeterias between Los Angeles and Orange County where they serve their independent artisan coffee as well as delicious fresh pastries.

Portola Coffee Lab
Portola Coffee Lab is a laboratory of coffee where the baristas experiment with coffee in their white lab coats. Their flagship coffeehouse and roastery is located in the heart of The OC Mix at SoCo. You can enjoy your cup of specialty coffee at their beautiful and modern shop, or in the common area surrounded by a bunch of artisan retail shops and restaurants worth visiting after enjoying your coffee fix.

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