American writer Gertrude Stein once remarked,
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening...”
Whether preferring your wake up beverage, hot, iced, black, or blended; coffee is definitely happening in Ole’s Spanish Village by the Sea. And it is a little known fact that each time one stops for a latte, they’re also stepping into a little bit of history.
The first recorded coffeehouse dates back to 1475 in the Turkish city of Constantinople (now Istanbul), and the first such places in America - modeled after those in England - made their appearance in Virginia in 1607 when it was first colonized.
Since those beginnings coffeehouses have come a long way. Evolving into places not only to drink great coffee, but becoming establishments where one can, read, work, relax, meet friends, and enjoy artistic venues (music, poetry readings, art exhibits, films …). And for those looking for “one for the road” some are even serving-it-up in drive-thrus.
Three of these unique businesses have chosen San Clemente as their home. Covering north, central and south town, each is conveniently located to serve those who might be strolling by, stopping in, or maybe just driving by for a quick one.
ambsn Beach Club’s Wake Up Coffee
Simply equipped with a canvas covered, wood-planked side patio, colorful seating and drought-friendly planters, ambsn Beach Club’s Wake-up Coffee is not your usual coffeehouse.
After searching for an ideal location, this establishment – a California inspired menswear company – has uniquely blended a retail showroom with a coffeehouse to create their headquarters and flagship store on El Camino Real. And … there’s lots more going on there than just retail sales and coffee service.
Store designer Kathleen Bernall said, “In bringing this concept from LA, ambsn wants this to be a place where people come, not only to shop and drink coffee, but to hang-out and enjoy all the things the business has to offer.”
Additionally endowed with a well-appointed back patio this company is not only serving patrons Stumptown coffee from Portland, OR, it is providing an entertainment venue of video presentations, film photo shows, great music and much more.
This year ambsn hosted a showing of FAROES Outpost Vol.02 by film maker Ben Weiland and photographer Chris Burkard, accompanied by a narration of a behind the scenes slideshow from this trip by surfers Dane Gudaskas and Justin Quintal. Other events have included a Lower Bro Party with a back drop showing of the ‘90s cult film San Clemente Locals, with deejaying by Dustin Franks, as well as a Developed Film Photo Show.
Originally begun as a fundraiser for a friend in need by business owners and brothers Dustin and Dylan Odbert; ambsn Beach Club’s Wake Up Coffee is a home base for showcasing this up-and-coming brand. And according to their website, “The ambsn brand is everything FUN! It is a childhood memory that reminds you of everything right in the world. ambsn lives life without the pressure of reality … clever and curious and ready for the world.”
Bear Coast Coffee
In a simple, uncluttered, and welcoming space with expansive ocean views, Bear Coast Coffee has recently established a permanent home in the Pier Bowl area.
Originally begun as a “pop-up” in the Cellar and Wine Bar on Avenida del Mar, shop owner Jeff Clinard revealed that in order to finance his dream of a coffeehouse of his own he not only had to start out by space-sharing, but was also forced to sell his car.
“While working as GM of Portola Coffee Roasters and doing stand-up comedy in LA, my goal was to eventually create a great coffee experience for the community my wife, Jamie, grew up in; the place where we fell in love,” Jeff explained. “I wanted my kids to be the fourth generation to call San Clemente home, and I was willing to make any sacrifice to make that happen.”
In making that happen, Clinard has created a coastal coffee shop experience that features coffee from roasters in Vancouver BC, Portland OR and San Francisco, CA. Along with serving a wide variety of hot and iced coffees, all of Bear Coast’s accompanying ingredients are created in-house, featuring additions like freshly-made almond milk and lavender vanilla, among others.
This shop’s name references the California state flag with the left side of its logo depicting the state’s coastline. Its themed hats, apparel, coffee mugs and glasses alternately sport inscriptions of the coastline and a bear’s profile, and can be purchased in-house or online.
Jeff says that Bear Coast serves “the best gosh darn coffee around.” He invites anyone looking for coffee with farm-fresh, natural flavors, served by a friendly and efficient staff, in a fun and relaxing atmosphere, to drop on by. He assures patrons that coffee on the coast is being served at its very best there.
Zebra House Coffee top row: McIlwee Clan; Jay, Max, Robin, Jason. Bottom L to R: Curtis Petterson, the magical coffee drinking Zebra, Sara Allen.
Zebra House Coffee
Opened five-years-ago in what owners Jay and Robin McIlwee call “south central” San Clemente, Zebra House Coffee is a family affair built completely on faith.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” said Robin, “we had originally wanted to own a coffee plantation in Nicaragua, but realizing how difficult it might be we decided to open a coffee shop instead.”
Once back in San Clemente Robin was surprised by finding the ideal location for a coffee house up for lease, and without consulting Jay, she quickly signed. A retired schoolteacher Jay was definitely ready for the challenge, and always intending their business to be a family affair, they immediately consulted their children about a name for their enterprise.
The children’s response … “Don’t give it a dorky name like Jay and Robin’s Place, better to name it Zebra House.” And with this off-handed statement their venture acquired its name.
This eclectic shop has a definite ‘60s vibe. An assortment of brightly colored, mix and match seating inside and on the outdoor patios, invites patrons to sit, sip and stay awhile. And for those in a hurry, a drive –thru window is also available.
Not only about excellent made-to-order food and world-renown coffee, Zebra House displays the works of either a mixed-media artist, painter, or photographer each month, with all proceeds from sales donated to charity. They also host an Open Mic Night where local musicians can showcase their talent.
With a little faith and just “letting it happen,” it seems the McIlwees have created the coffeehouse of their dreams. Succeeding in bringing a special place to the community - the one they envisioned – they have created a space where residents can gather, share their lives and most importantly, enjoy a great “cup of joe.”b