One of the important things to me in starting this program and blog was to highlight people and places that have a wonderful philanthropic back story, amazing people that run amazing establishments or just places and spaces that you just ought to know. Portola Coffee Lab and Seventh Tea Bar encompasses all three for me. I am only going to speak about their business and products which certainly have raised the bar but also want to note that the owner, Christa, played such an integral part in helping us during our daughters’ diagnosis. I wanted to select their business first and say thank you for all she did for us and let her know how amazing she is. I am eternally grateful for her generosity and cannot express my gratitude enough.
Now, down to business. Delicious, satisfying, caffeine-infused Heaven on Earth business called Portola Coffee Lab.
My husband and I were fortunate to know the owners, Christa and Jeff, prior to them opening Portola Coffee Lab in May 2011. We already knew they are exceptional people but the vision and the talent they had between them to open such a unique coffee shop and tea bar that has acquired such a strong following in a mere 3 years is an added bonus.
What’s the main difference between Portola and say your standard Starbucks or Coffee Bean? Taste of course is the obvious answer and this is due to Christa and Jeff looking at coffee as a craft beverage and focusing not on quantity but quality. This included not only the equipment and bartistas but the selection of the highest quality beans from Africa, Panama, and Columbia to sample a few. Portola was able to achieve a robust Direct Trade coffee program in record time. As most coffee companies take several years to establish these types of relationships, Portola was able to achieve this relationship within a year and half and began sourcing their coffee directly from its origin. With this comes the ability to provide some of the best coffee in the world which is a win/win for all of us here in OC.
So of course as a Mom and an entrepreneur I had a few questions for Super Mom Christa:
Kim: How do you find the balance with 3 kids and running your two shops?
Christa: “I am way more present when I am with the kids and make that time valuable because I work. You can appreciate your time with them even more when you aren’t home all the time. However putting work away is hard too as there is always something going on…….but I’m human. I also feel like being a Mom has helped me to nurture my business more. It’s just natural to want to nurture it.”
Kim: What sort of work environment do you promote here?
Christa: “I like to keep a healthy work environment and being open to our staff’s ideas is really important to us. If one of our staff has a great idea and it makes good business sense we run with it. We also have an open line of communication and work as a team. Whether a barista, bar back, cashier, etc., we all work together.
Kim: You seem to have built a cult following of sorts. Why do think that has happened?
Christa: “I think people were looking for something different and a sense of community in a place as spread out at Orange County. They were craving something different and not cookie-cutter. Here you can be taken away to a more urban environment. I also believe it is simply the quality of the coffee as well. There still really are not a lot of options for great coffee in OC.”
Kim : What would be your ultimate goal and what would you like to see for the future of Portola Coffee Lab and the Seventh Tea Bar?
Christa: “I would like to expand and grow the concept but still keep it niche and true to what we have done. We would love to have more locations simply so more people have the ability to enjoy it. We are opening 2 more locations soon (info listed below) for Portola Coffee. The tea concept is really still growing and might take a little while longer to build since coffee is mainly still in the forefront. I do see tea becoming more popular in years to come though due to sensitivity of ingredients in foods and beverages and the many health benefits various teas can offer. To open the Tea Bar we felt we could be on the cusp of something new”.
Boy, do I agree. What I felt deserved an editorial all its own was the fact that Seventh Tea Bar has tea on tap. Yes, you read that right, looks like they’re drafting you a beer, but it is herbal tea. Brilliant. The best thing I may have ever tasted in my life was the carbonated lemon ginger tea on tap. With sodas being my worst vice the taste of this could absolutely cure my addiction. The Seventh Tea Bar has a London pub feel of its own which I loved and all three teas on tap I sampled were superb. They also offer small sandwiches and snacks for lunch or afternoon bite.
Seventh Tea Bar: https://www.facebook.com/SeventhTeaBar
If their Costa Mesa location is out of the way for you their new locations might be a great alternative
Portola’s two new locations projected to open later this year:
Orange at Provisions: (projected opening in August) http://www.provisionsmarkets.com
Don’t live in Orange County? Well, they have that covered as well. Every coffee connoisseur I know said it is certainly the best coffee they have tried. You can also shop on their website listed above and have some beans sent right to your door.
So if you’re looking for a new and different place to meet some friends, engage in some conversation, and have some delish coffee or tea (again, I highly recommend the carbonated herbal tea on tap), you know where to go! See you there.