Wednesday, March 27, 2013

More Coffee Options for Long Beach: Makai Coffee

Photo Credit: Makai Coffee Facebook Page
Weekends with my wife are my favorite. Our picture perfect weekends include 1) sleeping in 2) good food and 3) nice weather. Today was just one of those awesome days. Got up this morning at whatever time we wanted to, fixed ourselves some cereal (or in my case an espresso...don't judge my less than healthy breakfast choices, this is a coffee blog for goodness sake), and we were ready to roll out for some good eats at Veggie Grill in Long Beach. To add to the 70 degree sunny yet slightly breezy beach weather I  remembered a new coffee shop I've been hearing about located in Downtown Long Beach called Makai Coffee. Oh, you know where this is going... time to review a new coffee shop.

Makai Coffee:
Driving through Belmont Shore up toward Broadway (heading over to Downtown LB) I passed a couple of homeless looking college kids and bike riding hipsters and thought to myself, 'this would be a great spot to open up a coffee shop.' Then to my coffee drinking delight, I found Makai.

As you park your car either in the neighborhood or along Broadway, you'll enter into this corner coffee shop and notice the simplicity. It's refreshing. Nice wood finish tables, plain walls with a slight touch of pattern along the ordering counter. As per your typical coffee shop, you'll find this shop with customers typing out their homework on their Macbook Pros or meeting a friend for a beverage. Beans from three local roasters fill the shelves as well as the sound of freshly ground up beans fills the air. As my wife and I found spot to sit, we were brought back to elementary school with our interesting grade school styled chairs. Yup, their bringing it back to 2nd grade people. I'm still a bit indifferent about that aspect of the decor, however my wife thought it was fun. I felt like I should be coloring or playing with Play-Doh in those chairs, but to each their own. True to it's name (Makai meaning towardsthe ocean") it's a quiet beach-like environment being just a couple blocks from LB's Ocean Boulevard without losing that downtown cafe feel.

The Coffee:
One of the unique things about Makai is their strive to support local coffee and that principle is exemplified in their coffee offerings. Makai offers up coffee from local Long Beach roasters Lord Windsor's Coffee Roasters, True Beans, and Rose Parks Coffee Roasters. For the sake of my wife and any other tea drinker out there, they had a variety of tea offerings as well. My wife ordered a peach blossom white iced tea as I ordered up their Panama pour over from Lord Windsor's. Needless to say, the coffee is good. It's smooth, tasty and very inviting (at least my Panama was).

The Verdict:
The Orange County/South LA area has been a recent breeding ground for good 3rd wave coffee (seen in increasingly popular places like Kéan Coffee and Portola Coffee Lab). Long Beach, being so close to the budding OC speciality coffee culture, has been popping up shops all throughout the downtown area proving to the average coffee drinker that speciality coffee is noticeably better than corporate coffee in roast style, shop setup, business practices and ultimately in taste. Makai Coffee is yet another addition to the growing number of speciality coffee shops in Long Beach. That being said, I'm glad they're there. Makai is a great option to choose from when looking for good coffee. Now in terms of 3rd wave coffee shops, this is a multi roaster; meaning they depend on other roasters for their coffee. This coffee shop model definitely works (and is seen in Los Angeles shops like Cafe Demitasse, Single Origin, Cogniscenti etc...), however it limits their ability to rise above other coffee shops. Basically, unless they have ridiculously amazing ambiance or some other kind of attraction, they have nothing different to offer than the roasters from which they buy from (which all happen to be very close neighbors to them, especially Lord Windsor being just down the street from them). It's a risk that this coffee shop assumes.


Why should you try Makai? Because of baristas like Nick.
What sells me at Makai is what many shops lack; excellent customer service. During my visit my barista, Nick, who I've met before at various latte art throw downs in the area, not only knows his coffee but is a really nice guy. He was able to answer my questions I asked regarding their offerings, took into consideration my wife's request for caffeine free beverages (due to her pregnancy), explained the flavor profile for their espresso...and all with a smile. He was inviting, personable, and real. He wasn't an unexperienced coffee stooge nor was he a coffee snob, though he had the skill set to be one. He treated the customer right. This is Makai's selling point. It's baristas with these strong interpersonal communication skills that will encourage the customers to come back to Makai. I know that's my reason for going back.

Go to Makai Coffee. It's an awesome addition to the increasing number of speciality coffee shops in Long Beach. And tell Nick to keep up the good work in what he does.

Makai no longer serves True Beans coffee, however now includes Verve Coffee Roasters (one of my favorites) and San Fran's Blue Bottle Coffee! Coffee lovers, rejoice!

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