San Diego, CA

Blue Bottle Coffee: Should You Visit the Trendy Shop Expanding into San Diego?

Michael Beausoleil

San Diego is full of coffee shops. Many are single-store businesses while others are small chains. Of course, we also have major chains like Starbucks, but the city has also welcomed some newer offerings. In Downtown San Diego, you will find the city’s most central Blue Bottle Coffee location.

The Downtown store is the second Blue Bottle Coffee in San Diego. The first is in North County in Carmel Valley. The brand has been expanding across the world. Specifically, they have locations in Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Los Angeles and San Francisco hold the bulk of the California locations, but San Diegans are slowly getting to taste Blue Bottle.

What makes Blue Bottle Coffee so unique? Most people would say it comes down to the flavors and their methods of brewing coffee. They’re seriously dedicated to their craft, requiring employees to have knowledge of each roast. They only use premium quality specialty coffees, and they set high standards for their beans. Every stip you take is crafted to taste that way.

The Blue Bottle Coffee Experience

Ultimately, it all comes down to a couple of factors: price, taste, location, and value. Blue Bottle shined in a couple of areas, but there were some areas that could have been better.

Taste

Like most coffee shops, I ordered cold brew. At Blue Bottle, I was asked to pick one of two options: dark or bright. I ordered the bright, but I was able to try both. I enjoyed both, but they tasted quite different.

The bright cold brew was flavorful, but definitely the lighter of the two. It was a little sweeter, a bit fruiter, and less bitter. The dark was much stronger. It tasted more bitter and was a bit more chocolatey. This was my preference, but I could see myself opting for the bright cold brew sometimes. Either option is going to be enjoyable.

The restaurant also has other drip coffees, espresso drinks, and teas. There are bakery items, and I tried a coffee cake muffin. It was incredibly OK. Sweet enough, but nothing exciting. If I was told it was prepackaged, I’d believe it.

Price

A twelve ounce cold brew was $5, and a sixteen ounce cold brew was $6.50. Considering the size, this seemed a little steep. The flavor was great, but I have a hard time paying that much for a drink that’s already iced down.

Other drinks were similarly expensive. They came in paper cups (pictured), even when the beverage was iced. This isn’t a bad thing, but it could help the store keep material costs down. There weren’t a lot of frills with the drink, so presumably I was just paying for the coffee.

Location

It’s hard to assess the full ambiance of a location during the pandemic, and I went in the early afternoon. It wasn’t crowded, but I also know the morning rush has already been caffeinated. So, the store pretty empty and there was plenty of space. There didn’t seem to be a lot of seating inside, but I would guess this is due to social distancing protocols. Based on the size, they could easily fit five more tables in the store.

I sat on the patio briefly. It was nice, looked over Broadway Street, but was out of the way from foot traffic. This was a comfortable spot to take an afternoon break, and I can’t complain about the environment. It feels very minimalist, but I prefer this to overdecorated. It’s definitely brighter than a Starbucks and has wi-fi. As far as coffee shops to, it’s just fine. Nothing to brag about, but no detractors in my experience.

Of course, the morning rush could be an entirely different story.

Overall Value

If you’re going to Blue Bottle, it’s probably because you’ve heard the hype. It’s not cheap, and the coffee is the focus. In San Diego, the Downtown location is not easily accessible. If you’re in the area you might be able to justify the cost. Otherwise, it’s a lot of effort for the coffee.

Is Blue Bottle Coffee Worth the Hype?

Blue Bottle Coffee knows what it is. It’s a trendy shop that caters to coffee fanatics. It’s very minimalist, but that allows the coffee itself to be the center of attention.

Admittedly, I liked the cold brew. It was certainly above average, but not my favorite cold brew ever. For a San Diegan, a trip to Blue Bottle probably isn’t worth the end result. Unless you work Downtown, you probably know this area isn’t the most accessible. You’ll need to pay a decent amount for a drink, and you’ll have to deal with the headache of getting to the place.

If you love coffee and location isn’t an issue, I’d recommend trying it. $5 is a lot for a small cold brew, but it’s OK as an occasional treat. Plus, there are other locations. A new store will be coming to San Diego soon as part of The Collection at UTC, and you can find a few more if you head north. The company keeps expanding, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more Blue Bottles to be found in the future.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA
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