Handlebar Coffee Roasters: Setting The Pace For S.B. Roasting

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Coffee Santa Barbara

Cycling fanatics Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson also have a passion for coffee, as Handlebar shows.

I first heard rumblings about Handlebar Coffee in 2010, when Intelligentsia’s James Marcotte said former professional cyclists Aaron Olson and Kim Anderson were planning to open a cafe in Santa Barbara. As it turned out, the couple had so much time during the construction and permitting phase that they decided to bypass specialty coffee companies like Intelligentsia and Stumptown, roast the beans themselves, and build their own brand. They initially started selling beans at nearby FasTrack Bicycles, and last November 1, opened a small café across from El Presidio State Historic Park, Santa Barbara’s birthplace.

Coffee Santa Barbara

Espresso is a good first test of any roaster, since the coffee has nowhere to hide.

My experience started in earnest with a shot of espresso, which they pulled on a three-group La Marzocco with a red shell. The espresso was on the bitter and acidic side, which made the iced coffee ($3) all the more satisfying. The iced coffee, made from Ethiopian, was smooth and fairly chocolatey. They also sell batched Fetco single origin coffee.

Chai Santa Barbara

Chai shows that Handlebar can handle more than just coffee.

Not everything is coffee-based. They do offer chai lattes and hot chocolate.

Coffee Roaster Santa Barbara

Handlebar rescued a Probat roaster from Oregon and placed it by the entrance.

Their 1993 Probat coffee roaster sat in a Southern Oregon roastery for 12 years. Handlebar has a stand-up coffee bar and a row of shimmering silver tables right outside.

Coffee Santa Barbara

Handlebar’s coffee bags showcase sleek, bicycle-themed branding.

Handlebar of course displays some cycling images, and features bags of coffee for sale on shelving.

A simple blackboard menu lists drinks and a counter hosts Renaud’s locally baked pastries.

It will be interesting to see how Handlebar Coffee Roasters progresses. The specialty coffee community in Santa Barbara is still in its relative infancy, and considering the drive that Olson and Anderson already displayed as cyclists, it’s a pretty good bet that it won’t be long before they get up to speed as roasters.

Handlebar Coffee Roasters: Setting The Pace For S.B. Roasting


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Can’t wait to check it out! Rock on 🙂

I think I’ve heard about them a few times. I’m happy to see them doing well. I’ve never been to Santa Barbara but would love to check Handlebar Coffee out sometime. It seems like these places are changing the way we see freshly roasted coffee.

Jake, Handlebar now has a second location on the north part of town with a roastery and full kitchen. Even more of a destination.

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