Portola Coffee Lab: “Show No Mercy” in Costa Mesa

Coffee Orange County

The caffeinated ambition from Jeff Duggan and wife Christa is unparalleled in Orange County.

When I first heard about coffee roaster Jeff Duggan in mid 2009, he was offering complimentary classes at Long Beach’s Sipology Coffeehouse, helping people to understand and analyze coffee using weekly cuppings and discussions. At that point, the burgeoning roastery was called Portola Handcrafted Coffee Roasters. Over the past two years, his concept had evolved into Portola Coffee Roasters, and to end May, he and wife Christa opened a showcase coffeehouse at OC Mart Mix in Costa Mesa, a contemporary retail complex not far from South Coast Plaza. The Duggans, who previously operated out of Irvine’s Layer Cake Bakery, have introduced what is probably the most ambitious coffeehouse to ever hit Orange County.

The Duggans named their concept for Gaspar de Portola, an explorer who worked his way up the west coast to San Francisco and became the first governor of California in 1768. Jeff Duggan has a chemistry and technology background and lived in Corona before his wife’s work brought them to Orange County. They initially considered opening a 200-square-foot coffee kiosk in the OC Mart Mix, but after getting a sense for the restrictions, they expanded to six retail parcels. Jeff Duggan always wanted the coffee roaster in-house and on display, and by becoming more ambitious, he got his wish. Since this is their first foray into retail, they hired Alexandra Littlejohn, who has 15 years of professional coffee experience, to manage the store.


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Portola’s open space features modern lime green and bamboo design elements.

Lacquered table tops are adorned with images of lab equipment and coffee, including coffee plants and beakers. Since it’s a “lab,” baristas wear white lab coats.

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The retail wall encourages guests to “Geek-Out,” “Sip” and “Savor.”

People are also encouraged to “savor” macarons, cinnamon twists, apple pies, croissants and more, which come from Sweet Lilikoi, a new bakery from former Montage pastry chef Louise Chien.

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Portola houses an eco-friendly U.S. Roaster Corporation Revelation roaster that uses 1/3 the power and incorporates recirculated air.

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Multiple brewing methods include an $18,000 Slayer espresso machine, pourover, syphon and Kyoto-style cold brew.

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A printed Daily Lab Report lists the available coffee options.

During my visit, Jeff Duggan said he just bought three lots at the charitable, fair trade Grounds of Change coffee auction, including beans from Burundi, Kenya and Ecuador.

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My first taste of Portola coffee involved a shot of “Show No Mercy” espresso ($2.50).

Coffee Orange County

Their single origin Bali Kintamani Natural espresso factored into my solid, but somewhat thin Kyoto Cold Drip Brewed Coffee ($4).

Portola was still gaining form during our initial visit, but I would still return and recommend the coffeehouse. I also left with several lingering questions, which Jeff Duggan subsequently answered via e-mail.

What inspires you about coffee?

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Portola Coffee Lab: “Show No Mercy” in Costa Mesa

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Joshua Lurie

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

Blog Comments

Do you have Turkish coffee?

Hey guys,
just to congratulate you for winning micro roasting award,keep up the love of great cup of coffee every day.One love nairobi java house.

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