Food and beverage continues to be a bigger focus in Santa Barbara, with some of the best produce in Southern California and a rising crop of restaurants, so it was practically inevitable that somebody would eventually open a compelling specialty coffeehouse. That finally happened in July 2009, when Julia Mayer returned to her hometown with life partner Todd Stewart, opening The French Press in a former raw food restaurant on State Street, right downtown.
Mayer and Stewart attended UC Santa Cruz, where she majored in modern lit theory. After college, she opened stores for Peet’s and worked for KCRW in L.A. before moving back to Santa Barbara. “I thought I would stay in public radio, but decided I was better off in coffee,” says Mayer. “I was better served by interfacing with people instead of behind a desk.”
They were living in Santa Cruz when Verve Coffee Roasters opened and connected with the company, so sourcing their beans “was a natural progression.” The French Press now has an exclusive agreement with Verve in Santa Barbara.
Initially, the couple shared space with Arcobaleno Trade, but recently assumed total control.
All espresso beverages are served double ristretto. Dan Purvis made the espressos during my initial visit, both pretty well balanced.
Of course, any coffeehouse called French Press pretty much has to offer that particular brewing method, and it’s available by the cup or as an individual French press. Why French Press? “It’s cute and it’s fun,” says Mayer. “I’m also a fan of full immersion brew, with all the coffee in the water.” However, she and Stewart are considering other brew methods.
Mochas and hot chocolates come with house-made whipped cream on the rim of the glass. The French Press also offers three kinds of iced tea and even more hot teas.
Between The French Press and the nearby revamp of Jitters Coffee, which is transitioning to Open Cup, it looks like Santa Barbara has a burgeoning coffee culture. Apparently locals can’t subsist on Pinot Noir, Merlot and Chardonnay alone.