When I first moved to the Bay Area in 2013, the far East Bay was considered a sleepier, less-trendy place than Berkeley and Oakland, and certainly than downtown San Francisco. Over the last near-decade, though, that has changed dramatically. Lots of San Franciscans have moved into the Lamorinda area — and more people are living here and working remotely now — and with them has come trendy food brands usually found only in tech-heavy Silicon Valley or in the city itself.
One of those is Philz Coffee, a local coffee chain associated with happening locales like downtown Palo Alto (where coders from the region’s tech companies hang out for hours sipping cold brew and writing Python on their laptops) or Berkeley (where some of the nation’s smartest students enjoy fair trade coffee while cramming for midterms). But as of last year, there’s now a Philz coffee in downtown Lafayette. That says something about the area. And it’s also a great neighborhood place to stop in for a fancy cup of joe.
Philz Coffee’s Lafayette location is on Mount Diablo Boulevard in the Lafayette Mercantile center, right in the heart of downtown. It’s across from Social Bird and sits right in front of the iconic tiled fountain that anchors the shopping center.
From the outside, the Philz location looks small. But its smaller facade belies the large size of its interior, which stretches all the way back to the parking lot behind the shopping center. That allows ample room for a large coffee bar area, plenty of seating, and even a “community mug wall”, which will be put to use holding customers’ reusable mugs in post-pandemic times.
What to Get
If you haven’t visited a Philz Coffee before, the chain specializes in pour-over coffee. This unique style of coffee making relies on slowly pouring water over grounds by hand (often they’re ground from whole beans right before your cup is made), producing one cup of brew at a time. It’s labor-intensive and takes about 3–5 minutes per cup, but it produces the freshest coffee possible.
Philz loves to highlight specific coffees with unique origins, applying the language of wine-tasting to help customers understand the unique notes and flavors they can expect in each cup. (Pro tip: the coffees themselves aren’t actually flavored — Philz is simply pointing out the unique flavor profiles naturally present in each bean.)
Philz also has a wide selection of iced coffee drinks and blended drinks. Interestingly, the company doesn’t do espresso — you’ll only find pour-overs at Philz, and no lattes, macchiatos, or Frappa-anythings. Several of Philz’s drinks are blended in a way that makes them mimic a latte or iced latte, though. Among my favorites are their Mocha Tesora, Iced Mint Mojito (despite the name, it’s alcohol-free), and the Iced Gingersnap. The latter is creamy, cold and reminiscent of a pumpkin spice latte.
Philz in Lafayette has plenty of comfy tables and chairs where you can linger, watch people and traffic on Mount Diablo, or get some work done. There’s also a beautiful mural featuring floral designs and a California state bear hugging a Philz coffee cup. Visit Philz Lafayette enough, and you might find yourself loving the store’s drinks just as much as that bear.
This article originally appeared in the Bay Area Telegraph on Medium.