For the longest time, all throughout high school and college, I was not a coffee drinker. Sure it smelled alright and I liked hanging out with friends at coffee places, but when it came time to order I usually opted for a hot chocolate or a hot earl gray (with some ice thrown in there, a half hearted attempt to try to minimize the inevitable third degree burns that were sure to follow). Coffee didn't appeal to me because I disliked how crazy dependent people seemed to be to it. "Don't even THINK about talking to me before I've had my coffee" is a phrase I feel like I've heard a million times. A favorite used by many stressed out suburban yoga moms, it's often followed by a chorus of "tell me about it"s , sympathetic nods, and "MMHHHmm"s with knowing glances exchanged all around.
Well fast forward a bit and while I'm still not a habitual coffee drinker by any means, I am proud to announce that my taste buds have matured enough that I now enjoy mochas!!
I know, I know. For most, mochas barely qualify as a coffee drink, and I get that. But getting a mocha from Portola is a whole 'nother experience.
But first, a little bit about Portola Coffee. At first glance, the place definitely seems like something out of an episode of Portlandia. The barristas wear white lab coats (because it's a "coffee lab", duh), there are vaguely steam punky looking contraptions that brew or filter the coffee, and for those blessed with a heightened sense of taste you should be able to detect notes of citrus, floral, fog, paprika, spicy cheddar, etc. etc. in your coffee. It's a place that would be really easy to make fun of EXCEPT that it absolutely delivers on its product.
Back to the mocha. There is one size and you can get it either hot or iced. I usually opt for hot. It can take between 5-15 minutes to get depending on how busy they are (and they can get really busy). They do the cute steamed milk art or whatever and once you take your first sip it is straight heaven. Calling it rich is an understatement. It's thick and velvety and each sip coats the inside of your mouth with milky-coffee-dark chocolatey goodness. I know that they make their own dark chocolate ganache which is used in the drink but aside from that I'm not too sure what else is in it. Probably crack.
Also, a note about friendliness: the barristas are super nice! I mention this because from what I've heard, the often self proclaimed coffee snobs that work at artisenal places can be downright condescending about your cup of coffee. I know there are some joints in LA and SF that either don't offer things like cream and sugar because it's like a slap in the face to the God of coffee or they try to strongly dissuade you from using it. No joke I was behind a lady at Portola who essentially wanted to order a caramel macchiatto from Starbucks and surprisingly, the barrista didn't give her a withering glance and yell "get out GET out GET OUT" which I assume would be normal at similar places.
Portola Coffee Lab
Located inside the OC Mart
3313 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa