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A Tale of Two Coffee Locations: Peet’s in Encinitas vs Solana Beach

Is a bad cup of coffee considered an existential crisis or a petty first-world problem? I think the former. Or is it the latter? Whichever, to me, it’s a problem. A big one. Since having taken the mantle to review coffee stops amid my travels, I’ve sipped the good and spat the bad. Some brews are tremendous. Others are the stuff of cringeworthy regret.

For me, a good cup of coffee comes down to bold, rich flavor. Bold is best. Watery is weak. And weak won’t do. Wimpy, flaccid coffee is simply unpalatable — I don’t know why it hasn’t been outlawed. And having had good, strong coffee, I won’t subject myself to drinking anything else anymore.

So sets the up the quandary for my usual, local haunt: Peet’s Coffee. I never wanted to like a chain coffee shop — fearing it too homogeneous and ubiquitous and uninteresting (and GASP(!) Starbuck-esque) — but Peet’s has become my mainstay, with solid dark-roast coffee chops.

So it’s been all the more confounding for me to report that my local Peet’s Coffee at the corner of Lomas Santa Fe Drive and South Cedros in Solana Beach has been spotty — at best — with its dark roast brew. I actually rate its good-coffee-reliably at a lowly 20%. Yes, I’m sad to report that the vast majority of the time, the dark roast drip brew there has been weak and meek and all but undrinkable for this discerning coffee drinker.

Twas not always the case. For years, the Peet’s Coffee in Solana Beach had a cadre of tatted and pierced baristas who chain-smoked in the parking lot and took stiff shots of espresso to keep their game faces on. They were artsy and aspirational. But slowly, one by one, they moved on, leaving nice-enough-newbies to unfurl the jib and the mainsail for the whole pirate ship.

Nothing against them, they’re nice enough, but the dark roast coffee game there has run afoul — to points where I’ve dumped full cups into the trash can outside, then drove north up the 5 an exit to Encinitas to “the other” Peet’s coffee shop. The one beset in a dull strip mall plaza by the Ford dealership.

To be clear, at Encinitas Peet’s, there is no sauntering past art galleries, like I had in Solana Beach’s Cedros “Design District.” No walk with coffee-in-hand to Fletcher Cove. But in spite of that loss of view and chic stylishness — the coffee at the strip mall Peet’s in Encinitas, somehow, is reliably just better.

Always, I can tell with the first splash of half-and-half. In Solana Beach, instantly, the thin veil of coffee color is overtaken from dark brown to a light, lactic pale. If coffee is capable of being a wuss, there in Solana Beach it often is. But at the Encinitas location, I can pour a veritable waterfall of cream in before the consistency even begins to surrender from its darkest hue. Ah, yes. Real coffee.

Is it the bean blend? The temperature? Is there a magic-power-alchemy that only certain baristas possess? We have the technology! In 2023, we can make good coffee good, goddammit! But in Solana Beach, something continually lacks in their drip-brew game. The mystery abounds. But for me, one resolution is clear. Pass by the location where it all started so swimmingly for me — and drive the extra mile (literally) to where the drip brew is dark and rich and the coffee tastes like it should. Peet’s Coffee in Encinitas pulls through continuously — and eclipses its sister location in the otherwise toney Solana Beach.

Encinitas Peet’s Coffee drip brew rates 5 Stars out of 5

Solana Beach Peet’s Coffee drip brew rates 1.5 Stars out of 5


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