COSTA MESA — Coffee shop owners Jeff and Christa Duggan have a rare weapon in the fight against the bland morning joe: a specialty espresso machine dubbed the "Slayer."
Foot traffic perks up early in the morning and again around lunch at the OC Mart Mix, 3313 Hyland Ave., where the baristas at the recently opened Portola Coffee Lab serve up steaming mugs of organic coffee from Brazil, Tanzania, Guatemala and Ethiopia.
FOR THE RECORD:
This corrects the spelling of the street where the OC Mart Mix is.
There is also the Show No Mercy house blend espresso, which tries to do just that to the contenders out there.
"We really didn't show the competition any mercy in creating that espresso," Jeff Duggan said. "I'll put that espresso up against any other on the market."
Portola named its house blend after the debut album of Slayer, a 1980s metal band.
"We also just wanted to have a little fun with it," Jeff Duggan said.
The drink is produced by the Slayer, a black-and-chrome machine capable of pulling sweet, full-bodied flavor from even the bitterest of espresso beans. It comes from a Chicago-based company of the same name.
To date, only 10 of the machines, which calculate the pressure required by each bean to produce the best flavor, have been distributed across the U.S.
While great coffee is a serious science — all the Portola baristas have stopwatches clipped to their lab coats — trying new coffee blends and brewing techniques should be a fun, not scary, experience, said Christa Duggan.
"Jeff introduced me to coffee," she said. "I was not a coffee connoisseur at all."
Looking over Portola's menu, which features a rotating list of organic and certified coffee beans, and four different brew methods, she knows it can be intimidating to the beginner.
But the baristas are a good point of reference for recommendations, and guests who sign up for the Portola email list can get news of coffee education classes and tastings, Christa said.
In addition to the Slayer, hot coffee drinks can be brewed by a siphon method for a light body and flavor, through the fine mesh filter of a Trifecta brewer, for full-bodied flavor. They can also be manually poured through a paper filter of a Hario V60 for a body in between the two.
However, it's the iced coffee that has culminated nearly a cult-like following at the coffee lab.
Twin glass bulbs drip over four decanters at the pace of 43 drops per minute. The 10-hour brew method produces 12 liters of the low acid, non-bitter Kyoto coffee a day.
While the Kyoto sells out by afternoon most days, cold coffee is also available through the Hario brew method.
In all, the coffee shop has more than a dozen coffee offerings, which are rotated daily. Portola also has a wide selection of hot and iced teas, bottled beverages and pastries.
The shop also offers ample seating around the coffee lab, additional indoor and outdoor seating in OC Mart Mix, and Wi-Fi access.
"This is our vision," Christa Duggan said. "This is exactly what we wanted to set out to do with coffee. We are very excited about being here."