Coffee + Conversation With Jeff Clinard of Bear Coast Coffee
usiness is booming at Bear Coast Coffee in San Clemente. On weekends you’ll find a line straight out the door; but worry not, the scenic views across from the San Clemente pier will keep you satisfied while you wait. And who doesn’t like making new friends in line? After just two years of business, Bear Coast is set to open up a brand new location in Dana Point this summer — follow them on social media to stay in the loop!
Founder and owner of Bear Coast Coffee, Jeff Clinard, happens to be the brother of one of our very talented food photographers, Anne Watson. Upon discovering this connection, we had to pay Jeff a visit in San Clemente and learn all about his artisan coffee shop by the coast. Given the insight that Jeff used to be a comedian, the conversation went as you’d expect; laid-back and full of jokes, with room for the occasional interruption and warm greeting from one of Bear Coast’s many regulars, (Yes, this includes dogs and kids too!).
Anyone would feel at home at Bear Coast Coffee; within this tightly knit community, Bear Coast echoes the easy-breezy and energetic vibes of the West Coast, it’s a beautiful destination that reflects its neighborhood. Even its logo takes after the California state flag, making locals feel even more at home. Upon entering, you’ll hear laughter and buzz coming from the talented baristas behind the espresso bar, who are making mind-blowing coffee. Enjoy your coffee inside and strike up a conversation with the regulars, or take it to-go and enjoy a walk along the beach or down the pier.
Sometimes it can be confusing ordering off of a menu with 20+ items, but Bear Coast makes it easy with an espresso bar modeled after a traditional Italian espresso bar. Jeff recommends ordering a drink within your comfort zone, “What do you like to drink? What’s your go-to at your local coffee shop?” Bear Coast’s baristas can make a recommendation that suits your palate — whether you prefer your coffee to be extra sweet, light and creamy, or anything in between. As for me and my sweet tooth, I settled on a Mocha, made with their in-house dark chocolate ganache. Everything is standardized; ingredients are measured, and machines are calibrated daily, providing that perfect drink. Hats off to Bear Coast for making a delicious cup of coffee that’s rich with flavor and chocolatey goodness, topped with a beautiful design.
Previously, Bear Coast Coffee functioned as a multi-roaster, sourcing their blends from the best roasters from around the world. They’ve recently settled on Sweet Bloom Roasters Coffee, which they will soon be selling as a collaboration for their brand: Bear Coast Coffee by Andy Springer.
What goes best with their artisanal beverages? Look no further than Bear Coast’s breakfast menu, served daily until 11 a.m., or when supplies run out. Their specialty? Artisanal toast. Start with their Basic Avocado Toast, or for the serious avo-toast lover, try the Loaded Avocado Toast, topped with 5:10 egg, pickled jalapeños & heirloom carrots, spicy cheese crips, crispy prosciutto, various greens and seasoning. If you favor the sweeter things in life, sample the Almond Butter Honey Toast or the Granola Parfait. You don’t want to miss out on these brunch classics, redefined with seasonal ingredients and select spices. Pastries, granola, and chia seed pudding are served all day and vegan and paleo friendly items are also available.
We caught up with Jeff to learn more about Bear Coast’s origins, development and growth over the last two years. Jeff endeavors to serve his community in all aspects of his business, working hand-in-hand with local businesses and all-around amazing people.
Q&A with Jeff Clinard
Q: What inspired you to start Bear Coast?
Jeff Clinard: One of the main reasons I started Bear Coast is because I live here in San Clemente. My goal all along has been to make something that is a part of my community. I wanted to have a really nice coffee shop, but I wanted to serve the people that I see elsewhere; at their businesses, breweries, restaurants, at the grocery store, at my daughter’s preschool … I wanted to serve them.
Q: I noticed that your menu is very similar to the Portola Coffee Roasters menu, although it has a few more options. Can you tell me a little bit more about your inspiration for the menu at Bear Coast?
JC: Yes, we initially had our menu founded on the same idea as Portola. It was an Italian-inspired espresso menu, an In-n-Out version of an espresso menu. It’s a minimal menu, but there’s a lot behind the bar. We have a lot of recognizable options on our menu, and it makes the process more efficient. Our food menu is also minimal, but expansive enough so that people have choices. Gluten-free, vegan, all those things are respected and honored, and it all tastes good too.
Q: You also have other unique signature drinks that stand out, like the lavender caramel?
JC: Our nutmeg vanilla is outstanding, and our lavender caramel is one of the main things people think of when they think of Bear Coast. With all of the beverages, I have a goal in mind to make sure that it’s balanced. They’ve all been influenced by trial and error and figuring out what is going to taste best with coffee. Coffee can be both a beverage and an ingredient, and when you are using it as an ingredient, how can you compliment it? It’s also about taking all of the moving parts that make something successful, and figuring out how to make it repeatable. When it comes to coffee, you can break it apart and make it repeatable. Behind our bar we adjust the water, we use scales, we dial in. Behind the bar, we know what we did to make it great, and you get a delicious cup of coffee or a vanilla latte.
Q: With your focus on community in mind, do you use local ingredients and support local businesses?
JC: I love finding local people that are striving for excellence, similar to us; trying to be better, trying to be consistent and sourcing responsibly. Our pastry provider Rye Goods is out of Tustin, and they’re amazing. We only outsource when we are not able to do something of the caliber of our vendors. Our tea provider, Kilogram Tea, does a fantastic organic Chai concentrate. We’ve done our own Chai in-house, but for the most part, we can’t beat them when it comes to their ingredients and sourcing. We’ve also been pleased with our oat milk provider, Oatly.
Q: Incredible. And you’re San Clemente’s first multi-roaster?
JC: Yeah, we didn’t start out as a multi-roaster, but we wanted to see what our customers thought was the best, the most consistent product out there — consistent when it comes to sourcing and taste. We’ve rotated through a couple of roasters, but right now we are no longer doing that. Currently, we have all of our coffee privately made from Andy Springer in Colorado, and we’re going to be selling Bear Coast Coffee roasted by Andy Springer in Denver, Colorado. It’s been a long journey to get there — through a lot of trial and error, and a fantastic relationship with a moral, upstanding, nerdy, hilarious coffee roaster that we love named Andy.
Q: I love that you say moral, that’s a word that sticks out to me. How does the process of sourcing work, and how do you determine if it’s an honorable way of doing business?
JC: The process works differently for different people. One of the reasons we love Andy is because he has direct relationships with these farmers. You might notice that a lot of the coffees have names — names of the farmers and the families that grow them. Heart Coffee Roasters, another partner of ours that we’ve worked with in the past, does the same thing and it’s beautiful. The whole industry is moving towards transparency — and that’s important. For a long time, people would buy coffee for the cheapest they could and sell it for the greatest margin they could. That would make it so certain families wouldn’t be able to sustain their livelihood. So there’s sustainability for environmentalism, and there is sustainability for financial reasons. In my opinion, morally, you need to make sure that both are taken care of.
Q: Great. You seem satisfied with Andy, but do you hope to have your own roastery in the future?
JC: Yes. Everything that I’ve done has been planned. This was a culmination of a five-year plan. In five years, our goal is to have a total of three locations and a roastery. But it’s going to be done hand-in-hand with people we respect like Andy. I know how to roast, but I need to be able to have all the sourcing and have all that dialed in. I would only start roasting if I think it would be beneficial to the community that I serve.
Q: What would you say to people who want to make these types of beverages in their own home?
JC: Starting with brewed coffee, don’t focus on machines and fanciness. If there is a type of coffee you like, stick with it. Focus on water and grind. Try bottled water, or if you live near a Trader Joes, their New Zealand brand water is terrific. Coffee is 98 percent water, so if you have good water, that’s most of the job. When it comes to grind, the more consistently you can dissolve it into water, the more consistent the grinds are. If you don’t want to invest in a grinder, just make sure your café does it for you. When it comes to coffee — when coffee is too fresh it tastes tart. You want it to sit for about a week, or a couple of days at least. When it comes to making espresso drinks, it takes a lot of different moving parts. If you don’t take the time to learn, it can be frustrating. But if you love the process, be patient. Or reach out to us or any local café and see if they offer courses.
Q: Does Bear Coast offer classes?
JC: We have in the past. Since we’ve been open, our biggest problem and blessing has been that we’ve been busy, so it’s hard to find the room. We’re opening up our second location in Dana Point this summer, and we will be doing more classes. That’s a big goal of mine because I love educating and demystifying coffee as much as I can. And if anybody has any questions — when I get direct messages on Instagram, I’ll happily work through questions.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about Bear Coast’s future locations and endeavors?
JC: The only cities I want to be in right now are San Clemente, Dana Point and Laguna Beach. There are certain things here that we don’t have, that I want at other locations. I want more room for strollers, better parking, and a location that’s a little more centralized for people on their way to places. This is a beautiful destination, but I want another way to serve the community. Dana Point will have a little bit more of that, and as for Laguna Beach who knows … we’ll get there when we get there.
Bear Coast Coffee is located at 618 1/2 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA 92672. It is open daily from 6 am – 6 pm. To learn more, visit their site here.