Brick walls, real small. You could walk right past Recreational Coffee without knowing it, and that would be a real shame! Recreational is one of the most established shops in Long Beach, without a doubt. I sat down with owners Bobby and Corenne Hernandez to hear about the shop's history, and why they chose Long Beach for their (first) brick-and-mortar.
Bobby saw the demand for third-wave coffee in Long Beach, and pounded pavement to do research on if that was the city to settle in. He went around asking people, "Where do you get your coffee now?" "Would you be willing to pay a couple dollars more for a high quality cup?" "How do you feel about big chain coffee shops?" The response was great, and thus Recreational was born.
While I sat with them, I tried several different drinks, to break away from my constant Ethiopian, black. The "iced basilfruit," made with a Kenya iced coffee, fresh basil and fruit syrups, the espresso milkshake and of course, the Ethiopian Gesha (all amazing).
Bobby came up with the name, "Recreational Coffee" easily. "Some people do sports or cannabis-- we do coffee, recreationally," said Bobby. Another part of the name is the atmosphere he and Corenne have created. No snobbery, no "fast-food" type service, just fun and happy: In Bobby's words, "we require baristas to act like everyone drove four hours to get here. Being authentic is the key to it."
My ratings for Recreational:
Lots of natural light. Chill playlist music. Enough seating for a full house to be comfortable. And most importantly: plenty of outlets! I'm jk, most importantly: the coffee is to die for! But also lots of outlets... These are the characteristics of one of the older and lasting landmark coffee shops in Long Beach, Lord Windsor.
I talked to owner Wade Windsor to find out the history of third-wave coffee shops in the LB (it's rocky, but booming now), how he got to be a coffee shop owner and why he's in it for the long haul.
Wade remembers seeing people standing in a line around the corner waiting for the first Blue Bottle retail store to open in San Francisco, and thought, "Wow, there's a market for this. There's a need for this!" He saw LB as similar to Frisco, and knew people would welcome another option to Starbucks and Coffee Bean.
He's definitely been met with antipathy before, though. People walking in and claiming the hipster indie gentrification is ruining the neighborhood, blah blah. He remembers thinking, "then why are you even coming here? Haha... Just don't come!"
Wade really cares about homage being paid to coffee's journey from farm to cup, so he always aims for "handshake coffee" or as close as it gets (as few middle men as possible from farmer to importer). A lot of coffee shops have not had long-term success in LB because people are cashing in on the "trend" of "hipster coffee shop that's Instagram-friendly." So the ones that are still around are in it for the right reasons: because they have passion.
My ratings for Lord Windsor:
Follow me @LACoffeeMate 📸
CoffeeMate is your guide to LA coffee shops.
CoffeeMate also provides product and gear reviews, lists, 101s and more.
My ratings scale is as follows: