Sipping and studying

High Tide Coffee serves as a family-owned outdoor spot with a few tables on the right side of its front entrance. Shae Ravetti/Courtesy

Local coffee shops around Orange County colleges allow students to continue online learning in a productive atmosphere while campuses are closed

As businesses open up extended patios and prompting an unlimited amount of time to use on-site WiFi has given community members a divider to think and create freely when sitting at one of many coffee shops around colleges.

Little nooks around the many towns of Orange County fall into the category of a productive atmosphere and yield an unspoken support system for college students to take advantage of. Sit down with a cup of your favorite drink and sink into the likeness of local cafes.

San Clemente is home to the mass array of trendy and urban coffee spots that often house outdoor seating. Because of its sunny location and a short distance from the sea, a promise of relaxation follows a study session.

Sur Coffee’s patio faces the ocean and has become quite handy for students after its opening shortly before the pandemic forced customers to cease their visits. However, the soft gleam of sunlight now brings waves of people from all over California to enjoy the locally roasted and brewed drinks they have to offer.

After its debut in Jan. 2020, Sur Coffee allowed pick-ups only in alignment with COVID-19 restrictions but then brought back its deck style outdoor seating that serves as an entrance for customers. After ordering from the urban counter inside the canyon pastel aesthetic painted across the inside cafe, those needing space for focus can find their way back outside for fresh air and a stable WiFi connection.

“I like studying at Sur because of the peaceful patio out back,” said Shae Ravetti, a Point Loma Marymount University student and San Clemente local. “Sitting here releases such a specific vibe of both contentment about being around others and having a more modern space to get work done.”

Another town favorite is the newly renovated ZebraHouse Coffee family, owned and operated since 2011. With plenty of parking and a drive-thru when on-the-go, this breakfast and lunch spot invites students for two hours through their limited internet connection. The menu at large offers more than 20 different coffees and teas for a short stop at the cafe to get an afternoon cram in or discuss group projects over one of their affordable meals.

“Especially being online, it’s nice to escape my house, order a coffee, and concentrate on my assignments in a positive place that totally embraces students,” said Saddleback student Julia Browne while drinking an iced and blended Zebra Classic, sitting across from a friend. “I’d say coffee shops bring out a silent presence of motivation for people as well just because we’ve all been cooped up for so long, and changing our routines by completing our homework elsewhere can be refreshing.”

Between Irvine Valley College and Saddleback College is a community-driven inspiring corner shop with high ceilings and a workspace made for educational growth. Patch Coffee Co. on Portola Pkwy in Lake Forest specializes in drip coffees and espressos to get individuals moving and boasting with imaginative production. The cafe is doused head-to-toe in musical knick-knacks like records and posters from a range of decades and localized art by members in Orange County.

“Patch is a place with a charming atmosphere, coffee to die for, and cool baristas that always make their customers feel welcomed,” said Kendall Kearns, a Saddleback student and former barista herself. “This is my go-to study spot because much of the demographic are young students like me.”

An inside look at Sur Coffee’s view onto Camino Real from the interior. Shae Ravetti/Courtesy

Whether sitting at the bar stools behind the wall of windows or inside the makeshift cargo box social seating area, Patch Coffee Co. ties together tones of a Portland, Oregon roastery with the decor of a room for a poetry slam. Consumed by low underground beats only barely audible, the large coffee station in the middle filled with clatters and small puffs of steam ultimately reminds customers of its collaborative purpose to diffuse scents of coffee beans and a safe place for efficiency and innovation.

Finding tranquility in concentration may not always require silence or a quiet space at all. In fact, white noise or chaos is a faint reason why some are drawn to the fast and loud lives within grand cities like NYC or LA. There is no need to travel far in Orange County to acquire a tempo such as that.

Hidden House Coffee in San Juan Capistrano continues to be a popular cafe for outdoor lovers when studying among nature. With a small shack in the center, the elevated patio seating – conjoined with picnic-style tables and miscellaneous furniture – wraps around the yellow house and is shaded by overlooking trees. But this scenic area is located in a unique setting where commuter trains pass through right in front of it.

Encapsulated by year-round flowers and succulents weaved into the outdoor space of the shop, Hidden House Coffee puts the comfort and experience of customers above all else by supplying those who use the area as a place for focus and productivity with a most notable climate. Finding connection to both others and the earth makes this cafe an optimal study spot for group projects and chatting more avidly as opposed to other more quiet establishments.

“You know, I find working alone to get tiresome in my house,” said Ethan Kron, a transferring Saddleback student lounging at a single-chair table in the front of Hidden House Coffee. “But, even though it can get loud with the train coming and going and the background chatter of people around, it is still a more productive atmosphere than my silent abode. The noise is a sound of inspiration because I can actually hear that the world is moving all around me, and that pushes me to keep going out here.”

Until campus libraries and popular spots for students to study become more readily available in the upcoming months, coffee shops around Orange County colleges accommodate and house the minds of productivity. Rich creation can be found over the past year and beyond, as more individuals find a new sense of togetherness through the subtle ambiances of these businesses, becoming more than just a simple stop for coffee.