There are few things I hold close to my heart, and among them are bread and coffee. I don’t have either of them frequently, though, so when I do, they have to be good.
I first heard about Brot Coffee, a small, locally owned coffee shop straddling the border of Orange and Santa Ana, when a professor held his office hours there. After swinging by to chat with him one morning, spotting the loaves of bread lining the display and smelling the fresh coffee, I knew I had to come back – this time with a friend.
Between the two of us, we ordered the rosemary garlic bread with avocado, the cinnamon bread with peanut butter and the squaw bread with almond butter and strawberry jam. I also ordered an Italian cappuccino, which, according to a barista at the shop, is different from the American version of the drink because of the amount of espresso: Italian cappuccinos have two shots, while American ones typically have three.
While the generously portioned bread isn’t baked on location – the owner told me that it’s brought in daily from an artisan bakery in Santa Ana – it’s soft, has a dense, chewy texture and tastes like it was baked by someone’s grandmother. Yes, it’s that good.
While we liked the strongly flavored rosemary garlic bread, which had whole cloves of garlic in it, and the squaw bread with almond butter and jam (which I particularly enjoyed because I could pretend I was being healthy), the true fan favorite was the cinnamon bread, which had thick swirls of gooey cinnamon filling and flavors reminiscent of apple pie. While we had it with peanut butter, it could stand on its own with just some regular butter, or even no toppings at all.
Now, for the most important part of our visit: the coffee. I visit an embarrassingly and pretentiously large number of coffee shops in Orange County, and I’m usually disappointed by bitter, watery, hipster concoctions. While I won’t say it was the best, Brot serves one of the better brews that I’ve tasted. The cappuccino was rich and smooth, without a hint of bitterness, and had the perfect amount of frothed almond milk. Plus, it didn’t give me a jittery, highly caffeinated feeling after I’d finished it.
For those looking to be more health-conscious, Brot offers a few milk alternatives for its coffee and tea drinks, as well as gluten-free bread and vegan butter.
The prices were pretty decent – probably about the same as a visit to Starbucks – with three large slices of bread (each enough to share between two people), toppings and my cappuccino totaling $14.80.
One thing I disliked about Brot was its location. It’s nestled in a strip mall-like area near Santa Ana, about a seven-minute drive from campus and just past the reach of the Chapman bubble. I have a feeling this hidden gem would draw better business if it were located a little closer to the Orange Plaza, as it wasn’t very crowded when I went on a Saturday morning.
Brot opens at 6 a.m. on weekdays, so it’s perfect for early birds. It’s located at 316 Main St. in Orange.