Recreational Coffee in Downtown Long Beach has built up its name largely through eschewing the common. Owner Bobby Hernandez skips caramel lattes and blended drinks in favor of keeping to what he loves most: Mainly coffee and coffee alone.
And while that has panned out well for the one of the city’s most talented roasters and coffee masters, it has not prevented Hernandez hearing—constantly, persistently—from crowds that he should dive into the sweeter, more commercial side of the coffee bean.
In honor of the shop’s third birthday, he has done just that, offering up patrons a one-weekend-only menu that includes concoctions ranging from a caramelized apple latte to a peanut butter espresso shake.
“For years, we’ve had constant requests from people to create different drinks,” Hernandez said. “So for one weekend only, we’re gonna oblige them—and after that, we will never make them again.”
He says that last part with a chuckle, full well understanding that his will has been slightly bent by the public’s determination to get him into such creations. (The public has done it once before: His Honey Vanilla Latte, one of the shop’s most popular drinks, was created out of the constant request for vanilla-centric drinks. In true Bobby fashion, the drink isn’t an explosion of sweetness but rather a layer of subtle flavors and, obviously, a huge seller.)
But, somewhat sticking to his guns, he let his baristas take over the six-drink, Saturday-and-Sunday only menu, with him only offering subtle changes.
And they came out in full, caffeinated force.
Barista Cierra Garrett created two drinks: The Gold Member Cappuccino, a borderline-savory, Levantine-inspired concoction of espresso, turmeric, and lemon zest; and the decadently addictive Peanut Butter Espresso Shake, a concoction of organic vanilla ice cream, espresso and espresso grounds, and good ol’ peanut butter.
Barista Liz Spiry stuck to the warmer side of things, creating a Caramelized Apple Latte that borders pie-like in its flavor, the caramel a subtle note to the apple reduction, and a Mayan Spiced Mocha. The latter drink is one of the menu’s most complex: A blend of dark chocolate, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, the drink’s layers roll through a hint of sweetness, followed by a burst of dryness and heat that makes it distinctly different than most Mexican-inspired chocolate drinks.
Lastly, and certainly not least, Sabeeha Mirza partnered with Spiry to create an Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Latte. For years, Hernandez has withheld oat milk from being served in his shop, feeling that the milk’s heavy flavor overpowers the bean to the extent of drowning it out. For this one time, however, he’s happy to let Mirza and Spiry pair it with a raisin reduction that makes this latte a creatively simple, dangerously sip-able drink.
“I repeat: Never we will offer these again,” Hernandez said with a laugh. “Nope.”
We shall see, Bobby. We. Shall. See.
Recreational Coffee is located at 237 Long Beach Blvd. and will be serving their anniversary menu on Saturday, Oct. 20, and Sunday, Oct. 21.
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