Martin Diedrich, founder and master roaster of Kean Coffee, has certainly lived up to his title. The coffees that I have had at Kean formidably rank among the best cups of Java I have had stateside. I make this statement because there is quite a lot to be said for the environment where a cup of coffee is taken. It is hard to compete with the hot, sweet, comfort of a good coffee on a mountainside in the Chilean Andes; the sophisticated bit of an espresso on a bustling street corner in Naples; or the rich, chocolaty tones of a local brew on the Caribbean coast of Honduras. I also say this to let the reader know that I am no novice, and have discerning tastes when it comes to coffee. I take care and pride in my home brewed cups, and won't praise the bottomless coffee offered by just any greasy spoon diner.
The coffees at Kean, however, are comparable to any I have tasted. They have an excellent variety for nearly every discerning palette. Their rich mochas and Mayan spices are sweet and smooth. Their espressos have the creamy head that is the mark of a talented barista, with a full bodied flavor reminiscent of the north of Italy. The menu is playful and creative, giving a wide range of drinks that would put any national chain to shame. Their coffee by the pound is excellent. Ground to order (I use a metal filter at home) and intensely aromatic, I recommend the Medium Roast Fortaleza blend. It is what I am sipping as I write this, and has a rich, deep flavor, with subtle floral notes that end in a fruity taste of cherries and chocolate. I stoked up, so I hope it is still available.
The atmosphere is what would be expected of any high end coffee house, only brighter, cleaner, fresher. Kean glows with natural light, and is filled with students, artists, hippies, surfers, businessmen, and other Newport Beach locals that give it a perpetual feeling of fun and sophistication. Their outdoor patio is open and breezy, while often just as crowded and lively as the inside. There is always a line at Kean – which speaks to the quality of the drinks and the artistry of the baristas, and the best of luck finding a table, no matter what time of day, but there are ample entertainments to occupy your attention as your customized coffee is created. People watching is as enjoyable here as anywhere, and one can feel the energy and imagination echoing through the coffee house. Martin Deidrich, the proprietor (and, as mentioned before, Master Roaster) can usually be found hard at work, tasting new creations, roasting new blends, and conversing with the coffee aficionados that frequent his establishment. Kean is where I go for a mid day cup of pick-me-up, to write down my thoughts, and to gather ideas. It is the closest thing I have to a creative incubator... and the coffee isn't bad either.