, I mentioned that the first stop I always make upon arrival to the market is the coffee stand, Caffé Espresso. When I made my faithful visit this past Sunday, I had to know more about the great man with the British accent who gives me, and others, the best coffee and beverages in town.
Owner and barista, David Brooks, moved to California 17 years ago and has been serving beverages for 10 years. While that is a long time, by the taste of it, you'd think he’s been mastering this art form for his entire career.
“I was retired from a corporate position not having anything to do with coffee—[it was] a technology company,” Brooks said. “I retired and I started living on my boat in Marina del Ray and after two years of doing nothing, I decided that I should make something better of my new life. I was 52 then.”
While out at Venice Beach Farmers Market with a friend, Brooks saw a coffee cart and discovered that the owner wanted to sell it. Seeing an opportunity for the next chapter in his life, Brooks and his friend bought the cart.
That owner’s name was Steve English, Brooks told me with a laugh. English taught Brooks how to make coffee.
Brooks went one step further, however. By literally taking the cart apart, he learned more about the art and not just the ingredients in each type of drink.
“I learned how the whole thing worked just by pulling the cart apart and repairing [it],” he said. Brooks learned the mechanics and what equipment would help him make a better drink.
After two years of operating the coffee stand with his friend in Los Angeles, Brooks was able to permanently relocate to San Diego and design his own cart. This is the cart at the Leucadia Market every week.
“It’s the only one of its kind,” Brooks said as he hand-shook fresh lemonade for a customer. “It’s got extra things on it that you don’t normally get on a coffee cart. I’ve got all this commercial equipment, like the refrigerator. And I have equipment to filter and soften the water differently for different products.”
Speaking to his craft, Brooks puts in the attention necessary to produce his beverages. Since water is a large component of coffee, good water will invariably lead to good coffee and this is why Brooks uses high-quality equipment that filters and softens his water well. Brooks even alters how he grinds his fair trade and organic coffee beans depending on that day’s weather and humidity.
“You have to understand it all,” Brooks said.
Even though he has the equipment and knowledge that enables him to serve satisfying, fresh beverages, Brooks gives much credit to an ingredient that can’t be found elsewhere.
“It’s my extra love,” he said with a smile. “It’s the whole experience. It’s not just about the drink. I’ll talk to [the customers] and they can tell me stories, too.”
And don’t worry about missing that sports game on Sunday, either—Caffé Espresso comes with an attached TV.
Brooks' cart offers a personal touch and experience that perhaps does add a little something to the taste. Whatever it is, everyone who has visited his stand raves about it. Without a website or even business cards, the market staple has taken off on word of mouth alone.
In addition to the market, Brooks works at various events—like weddings. He only likes working at intimate events, however, because after all, his beverages come with that personal, extra love.