You know that awkward teen stage when your nose grows into its adult size while your face is still back in grade school? That's sort of where the College Area / El Cerrito / Rolando is right now. It's definitely trying to be something, but it doesn't know exactly what that is just yet. Fortunately, though, some lady entrepreneurs know residents want independent java options.
The charming-if-unfinished Treehouse Coffee Co. (7229 El Cajon Blvd.) is situated amongst nothing special at the border of Rolando and La Mesa. Rolandoians are supporting this sticky spot and hoping it's but one more among a handful in this slow-growing business district. Owner Mandi Post offers coffee drinks in cups with traditional sizing—none of that grAHn-day bullshit here—and she's also roasting her beans onsite, meaning aficionados are bound to find something interesting.
If you swing in on one of the many sweltering days common to East-ish County, the passion fruit tea is a must (let the ice melt a tad to perfect the concoction). Treehouse offers a small but fairly average breakfast menu, and the baristas tend to be painfully slow. Your best bet is to stick with a scone and practice your patience. The joint is small with a few outdoor tables where you can pull up a chair and wait for more shops to sprout.
Speaking of which, 24-year-old Joanne Carrera has hung her shingle about one mile west, also in Rolando. Open only two months, Jo Jo's Coffee Bean (6499 El Cajon Blvd.) is housed in what was formerly the College Area Key Shop. Located inconspicuously at the corner of Seminole Drive and El Cajon Boulevard, this newcomer is way too easy to miss in the landscape of sometimes-open and soon-to-open and is-that-place-open? businesses.
With lots of parking but only one outdoor table, the shop is a walk-up proposition. It. Is. Tiny. As in, smaller than John Boehner's boehner, if you know what I mean. The kiosk is dated and needs some remodeling to accommodate coffee transactions; tall folk will have to contort somewhat to order. But getting down isn't that big a deal since you'll be met with the kind of friendly smile and bubbly personality that's sorely lacking in the Age of the Hipster.
Carrerra is serving Café Calabria coffee, but unlike Calabria baristas, she pulls her espressos long. Her chai tea latté feeds my sweet tooth, and all of her drinks come with a too-cute sticker over the sippy-cup-hole thingy, which will make happy happen—especially when you don't spill your drink as your inner teenager peels out along the Boulevard.
The winner: Girl power is rocking this 'hood, and there's room for both of these proprietors to coexist. While Treehouse is established and has local roast, there's just something about rooting for the underdog. Jo Jo's Coffee Bean for the win. Let's hope she has bigger windows and better signage this time next year.