Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Kéan Coffee keen on latte artistry

Character and artistic espresso give Kéan Coffee its flavor.

Mack Hayden and Mack Hayden

Kéan Coffee’s purple color scheme asserts a certain sense of regality. It lends itself to feeling it’s a destination to be sought after. The 55 freeway dead ends into Newport Boulevard and with just a left on 17th and a right on Westcliff, this oasis can be found. Surrounding the coffee shop are business and medical suites as well as the tasty Promelis Westcliff Market. Inside, it’s easy to imagine the “Cheers” theme song beginning to twinkle in over the speakers. This is a place where everybody seems to know each other’s name. It’s a café for regulars and if you haven’t reached that status yet, everyone would be happy to help you along.

Customers and lattes lend character

The people that fraternize here make for the character of the shop itself. There’s the guy who’ll make you double take because you think he’s Jack Nicholson, a well-dressed Jeff Bridges look-alike, and plenty of cigarette-wielding hipsters. At no point does Kéan become a pretentious or intimidating place to relax though. It’s a safe place, one where you can be unafraid of coffee snobbery. Drink it black or drenched in cream, there’s no judgment here. People of different backgrounds and tastes congregate to enjoy life over liquids hot or iced.

As for the drinks themselves, it would be a crime to cheat yourself of witnessing the latte artistry of which all the baristas here are capable. Guilt encroaches as you question whether it’s wise or even moral to sip down your espresso. As milk is poured into espresso, these lattes taste like heaven and look like it as well. A leaf made of cream sits peacefully atop your drink, waiting to be sipped into nothingness. Try a Turkish one and you’ll surely not regret it. The iced tea lemonade is ideal for someone with a less bean-inclined palate. The regular drip coffee is also high above the bar set by corporate stores from Starbucks to Peet’s.

Keep an eye out for the crowds though! If there’s one thing Kéan falls short on, it’s seating. On the one hand, it’s a testament to the shop’s popularity and superior product. Still, coffee is hard to enjoy through attacks of claustrophobia. Try to get there later in the day to have a better chance at just kicking back. Luckily, there’s almost always somewhere to plop down outside, and the Newport Beach breeze ensures that this won’t be an unbearably hot experience.

Inclusivity creates unique atmosphere

Above anything else though, Kéan is a testament to the idea of the coffee shop as congregation — particularly the type of congregation that Western postmoderns tend to enjoy the most. It allows for isolation and community simultaneously, a sort of ready-to-order commune tailored to each customer. Complete strangers strike up conversations while others sit content with headphones blasting, happy to be alone amidst others. In our day, it seems we communicate best whilst we consume and Kéan fosters communication and consumption with a sense of perfection.

What sets Kéan apart from other nearby coffee shops? While Portola Coffee Lab has them in craft and Alta Coffee Warehouse & Restaurant has them in character, Kéan’s greatest strength is its inclusivity. Starbucks devotees, beachfront slackers, pretentious hipsters, the old and the young all have found a place here. It’s the closest to a second home a coffee shop could ever be. It lends itself to memory-making. So give it a try — the congregants are calling.

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