Shop Spotlight: Neat Coffee
On this installment of Daydream's Shop Spotlight, we'll be talking about Ally Garvin and her space, Neat Coffee! Neat is located on 19th and Pomona in the heart of Westside Costa Mesa, a neighborhood in need of good coffee and a communal space.
In Ally's cute little space, she serves up excellent coffee roasted by Arcade in Riverside, CA and features other great roasters which are rotated quarterly. Their menu consists of the standard specialty coffee choices and few Neat specials. Ally creates a seasonal syrup of the month that features ingredients prominent for the time of year. So far, her creations consist of blueberry basil mint, apple sage, juniper rose, tangerine cardamom and plum cardamom. While each of these sound magnificent, our favorite Neat specialty has got to be the Coffee Soda. Shake some coffee concentrate, mint, cardamom, sugar and lime and pour it over some sparkling water. That thing is so refreshing and crushable, perfect for the last blazing weeks of summer.
On the food side of things, Chef Ashlee is holding it down. There's a super tasty granola bowl but the stars have got to be her toasts. Their avocado toast is anything but standard. Top with a slew of crunchy greens and an optional 7-minute egg, its savory, crunchy and refreshing. The pan con tomate is a hearty tomato puree drizzled in olive oil, perfect for an early lunch. Lastly, the jam toast is a light post-breakfast snack to get you through the morning. The food won't stop here, though. With plans to build out the backyard into a chill patio area comes a menu expansion into more developed lunch items. Stay tuned!
Ally and Neat are are on the up and up now with only more good things to come but this all started from humble beginnings with challenges and hardship along the way. Ally initially fell in love while working with a non-profit in Uganda. While at a coffee farm, she discovered the beauty of coffee at its origin. The lifeblood of a community a world away from her own yet so ingrained in the daily habits of home. She returned to Costa Mesa with dreams of creating her own coffee shop for her community.
It was around 2010 and the only real specialty coffee in the area was Portola. At the time, a bastion for creation but also often inaccessible to those on the outside. Ally decided to start at Peet's and later Sidecar with the goals of attaining more coffee knowledge as well as business experience. After gaining all she could from these places, Neat was the next step. It started as a pop-up and ran for 2 1/2 years in an office building off Red Hill Avenue. Over time, the community around Neat grew and when she was forced to close the pop-up, Ally felt an obligation to the community to make Neat a permanent institution. It took some time, but in April of 2019, Neat came out guns-a-blazin' with a new team built mostly of former customers and a new spot in a prime zone.
Ally's coffee background is different than most of the Orange County coffee professionals. They all came from Theorem with a pedigree for success in the industry. She didn't have the resume or years of experience, but she had a drive to create a welcoming space for people in her neighborhood. She'd get the rest of the knowledge along the way. She admitted to us that she doesn't know what she's doing running a business in this industry but took the chance and bet on herself to succeed.
Ally's favorite thing about what she does is serving food and drinks to the her neighbors. She created Neat with the sole intention of fostering community and we couldn't be more thankful. Neat is a perfect addition to the family of specialty coffee that has grown here in Orange County. We can't wait to see where she goes. We're sure it'll be real Neat ;)
Photography by Tianna Ellis
Story by Jason Ferrall