Coffee. Dark, delicious, soul-quenching, invigorating coffee. Mmmmmm…

Get to know your coffee, though, and you will quickly learn that it is so much more than what many Americans settle for and call ‘coffee’.  Which, let’s be honest, really is just a caffeine jolt that looks like dirty dish water served in a mug at a diner or a Styrofoam cup at a gas station. No no no… that should not be called coffee.

As I learned this week during a photo shoot at the all-new Portola Coffee Lab in Costa Mesa, California, good coffee truly is an art form. And that’s what we’re talkin’ about here. With the various roasting and brewing processes that are used to develop layered, complex flavor profiles, good coffee can be equated to fine wine – or gourmet chocolate – or craft-brewed beers. It takes patience, knowledge, and love.

And Orange County is about to get a big ol’ dose of some serious coffee love thanks to the folks at Portola Coffee Lab. You know it’s going to be good coffee when it’s prepared by a team of barristas who are self-proclaimed ‘coffee geeks’ and encourage you with big, bold letters plastered on their shop’s wall to “geek-out” with them. And, trust me – it only takes one sniff of the aroma and a sip of Portola’s coffee to instantly be geekified.

A little side-note – I used to live in Italy – have lived there twice actually. Once in 1999 in Florence and again in 2008/2009 in Rome. Now, Italians are a culture who take their espresso-loving to another level – and while there, I developed a pretty high standard for what I like my cappuccinos to taste like. Since moving back to the U.S. in 2009, I have never tasted a cappuccino in America that even comes close to what I grew to love in Italy. That was until yesterday. Last night I had a cappuccino at Portola Coffee Lab that was so good, it took me straight back to the corner cafe where I was a regular in my neighborhood in Rome – I was so happy, it made me wanna cry.

So, if you love coffee – or even if you want to just learn to love coffee – pay Portola Coffee Lab a visit when they open their doors to the public tomorrow, Thursday, May 26th at their Grand Opening starting at the appropriately early coffee-drinking hour of 6:00am, ending at 9:00pm.  And for regular updates, be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter.