Who Says a Zebra Can’t Change Its Stripes

San Clemente’s Zebra House 
Coffee Changes Hands

For as long as Sara Allen can remember, the bold aroma of fresh coffee beans brings her back to childhood when her father Dan Allen began roasting coffee—on a grill on their back deck. This proved successful for Dan, however, when their bbq began to taste like coffee, his wife wasn’t thrilled. Despite her mother’s distaste for coffee, Sara’s father was perseverant in making his caffeinated dreams come true.

Today, Dan Allen’s coffee is served in San Clemente’s very own Zebra House Coffee, of which his daughter Sara Allen and her fiance now run and own. Abuzz with artists, students, and families, the cafe is nothing if not a hub for locals. It’s the only drive thru coffee in town and has won San Clemente’s best coffee and tea for the last four years.

Recently, owner Sara Allen was kind enough to sit down with me and talk coffee, art and community.

Sara, why did you choose Zebra House Coffee?

In August of 2016, my fiance Curtis Peterson and I took over operations from our friends, Robin and Jay Mcllwee who opened it in 2011. It gave us the opportunity to create custom Zebra House blends and feature some of my favorite single origin coffees. Our goal is to keep this place ran locally by family.

So your family roasts the coffee?

My father is a certified organic roaster, and he’s got at any given time probably 50 or 60 different beans that he’s imported from all over the world. His brand is called Adbibo and is roasted in Richmond, Virginia. Our coffee is small batch roasted which means there are never more than 15 kilos roasted at one time so that the quality is much better.

What’s your favorite coffee drink?

Our cold brew coffee. It has a chocolaty and nutty profile. We brew it for 24 hours.

What else is on the menu here?

We have breakfast and lunch menus open all day, but muffins are huge for us. We always have a dozen different muffins available, half of them are gluten free with at least one vegan option.

I’m noticing all of the art on the walls in here, what’s the story?

Art and music are two important things that go with a coffee shop. We feature rotating local artists every month or so. We don’t take admission; it’s just a neat way for locals to showcase their art and it’s anywhere from professionals to young artists just starting out.

You mentioned music, does Zebra House host any performances?

We have open mic nights every last Friday of the month. People just come in, and they play, it’s really neat. We would like to host other musicians here in the future.

Do you participate in 
other local events?

We try and give back when we can. We do donations to support local events and groups and participated in San Clemente Youth Skate tournament this year which was fun. We also support the athletes in the Hurley Pro by comping meals and such.

What sort of people do you see coming into 
Zebra House?

We get a lot of everybody in here. People come in and work on projects or bring their kids; we even have little furniture for kids. We have a wall filled with drawings of zebras by the kids that come in. Dogs are also welcome; we pass out dog treats in the drive thru. It’s just really a fun place, and locals love it here.