The Refinery Brings Ritual Coffee to Downtown Santa Monica

Downtown Santa Monica residents, office workers, and tourists no longer need to leave the Third Street Promenade and trek to Main Street's Espresso Cielo to get a proper cup of coffee. The Refinery started brewing San Francisco's Ritual Coffee three weeks ago, replacing the shuttered EarthBar on 4th and Santa Monica Blvd.

The high-end coffee shop featuring a sleek design is the passion project of owner Jimmy Chang. A former financial consultant, Chang joins the ranks of architect Yeikai Lim of Atwater's Cognoscenti Coffee, and former City National Bank analyst Matt Kang of Scoops Westside in Palms, as professionals who changed careers in order to bring excellent coffee to Angelinos.

“Being a Santa Monica native, I felt it was really important to open The Refinery here,” Chang explains. “As a kid, my family and I loved frequenting the local businesses and being a part of the community. Now that I have a daughter of my own, I want her to share that experience. Like many other Santa Monicans, I have been very excited about the growth of downtown Santa Monica and hope that The Refinery can become a place where we can reconnect and, of course, enjoy some delicious coffee and tea.”

Upon graduating twice from USC (a Bachelors and an MBA), Chang traveled around the country for three years, learning about coffee from top roasters and industry professionals. He learned from Lydia Lannetti at Counter Culture Coffee in North Carolina, Tommy Gallagher at Counter Culture Coffee in New York, Heather Perry at Coffee Klatch in San Bernardino, Aaron van der Groen from Ritual, and Ellie Matuszak, formerly of Coffee Solutions and now a director of SCAA. “It was important to me to go to all of these places and learn these different styles in an effort to find the right blend of techniques to give The Refinery its unique tastes,” says Chang.

While visiting owners of boutique coffee shops in San Francisco, Chang became friends with Ritual Coffee owner Eileen Hassi. In addition to learning about challenges he might face while opening The Refinery, he also found the beans he wanted to serve. “As I was further defining The Refinery, I really felt that blends at Ritual were the most similar to the tastes that I wanted to create at The Refinery.”

In addition to serving pour-overs of Ritual coffee, The Refinery offers a full espresso menu featuring its new Hydra Synesso machine. “I went to Seattle to meet the whole crew at Synesso and fell in love with the company,” says Chang. “Everyone there was very knowledgeable and as passionate about coffee as me. The Hydra at The Refinery is one of the newest models that has separate bypass valves for each grouphead and allows for pressure profiling. In less technical terms, by varying the amounts of pressure that can be applied to the roasted coffee bean - we are able to maximize the flavor. My Hydra is one of the first in circulation.”

Also on offer at the Refinery is carefully-sourced tea from Five Mountains, pastries from Breadbar, and all of the Hario products you’ll need to start brewing at home. Chang hopes to offer wine tastings once he acquires the necessary license.

Jimmy Chang has done his homework, brings the necessary passion, and after 10 months of red tape, has finally opened the doors of the Refinery. The real question now is if the locals and regular onslaught of tourists can support a boutique coffee shop in downtown Santa Monica. Locals will hopefully discover that the wonderful cappuccinos and lattes are easily worth the extra dollar or two above Starbucks prices, but not everyone is ready to ditch the $1.50 Pike Place roast at Starbucks and treat themselves to a $5 cup of pour-over coffee.

“I want to emphasize how excited and grateful I am to open The Refinery in Santa Monica,” says Chang. “I really hope that The Refinery will add to the vibrancy of downtown Santa Monica. More importantly, I want our customers to feel welcome and enjoy their experience (or re-experience) here.”