19 Awesome Vegan and Vegetarian Cafes in California Helping to Save the World

The Golden State has no shortage of incredible cafes, particularly socially conscious cafes.

From San Diego up to Redding and everywhere in between, you can find establishments that take care to promote animal health, recycling or fair trade practices. Vegan-friendly and vegetarian-friendly cafes, in particular, are abundantly available throughout California.

Here are 19 of the best. Mark them on your map if you have a West Coast road trip coming up.

Cafe Gratitude in Los Angeles, Santa Cruz, Berkeley, Venice and San Diego

Perhaps the best-known cafe in the state of California, Cafe Gratitude boasts a menu that is completely organic. The staff practices “Sacred Commerce,” which includes “inspired service, honest and transparent communication, and express gratitude for the richness of our lives.” The establishment works with local farmers and even has its own farm, the Be Love Farm in Valley. Terces and Matthew Engelhart, the farm’s founders, grow many of the yummy ingredients that go into Cafe Gratitude’s gourmet meals and drinks.

Ahimsa Vegan Cafe in Long Beach

The term “ahimsa,” which the Ahimsa Vegan Cafe is named after, is a word familiar among Jain, Buddhist and Hindu faiths that means “the principle of nonviolence towards all living things.” You’ll find this principle reflected throughout the menu, which often includes foods with organic beans, brown rice, tempeh and tofu. Juices (the cafe has its own juice bar) are made with healthy sweeteners like organic evaporated cane juice and organic agave; unbleached flours make all pastries and breads better for you. Ingredients for these foods are grown and tended to at a pesticide-free heirloom farm that Ahimsa owns in Escondido.

Saturn Cafe in Berkeley and Santa Cruz

If you’ve never had a vegan milkshake or vegan cupcakes before, then you need to get over to Saturn Cafe stat. All employees are dedicated to being environmentally sustainable, and the business itself is a certified Monterey Bay Area Green Business. The cafes also buy from local farmers and make sure that byproducts can be biodegraded. If you buy Santa Cruz Coffee, McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams in Santa Barbara, Numi Organic Tea or Double Rainbow Gourmet Ice Creams, you’re supporting Saturn’s green efforts.

Baagan in Rocklin

Selling sandwiches, teas, soups, salads, desserts and smoothies, you can enjoy a full sit-down meal for lunch or dinner at Baagan. The flavorful touches of East Asian and Indian spices liven up any dish. Founders Rajbir and Angelique also work with local suppliers to serve raw, organic foods that are good for the environment and contain no GMOs, casein or dairy. High-glycemic index sweeteners and refined sugars are also nowhere to be found, meaning you can enjoy something sweet without wrecking your waistline.

 

Freesoulcaffe in Tustin

Since 2010, Freesoulcaffe has made delicious vegetarian and vegan treats. The staff here make some incredible pizzas, salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches, burgers, pies and cheesecakes with nothing but plant-based ingredients. Most foods are gluten-free, and plenty of them are soy-free, so be sure to ask when you stop by.

Golden Mean Cafe in Santa Monica

Named after Aristotle’s mathematical golden mean, the Golden Mean Cafe “represents balance & harmony, a scientific exploration of how all things are connected from a mathematical standpoint.” You’ll never find GMOs in any of the delicious dishes served here, and all foods are organic.

Native Foods Cafe in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego

A Palm Springs stop since 1994, Native Foods Cafe‘s items are all handmade from scratch. The company has a number of core values that its staff lives up to every day such as making vegan fare that’s completely organic, supporting local animal organizations and nonprofits, and being as eco-friendly as possible. Sit at the cafe’s reclaimed oak tables, and rest assured that all packaging is recycled and can be biodegraded.

VegiLicious in Huntington Beach

“When you eat VegiLicious‘ meals instead of a regular meal, you automatically reduce 3 tons of greenhouse gas and save 2 tons of water, which means you better the environment,” the company says. What are you waiting for? Go visit.

 

Real Food Daily in Pasadena, West Hollywood and Santa Monica

Real Food Daily founder Ann Gentry personally vouches for the sustainability of all the food prepared and served at her cafe. “Eating a plant-based diet goes further than any other single effort — including driving a hybrid car — to lower one’s carbon footprint and help preserve the environment,” she says. All water used to prepare meals goes through a reverse osmosis water filtration system to clean it. Foods are grown and harvested from organic California farms that don’t use any chemicals that will cause long-term environmental damage.

Peace Pies in San Diego

Typical restaurants and cafes naturally generate a lot of waste, whether that’s packaging or food scraps. At Peace Pies, all employees must abide by a zero-waste policy, which insists that biodegradable packaging is used and that all leftover waste is composted. Even better, the cafe has great relationships with a number of farmers in the San Diego area who grow the fresh produce that end up on your plate.

SunCafe Organic in Studio City

SunCafe Organic owners and co-founders Rebecca Smith and Ron Russell have led vegan lifestyles for more than 30 years each. Russell gets all his ingredients from organic farms that never use pesticides in the growing process. The organic, GMO-free menu features such tasty options as buckwheat pancakes, zucchini lasagna, and a tempeh bacon BLT.

Palm Greens Cafe in Palm Springs

Prepared fresh every single day, the food at Palm Greens Cafe is reasonably priced, organic and sustainable. Owners Greg Schmitz and Jeff Huyett have expanded their establishment over the years, receiving a lot of critical praise from newspapers and media across the United States.

 

Follow Your Heart Market & Cafe in Canoga Park

Follow Your Heart is a market and cafe that was founded back in 1970. All of the company’s products come from Earth Island, a solar-powered facility near the cafe. Sun energy powers the eatery; all refrigeration, lighting, carpeting and skylights are either recycled or energy-efficient. Do be aware that the food here is lacto-vegetarian, so while it doesn’t have any eggs, fish or poultry, dairy may appear in the dishes.

M Cafe in Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Brentwood

Get your delicious vegan eats anytime by ordering online from M Cafe. The “M” in the name stands for “macrobiotic,” as the cafe specializes in contemporary macrobiotic cuisine. Try good-for-you sweet potato fries, sushi, or a macro burger with tempeh, and make sure you end your meal on a sweet note with an organic cupcake.

Garden to Grill in Sacramento

Specializing in farm-to-table foods, Garden to Grill has award-winning burgers, organic wines, craft beers and its own gluten-free bakery. Take your time to savor your meal while you check out the live music in the lounge upstairs. All food is locally sourced.

Old California Coffee House & Eatery in San Marcos

Old California Coffee House & Eatery opened its doors in 1990 and had annually won recognition as being one of San Diego county’s best cafes. Its team members “remain committed to providing the finest quality locally roasted coffees and ingredients,” making this one sustainable option. Old California is heavily involved in the San Marcos community, supporting schools, the sheriff’s department, firefighters, churches and other local causes. You can also enjoy live entertainment here each Friday and Saturday night.

 

Earth Cafe in Laguna Niguel

Known for its creamy, dreamy cheesecake, Earth Cafe sells its products across the United States at co-ops. The Celiac Sprue Association certifies all food here is prepared gluten-free, which prevents cross-contamination. EarthKosher, a part of the Kosher Certification Agency, certifies Earth Cafe as Vegan Verified, meaning its desserts are free of animal product derivatives.

Good Air-Vent System News From Korea

The world’s first roast-grind-brew coffee maker is two significant steps closer to realization. We’re ready to sign-off on production and take the next steps towards mass production.
During a visit with the company’s partners in Korea, Bonaverde Founder and CEO Hans Stier received confirmation that all recent engineering progress, in particular the machine’s new filter, meets the company’s high operational standards. With these details in place, Bonaverde is able to finalize the machine’s design. This finalized look is clean, minimalistic, even, and exactly as the world’s first roast-grind-brew coffee machine will be the day it ships.
The design change initially became necessary when we decided to use a larger filter, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It forced us to have equally large hatches on both sides, a development we’re really happy about.”
says Bonaverde Head of Engineering Jergus Majernik.

“With this last detail resolved, we can now sign-off on production tooling,” explains Stier.

Bonaverde
We’re thrilled to be bringing our baby closer to market, and excited to share its sleek, sharp, modern new design.”

Hans also returns from Korea with positive momentum on a second front. The software and connectivity set-up of the coffee maker is functioning beyond expectations. This innovative software includes an RFID reader for packaged green coffee beans that will set the individual coffee’s optimal roasting profile, a vital element of Bonaverde’s revolutionary new coffee ecosystem. With this software operating smoothly, Bonaverde can give the go ahead to program the electronics of the machine for mass production.

“It’s an exhilarating moment at Bonaverde,” says Hans, “Both the design freeze and the electronics have had a major impact on our go-to-market timing. We’re overjoyed to be able to tell the Coffee Changer community that things are moving forward and we’re two big steps closer to having the coffee machine in their hands.”

The next big step: Finalizing the Bill of Materials

We have exciting news to share with you, Coffee Changers. Big things are happening at Bonaverde.

At Bonaverde, we live for the magic of small moments, those little things that remind us of the simple beauty in day-to-day life. That’s why we’re determined to brew the most delicious, freshest coffee in the world. What exemplifies simple pleasures more than the ritual of a good cup of coffee?

 

Sometimes, however, the small moments just aren’t enough. Sometimes you need a big magic moment to re-ignite your inspiration. A can’t-stop-smiling, a buzz with energy, can’t-wait-to-tell-the-world moment. We’re on the cusp of just such a big moment right now.

 

At this very second, Jergus Majernik, our stalwart Mechanical Engineer and in-house Machine Whisperer, is in China. He’s meeting with our partners at Homezest, taking the next step in our development process. After months of perfecting the roasting process and honing all the little details in the EB-1 stage, we’re ready to move on to the next step (You can see more about this process in the video below).

 

We’ve entered a very critical and exciting development stage. Jergus is currently working his magic on fine-tuning the electronic set-up, the nervous system of the Bonaverde machine. We have 200 machines, which we’re subjecting it to rigorous assessment, testing durability, programming, and the roasting and grinding process to make sure they meet our high standards. When the final product reaches your doorstep, we want it to be beyond functional. We want it to be a brilliant. We want it to create some of the sweetest moments of your day, every day.

With the Bill of Material, we can actually strengthen our partnership with our manufacturer Homezest in China, we can calculate much better our business model, plus, with that milestone cleared, we are able to let you know when that machine is going into mass production.

Luckily, we have the help of the incredible team at Homezest, who work with global players including SEB, Bosch and Siemens. We’re elated to continue growing and strengthening our partnership with them during this exciting development phase. If this round of testing is as successful as we expect it to be -and we expect it to be very successful – we will be able to finalize our Bill of Materials, or BOM. The BOM is important for purchasing, calculation, building relationships with manufacturing partners, and our business viability. It’s is a huge milestone in any industrial project.

A bill of materials (BoM) is a list of the parts or components that are required to build a product. The BoM provides the manufacturer’s part number (MPN) and the quantity needed for each component.

All of this makes for one very, very big moment. We’re hurtling down the road to bringing our passion project to market, turning our day dreams into realities. We’re going to revolutionize the coffee industry, one fresh, perfectly brewed cup at a time.

We never could have got here without you, Coffee Changers. Thank you for joining us on this wild ride. We’re excited to have you with us for the next big, magic moments.

We are into solving most dominant problems (electronics, air-vent-system and heat absorption) with partners and proceed with certification in the EB2 phase that is starting now.
Due to these difficulties we need to add an EB3 step: http://plan.bonaverde.com

The Coffee Cup Lifecycle and What You Can Do to Be More Sustainable

Coffee cups have been in the news lately, but for all the wrong reasons.

In the US, Starbucks stirred up a little controversy with its holiday-themed cups that, as Brenna Houck at Eater reports, were void of Christmas symbolism or any symbols at all. This was to “usher in the holidays with a purity of design that welcomes all of our stories,” Houck quotes a Starbucks vice president as saying.

No matter your opinion on this year’s Starbucks holiday cup, there’s a bigger question that people are missing, and it’s not whether the chain is anti-Christmas: What is going to happen to all those red cups when people are done with them?

More generally, what happens to any foam or paper coffee cup once your brew is gone? Is it recycled, is it biodegradable?

By understanding the coffee cup lifecycle and where waste like this goes, you can do your part to usher in a greener world.

Here is what you need to know about the current state of disposable coffee cups, where those cups go, and how we as a coffee-drinking planet can do better.

The Beginning of the Coffee Lifecycle: The Stages of Coffee Cup Production

Coffee Cup Assembly

There are, broadly, two types of disposable cups: Paper and foam. The latter is far less popular today than it was.

Green Your Cup, an organization that promotes the use of recyclable cups, has an informative page on how most paper cups are assembled and produced:

  1. These cups are typically sourced from generic, flattened-down cardboard.
  2. A layer of plastic is stuck on with glue.
  3. That layer “is bonded very strongly to the paper” and “provides the waterproof layer to the cup. Without this layer the cup would leak and the cup would go soft.”

The site points out that manufacturers used to use a wax coating to seal the inside of the cup, but it made everyone’s coffee taste bad.

Speaking of discontinued practices, foam cups have largely been abandoned because foam is so harmful to our bodies and to the environment. The Travels of BlueMenpachi wrote a post a few years ago about how these cups are made, back when the debate over using foam products was still alive. It’s useful to keep in mind if you come across a cafe or retailer that sells coffee in foam cups.

  1. Plastic foam pellets go through a temperature-altering process to shape them as necessary. Pellets can grow to 40 or 50 times their original size when heated.
  2. From there, the foam is molded into cups, plates, containers and other such items.

Printing and Large-Scale Manufacturing

After the paper or foam cup is shaped, it’s ready for printing and a little more insulation. Seattle-based organization Sustainability Is Sexy points out that the cup will receive yet another layer of plastic, a coating of polyethylene, at this point.

The site also mentions that manufacturing is “extremely resource intensive” because the paper pulp is made by breaking down wood chips, which are cleaned for impurities. “The resulting paper pulp is dried and the fibers are pressed together to make paper. The entire process requires a substantial amount of water, energy … and a lot of trees.”

 

The Next Stage of the Coffee Cup Lifecycle: Is Recycling Possible?

A Better You, a Better Planet: Fair Trade Resources for your Coffee Ingredients

Sustainability is not just a passing concern, but an ideal that everyone should be striving toward.

Your own sustainability efforts can begin right in your cup of coffee, especially if you choose fair trade ingredients. Under fair trade arrangements, the relationships built between coffee roasters and farmers in coffee-producing countries can be beneficial and remain transparent at all times.

When these farmers trade or sell their fair trade goods, they receive proper pay for their products. When farmers aren’t strong-armed into accepting inadequate compensation for their crops, they can afford to feed their families, keep a roof over their heads, take better care of themselves and buy treatments to keep their crops free from pests or bacteria.

If you want to make the switch to 100% fair trade resources for your coffee, here are 15 places to pick up the ingredients you need to top off a great cup.
Sugar
Tate + Lyle

Founded all the way back in 1878, the UK’s Tate + Lyle became a fair trade sugar producer in 2008. Since then, it’s helped benefit more than 20,000 small cane sugar farmers across four countries. Choose from natural pure cane sugar, organic turbinado raw cane sugar or organic pure cane sugar.

Plantation Reserve through the West Indies Sugar Company

Directly from Barbados comes the West Indies Sugar Company branch Plantation Reserve. “The island’s distinctive coral soils, gentle trade winds and a combination of beautiful sunshine and cooling rains create the perfect conditions for growing the world’s finest cane sugar,” the site writes.

According to the company, all of its sugar is “highly ethical & socially responsible” and can be used for baking or to add sweetness to your cup of coffee.

Wholesome!

Appropriately based in Sugar Land, Texas, Wholesome! foods are just that. Its sugars are organic, fair trade and numerous — you’ll find cane sugar, coconut palm sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, turbinado sugar, sucanat and powdered sugar.

Rapunzel

Bavaria’s Rapunzel has produced organic foods since 1984. The company started the Hand in Hand Project in 1987, which ensures that Rapunzel and its 14 partners produce the most sustainable quality products. Organic cane sugar from Brazil’s sugar mill called the Planeta Verde is good for you and good for the world around you.

Traidcraft

Non-governmental organization Traidcraft near London is one of the biggest fair trade resources in the UK. Founded in 1979, it has fair trade jewelry, toys, paper, clothes, household items, homewares and food. It also has a wide variety of fair trade sugars online, including white granulated sugar, dark Muscovado sugar, golden caster sugar, raw cane sugar and Demerara sugar.

scoop of sugar
Milk
Stonyfield Organic

Perhaps best known for its yogurt, Stonyfield Organic also produces cream and milk. In 2014, the company created the Farmer Training Program at a farm near its Maine, USA, headquarters to ensure that all of its ingredients and products are environmentally friendly.

So Delicious

So Delicious products are dairy-free, making them the perfect choice for vegans or conscious coffee drinkers. “Our business philosophy is based on a firm commitment to treating everyone and everything — our environment, animals, each other, our partners, and our community — with unwavering respect,” the company explains.

“That commitment affects everything we do, including how we source ingredients, how we manufacture products, the impact we leave on the natural world, and the partnerships we form to keep pushing ourselves forward.”

Natural Value

Created in 1995, Natural Value seeks to make sustainable, healthy and fair trade products more widespread and affordable for everyone. Its coconut milk is a great choice for your morning cup of coffee, as it excludes any guar gum, stabilizers, additives or GMOs. The ingredients list consists of only water and coconut and is gluten-free, vegan, organic and certified fair trade.

Organic Valley

Those in the US can use the Organic Valley website to search for farmers who produce organic and fair trade dairy products. The company supports CROPP Cooperative, which was founded in 1988 to push for more organic farming. Stock up on half and half, buttermilk, whole milk and the brand’s grassmilk, which is full of calcium and omega-3s.

Aurora Organic

Aurora Organic in Colorado, USA, supports more than 100 independent farmers in the country. The company is so responsible that it received Validus’ Animal Welfare certification for cow care. You can feel good choosing this brand of milk when you home-brew your coffee.

pouring milk
Chocolate
Alter Eco

With stores across the US and an online shop, there are plenty of ways to get scrumptious chocolates from San Francisco-based Alter Eco. If you decide to treat yourself and flavor your coffee with cocoa, the company’s nine co-ops ensure that 24,338 farmers are justly compensated for their products, leading to $1,457,271 worth of farm financing.

Shaman Organic Chocolates

Created to preserve the lives of central Mexico’s indigenous tribe the Huichol Indians, Shaman Organic Chocolates are all GMO-free, fair trade and organic. Adding some of this chocolate to your coffee is not only a guilt-free experience, but you’re also giving back by indulging in candy. How often does that happen?

DAGOBA Organic Chocolate

All cacao that goes into chocolates made by DAGOBA Organic Chocolate is certified by the Rainforest Alliance. The cacao is sourced from farmers in a co-op in Tanzania, the Finca Elvesia farm in the Dominican Republic and the San Juan de Cheni farm in Peru. The flavors of your chocolate can differ depending on its place of origin:

Tanzania — “Special fermentation practices result in a rich bouquet of berry flavors with notes of leather, fig and plum.”
The Dominican Republic — “Fermentation and roasting develops a balanced flavor blend of nuts, wild cherry, oak and tannin.”
Peru — “Cacao from this region carries a complex blend of fruit, rose and wine flavors.”

chocolate bar

Green & Black’s

Next time you want a dash of sweetness in your coffee, skip the sugar and try organic chocolate from Green & Black’s. “Our farmers grow their beans under the shade of rainforest trees alongside other crops like avocado, pineapple, coffee and bananas; such natural biodiversity helps safeguard our cocoa against disease,” the company explains. There are 11 total varieties of chocolate to choose from.

Camino

In Ottawa, Canada, the La Siembra co-op runs Camino. The company is responsible for teaming up with Fairtrade Canada, which pushes for certifications for products in the country. Try chocolate bars in such yummy flavors as espresso, orange, mint, caramel crunch, raspberries or coconut. You can also buy coffee here.