Kaldi Coffee & Tea | South Pasadena

There are few locations in all of southern California as beautiful or charming as the Kaldi’s Coffee & Tea in South Pasadena.

Sitting outside the coffee shop I enjoy watching kids and adults walking, riding beach cruisers, and lounging around the adjacent historic South Pasadena library – which boasts some of the most amazing San Gabriel trees around and a spacious green lawn. Parking is doable, and there is rarely a long line, but I doubt that’s due to amazing service.

Kaldi’s suffers, in my opinion, from a nonchalant posture about it’s prize in the most important of competitions when it comes to retail: location, location, location. And because the owner, I observe, isn’t pouring the energy and passion into the actual products a coffee shop is expected to produce – those products end up boring.

The cappuccino is mediocre. It’s not good, to be fair. But put side by side with many of the ‘get me out of here’ coffee shops in the area, it’s bearable. Coffee is the same, if fresh – which many times 3 of the 4 airpots won’t be.

The food is not really better. The concept of ‘lifelessness’ is best seen in that they have a peanut butter-n-jelly sandwich on the menu. What is that about? Then the server asked if I wanted it “on white, wheat, or rye.” I said rye, thinking for a half second they must know something I don’t. Thankfully, before he could make it, I pleaded for wheat – which turned out to taste exactly like the little 1/2 sandwiches I was given in vacation bible school, wrapped in little plastic sandwich bags.

And ambiance, though a redeeming quality here, is still tapered by the distinct ‘yard-saleish’ quality of the furniture, and lack of attention by servers. I have in the past waited forever on ordered drinks and food. You also get the feeling that they just don’t care what you think. It’s just a feeling, mind you. But I’ve NEVER seen a smile from the other side of the bar. I don’t know why, but after 15-20something visits in the last 2 years, that has to mean something.

Oh that the owners would be re-born and smell coffee again like I’m sure they did a long long long time ago. I’m feeling my unrequited love start to wear out. Maybe next time I’ll pack my own peanut butter sandwich and enjoy the San Gabriel trees – coffee free.


South Pasadena, CA

Kaldi Coffee & Tea
1019 El Centro St
South Pasadena, CA