Sugar Encinitas: A coffeehouse where everything’s nice

Leucadia shop owner says he sees growth in craft coffee

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  • Sugar Coffee & Tea in Leucadia offers a variety of drinks, including mochas. (Photo by Troy Orem)

  • Customer Haley Toon pours her tea at Sugar Coffee & Tea on Feb. 20 in the Encinitas community of Leucadia. “I always get the cucumber green tea, or the chai tea; they have really good chai,” she says. (Photo by Troy Orem)

  • Sugar Coffee & Tea barista Katie Gressitt-Diaz prepares a mocha on Feb. 20. (Photo by Troy Orem)

  • “I like the fact that it has a lot more character than a standard chains out there, ” regular Sugar customer Sonny Raina says Feb. 20 at the Leucadia coffeehouse. (Photo by Troy Orem)

  • Sugar Coffee & Tea in Encinitas offers a variety of drinks, including teas. (Photo by Troy Orem)

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Debbie L. Sklar

Need a little sugar with your coffee?

If you’re in search of a signature cup of coffee minus the corporate setting, Sugar Coffee & Tea might just be up your alley.

You won’t see any corporate logos, cups or cookie-cutter baristas here, just the real deal. Its owner and president, Ryan Bertsch, says he decided to open Sugar in the Encinitas community of Leucadia two years ago, and he hasn’t looked back.

What Competition?

Another Encinitas coffee shop, you might be thinking? That doesn’t bother Bertsch. He’s not at all threatened by the competition that seems to be up and down most of the streets of Encinitas — be it more mom-and-pop coffee shops like his or the big guys.

“I see a huge movement in independent craft coffee vs. larger corporate coffee shops (i.e. Starbucks, Peet’s, Coffee Bean, etc.). Not that it hasn’t been there already, but San Diego is making big strides in providing more independent/craft coffee roasting/business,” he says.

“I always clarify my view as more of a business neighbor. Competition discussions merely create arguments,” Bertsch continues. “We are so busy focusing on our own method, there is no time to talk about it. As far as the local coffee business neighbors go, I haven’t met any of them. I think I saw one of Coffee Coffee’s owners once or twice. The roaster at Coffee Coffee Revolution Roasters is a past colleague of mine.”

Enjoying Encinitas

Bertsch says Encinitas is also a wonderful city to have business because, firstly, it’s a “fun place.”

“It has a lot of history. Our building was built in 1957, and was previously a hotel; we occupy two original suites,” he says. “Our style is different from that of the others. Our product is different too, and that’s what we are trying to share with as many people as possible.”

Customer Sonny Raina says the shop’s location in Leucadia adds to its charm.

“I like the fact that it has a lot more character than the standard chains out there, and the quality of coffee and service are excellent,” Raina says while sitting at his computer. The coffeehouse offers free wireless Internet access.

As for Bertsch, he knows coffee and then some. His professional background is in pharmaceuticals, specifically in chemistry and biochemistry. He’s also been in the food industry since he was 16 years old when he started working at Alpha Beta supermarket. From there, he worked at Thrifty as an ice cream server. He even did a stint at Little Caesars while in high school, and other various restaurants and even a country club.

Just like almost everyone else these days, Bertsch also loves coffee and being in the coffee business.

“People love coffee. Americans are by far the first in coffee consumption since being introduced years ago. Some need it to get going; I love it for its taste. It helps me get going, too, sometimes,” he says.

As for his favorite coffee drink, he’s quick to answer: “My favorite is a short latte. Second is Americano.”

Customers enjoy the shop’s collection of teas, as well.

“I always get the cucumber green tea, or the chai tea, they have really good chai,” customer Haley Toon says as she works at her computer. “I like that it’s more quiet and they usually have some good music playing.”


In terms of Encinitas’ coffee prices overall, Bertsch says prices vary from shop to shop. With that said, product varies, as well.

“I think our prices are fair for the quality we are providing. Coffee bean prices vary with respect to production,” he explains.

Bertsch must be doing something right since he also owns Sugar Carlsbad, which made its debut last May. It’s located at the Island at Carlsbad, in the middle of the business district where Faraday Avenue meets College Boulevard.

As for the clever names of his shops, Bertsch says his wife is the brainchild.

“My wife is my partner,” he says. “We work together daily and we decide together.”

Sugar Encinitas is located at 466 N. Coast Highway 101, Suite 1, in Leucadia. Call 760-452-6701 for more information.

Freelance photographer Troy Orem contributed to this story. Debbie L. Sklar is a freelance writer in the region.

Do you have a favorite independent North Coast coffee shop you’d like to see featured in the Current’s Real Beans series? Let us know at