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Huh.

Wandering up Mission Boulevard when I pass by a bunch of laptoppers sitting right next to me at a plank counter that’s open to the sidewalk.

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Then the Big Question: “Did you know? The lighter the roast, the HIGHER the caffeine! We roast our coffee less to give YOU more flavor and a BETTER BUZZ!”

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Lord: so dark isn’t stronger? On the other hand, it makes sense that the more you bake those poor innocent beans, the less oils and caffeine they give up. Hey! Coffee’s joining the Raw movement?

Suddenly I’m curious.

Plus this is when I remember: This is Better Buzz Coffee Lab (3745 Mission Boulevard, Mission Beach, 858-858-488-0400). Ian Pike came in here last month and survived a cup. Discovered the “Kyoto Drip,” the room temperature drip thing that you can go into a deep Zen trance by just watching all day as it makes its way through the Dr. Frankenstein lab equipment into your cup. (Okay into a beaker first.)

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Kyoto coffee: It's alive!

Me, I don’t need trance, I need wake-up, the strength to make it through the rest of the day. Plus now I’d like to see if there’s reality behind the “buzz” buzz.

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Inside: woody, plus fifties "lab" tiles

But here’s the funny thing. I make my way past 32 different term papers all being written at the same time to the counter and order a straight joe, but light-roasted, to test the theory.

It’s while the barista, Michael, is working on that that I spot the “Eat” menu. Hmm. Usual suspects: like, acai bowls with hemp Granola and bee pollen ($6.50), or toast with cranberry/orange/walnut ($3.50).

Or organic oatmeal ($3.75) with choice of “brown sugar cinnamon, brown sugar, almonds, cranberries, raisins.”

Don’t quite get what the choice is, and anyway, oatmeal? This time of day?

Then I think why not? I mumble cinnamon and order the danged thing.

The other barista, Sarah, brings it all.

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Michael, Sarah

The coffee's in the usual paper thingy, but the oatmeal comes in a little square preserves jar with that spring-wire-sealed lid.

I take everything up to the plank right on the sidewalk.

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The glass window has been hauled up like a garage door, and if you can handle the knifey little chill breeze, it’s the perfect people-watching spot.

I open the oatmeal carefully. Steam pours out. It’s beautifully hot, spicey and crunchy with the slivered almonds.

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Michael says these guys are part of a local chain, but one that's into really good coffee, first and foremost. "We get a students coming here to work because we're open after three. Lot of places nearby close after lunchtime," he says.

Long and short: coffee’s great, but it's the oatmeal. By the time I’ve spooned down this oatmeal I feel the energy surging back. Spring in the heels. Leave feeling lighter than when I came in. A miracle!

If this is a back to the future thing going on, I'm for it.

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