This adorable boba shop in a train caboose near San Francisco is the perfect post-hike treat – SF Gate

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P-Town Coffee and Tea owners Ashlee Shelton, left, and Jeremy-Tristahn Bascara Jr. hold some of their signature boba offerings outside their cafe, located in a train caboose, in Pacifica, Calif.
Just across the street from one of Pacifica’s most popular coastal hiking trails sits a little red caboose that’s been turned into a cafe. This in itself is not unique — in this shopping plaza alone, there’s a barbecue spot in a converted railcar as well as an old train station that’s been transformed into a steakhouse. 
P-Town Coffee and Tea, though, serves not only your standard coffee and bagels, but also boba — some of the best I’ve ever had. And I’m saying this as a former resident of Berkeley, boba mecca of the Bay Area. 
Downtown Pacifica is viewable from the Mori Point Loop Trail in Pacifica, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2021.
After tackling the fairly short but sometimes treacherous Mori Point Loop Trail, I knew I deserved a reward. I’d endured narrow stretches of rocky trail nail-bitingly close to the edge of a cliff, had my face mauled by the relentless wind and was out of breath after ascending the steep Bootlegger’s Steps. Sure, it was all incredibly beautiful, but it was lunchtime, and I’d had enough sand pelted at my face — I needed to be somewhere less windy, preferably with snacks. 
Maybe it’s my vegetarianism that made me beeline for P-Town Coffee and Tea instead of the two meatier options near the trailhead, but I’m glad I did. At first, the large block-lettered “COFFEE” sign on top of the caboose was what beckoned me, but another sign below announcing “boba tea,” as well as a waving mannequin in overalls and a pug flag flapping in the wind (more on the pug theme later), sealed the deal.
A labyrinth and other rock formations are visible along the Mori Point Loop Trail in Pacifica, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2021.
Inside, I was immediately overwhelmed by a long and eclectic boba menu, from Nutella milk tea to chipotle pineapple and mango. P-Town seemingly had everything: bagel sandwiches, pastries, a drool-worthy chocolate macadamia nut latte and even cute earrings for sale. 
The person in front of me ordered the Rainbow Railroad, a very Instagrammable pastel pink and blue beverage made with butterfly pea flower tea, watermelon and cotton candy. I was intrigued but settled on something a little less sugar-bomby: the strawberry mango mojito with green tea, as recommended to me by very friendly co-owner Jeremy-Tristahn Bascara Jr. 
Left to right, the Nutella frappuccino, Ode to Pacifica (a taro white mocha), the Rainbow Railroad and Strawberry Mango Mojito are some of the signature boba and coffee drinks available at P-Town Coffee and Tea in Pacifica, Calif.
As it turns out, my drink was on the “secret menu,” a reference that took me straight back to my short-lived days as a Jamba Juice employee. This secret menu, however, wasn’t so secret — it was written in chalk on a small blackboard beneath the main menu at the front counter. 
“It’s too hard to fit everything on the menu, so this adds a little bit of allure to it, a little bit of  novelty like, ‘Ooh, what’s the secret menu?’” explained Bascara. 
The first sip of my mojito boba, which was nonalcoholic, was heaven after a day spent breaking a sweat outside. Refreshingly fruity and not too sweet, the pile of fresh mint made it feel a little sophisticated. Basking in the sun on the coffee shop’s homey outdoor seating area, I think I downed it in five minutes flat.

Customers walk down the steps of P-Town Coffee and Tea, a cafe in a train caboose, in Pacifica, Calif.
This charming caboose lived many lives before becoming P-Town Coffee and Tea — most recently as another coffee shop, and before that as a jewelry store. A placard inside the train car dates it back to 1935, when the previous owners believed it was part of the historic Pacific Coast Railway, which ran from 1882 to 1941 on California’s Central Coast. 
Owners Bascara and Ashlee Shelton, a long-time Peet’s Coffee barista, stumbled across the caboose on Craigslist after deciding they wanted to open their first business together. Unfortunately, their opening day happened to be March 1, 2020. 
“We didn’t have any idea what was going to happen 11 days later,” said Shelton. “… The first two weeks were great, and then it was really slow for two or three months.”
P-Town Coffee and Tea owners, center back, Ashlee Shelton and Jeremy-Tristahn Bascara Jr. help out customers inside their cafe in a train caboose in Pacifica, Calif., on Sept. 15 ,2021.
They used the downtime for research and development on new boba and coffee concoctions, and eventually, business picked back up. A year and a half into the pandemic later, they said they feel fortunate to still be standing.
“It’s one of my favorite places, so I was really happy that we found the place in Pacifica,” said Shelton. “I’ve always wanted to live there.”
When the couple first began dating in 2018, Shelton was living in San Jose, working two jobs while also going to school, and Bascara was living in San Francisco, working 70-hour weeks as a power line worker. The idea to open a business together came in part from the simple desire to spend more time together (“Why did I want to own a coffee shop? The answer, much like myself, is not very complex at all — I did it for my girlfriend, because it was cheaper than a wedding ring,” jokes Bascara on the coffee shop’s website).
P-Town Coffee and Tea owners Ashlee Shelton and Jeremy-Tristahn Bascara Jr. have four pugs. Their love for pugs is evident in pug decor hidden around the store.
“We would have one day every week where we’d be able to get together,” explained Bascara. “… As much life that we sacrificed the 10 years that we were working six days a week and 14-hour days, with all the money that we saved up, we could start something on our own and spend more time together. Unfortunately, we opened in a crazy time, but luckily we’ve been able to survive.”
Now, the couple has moved to Pacifica together with their four pugs, who are celebrated with an array of pug paraphernalia in the shop (even in their logo, if you look closely). They now spend six days a week together working in the snug 200-square-foot caboose — a complete 180 from how little time they used to have together.. 
“We run into each other a lot. During the weekend, it gets super busy — it’s like an art form, it’s like a dance,” said Bascara. “It took us a while to get used to each other and figure out how each of us like to work, but after a while, it’s kind of like second nature.”

Two bicyclists take in the view of the shoreline along the Mori Point Loop Trail in Pacifica, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2021.
While Shelton and Bascara inherited much of the bagel and coffee menu from the previous coffee shop, the addition of boba was all them. There weren’t many other boba shops in Pacifica, so it felt like a smart business decision — plus, boba “makes for a nice reward after you go hiking or surfing,” said Bascara.
They started out with the basics, but then began experimenting with more unique flavors they liked, inspired by everything from Bascara’s love of Nutella to Shelton’s love of mojitos. 
“When we first started dating, we would frequent Dutch Bros a lot,” explained Bascara. “So our place is like an homage to Dutch Bros and a boba tea shop in San Jose that we liked to go to a lot.”
“The 56,” a bagel with cream cheese, bacon, tomato and pesto, is one of the specialties at P-Town Coffee and Tea in Pacifica, Calif.
While the caboose’s quirky setting and diverse boba flavors are tempting enough, it’s the owners’ warm personalities that make P-Town Coffee worth the trip out to foggy Pacifica.
“One person told me that they could get a frappuccino anywhere, but they come here for the friendly service,” said Shelton. 
“Where else can you get boba and coffee and earrings and pastries and bagels in one place?” added Bascara. “It’s everything that we love. It’s basically our personalities in the store … maybe it’s a bit overwhelming, but we’re just doing our thing.”
Customers enjoy the outdoor seating at P-Town Coffee and Tea, located in a train caboose, in Pacifica, Calif.
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Madeline Wells is a reporter for SFGATE covering food and drink in the Bay Area. She grew up in the Seattle area and received her B.A. in English and Media Studies from UC Berkeley. Prior to SFGATE, she was an associate editor at East Bay Express and freelance writer covering the Bay Area music scene. Email:


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