Couple provides coffee and respite to bicyclists, runners, and visitors at Malibu’s ‘Top of the World’

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Cyclists enjoy a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning at Hannah and Andrzej Lawnik's portable, tiny Hanjay Café.

Pop-up espresso bar Hanjay Café is a surprise to weekend warriors 

Every weekend hundreds of cyclists are drawn to Malibu’s rolling hills offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and an abundance of nature. Now, a new treat awaits those with enough strength and fortitude to make it up one of Malibu’s most challenging peaks known as “Top of the World.”

Grinding up a mountain early in the morning knowing a hot coffee was waiting for you at the top might make that slog a little easier thanks to the charming espresso bar, Hanjay Café, which is often parked at the top of Stunt Road.

The portable, tiny Hanjay Café was dreamed up by Hannah and Andrzej Lawnik using a portmanteau of their names. This mountaintop pop-up miniature café turns out made-to-order handcrafted specialty coffees, cappuccinos, cortados, and more from a single Italian-made, solar-powered espresso machine offering an unexpected treat that’s more than just food and a hot beverage.

The Lawniks are avid cyclists and wanted to support the local cycling community. “We missed this after Europe, those little espresso stops while biking. This seemed like a perfect spot for us,” said Hannah Lawnik.

While training for Ironman races, the 31-year-old noticed a lot of cyclists stopping at the summit of Stunt Road, but “there was no community. I always thought it’d be so great to have someplace to refuel water, have a snack and develop a community.” For the last two years the café has been operating sporadically but “it’s been a huge success.”

Hanjay Café offers homemade treats, a full espresso menu with lattes, cappuccinos, including with oat milk.  

“We stick to the European style, nothing flavored. No caramel macchiatos,” Hannah said. “We’re based on the model of a European café. Only decaf teas.”  Their biggest sellers are lattes and baked goods.

Asked about the joy she brings people, Hannah answered, “Oh my gosh. I’m sometimes brought to tears. There’ve been people who told us that they take off of work on a Saturday so they can come up here and catch us, that they heard about us from a friend of a friend of a friend. We’ve been told that people are talking about us in cafes in Italy. It’s an excitement that word’s getting out, that we’re just up here for the community.”

Andrzej added, “This is where we live, where our home is. This is where Hannah was born. Even though I come from Warsaw, this is where I’ve planted my roots. There’s nothing more joyful than to be in nature and supporting local community with something we love. It’s pure joy being here.  We love hiking as well and this couldn’t be a better place for it.”

Joshua Mandell from Sherman Oaks first noticed the café when cycling and noticed a “big line” at the “Top of the World.” On a recent Saturday he sipped an espresso during a pause on his 60-mile ride. “It’s a perfect break on a nice ride,” he said. “It’s picturesque, this café with the view behind it.”

Ido Shalmoni isn’t a cyclist. The Woodland Hills resident likes to drive up just to see the view, saw the café, and stopped for a drink. “It’s crazy in a good way,” he said, and when asked if he’ll return, Shalmoni answered, “100 percent!”

The young married Lawniks have full-time jobs in the adventure travel business and Andrzej is a professional photographer. So,the café operates spontaneously, but typically Saturday mornings.

Cyclist Tricia Baak of Pacific Palisades found the café a few months ago. “I biked up here and discovered them,” she said, adding that she usually rides every Saturday in Malibu. On her typical 40-mile rides Baak stops at “this little gem of community” for coffee and pastries.

Homemade dairy- free cookies were $4 last Saturday. Drinks are pay what you can. Baak says she usually spends $12 by Venmo. “They haul this all up here for us,” she said. “Why not?”

It takes the couple a full day to prepare their cart loaded with coffees, milks, espresso machine, cookies, and cups, plus a full day to clean up once they’re home.

On a recent Saturday the café was bustling with visitors gazing over the sprawling vista, sipping espressos, and enjoying a moment of respite, while meeting new friends over the simple pleasures of coffee.

Check Instagram @HanjayCafe for their Saturday schedule, typically 9 a.m. to noon or when they sell out.   “It’s a big commitment, but we love doing it,” Hannah said.