SoCal Coffee Culture
While its no Portland or San Francisco, L.A. certainly has its own cutting-edge coffee scene. In the past few years L.A. has experienced a renaissance in the specialty coffee scene with the third-wave coffee movement sweeping the city by storm. Many store fronts, coffee bars, and coffee shops are popping up all over the city--Downtown, Hollywood, Melrose, Silverlake, Venice, Arts District, Culver City, everywhere!!--curating a selection of artisanal beans from premier roasters along the West Coast. Coffee has transformed from an everyday commodity into a specialty food item along; the whole process from harvesting the bean through roasting to brewing is treated with a reverence comparable to the creation of a craft beer or growing of a high-class wine. High-quality coffee has become an almost mandatory precursor to a day in L.A., and with the coffee renaissance there are plenty of coffee bars to caffeinate on a delicious cup of that sweet brown nectar of the gods. Without further ado, here are a few of the noteworthy and not-to-miss third-wave coffee shops sprouting up throughout L.A.
1. Blacktop Coffee
Over in East L.A.'s Arts District, Blacktop Coffee is a cozy, tiny space brewing reminiscent of a European coffee bar with their small 200 foot espresso bar and outdoor sitting area with tree stump stools and benches. Their coffee isn't roasted in house, but sourced from Sightglass Coffee up in San Francisco. Their menu covers whites (lattes, cappucinos), blacks (espresso shots and milk-less coffee beverages), and chocolates (mochas)--any and all espresso based beverages in addition to a mean nitro cold brew. On top of the delectable coffees, they serve a few breakfast items (most notably their avocado toast) and have a food truck posted out front on weekend days. Come for a morning coffee and start your day off on a bright and caffeinated note in this Arts District gem.
Nestled in the bustling Grand Central Marketplace in downtown L.A., G&B brews a seriously bitchin' cup of coffee in a seriously elegant space. From a small pop-up in Sqirl Cafe (Virgil Village LA), G&B has grown into one of the premier coffee bars in L.A. offering selectively sourced beans to maximize taste. Oh, and they also minimize the fuss of the whole coffee experience by offering bar service at their counter so you skip the hassle of a line and order from any staff in a more personalized experience.
Protip: If you hit Grand Central Marketplace for brunch at Eggslut stop at G&B and pick up a coffee while you wait for your food to be ready.
But first, Coffee. Alfred coffee really hits the nail on the head: coffee is a precursor to a day in L.A. They have multiple locations around the city (Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Melrose Place, Melrose in the Alley, Silverlake, Studio City), but their Melrose store is my personal recommendation. Their coffee is sourced from Stumptown Roasters, a reputable roaster from Portland, and their store fronts offer a very chic Angeleno aesthetic. It's a bona fide Instagram destination with its bold aesthetic: floral wallpaper, white tiled walls, and infusion of the color green. It's a true Angeleno scene where coffee, design and fashion all intersect. But first, coffee.
4. Dinosaur Coffee
Over in L.A.'s hipster hangout, Silverlake, is Dinosaur Coffee, a laid-back independent coffee house serving some strong-ass cups of coffee (sourced from San Francisco's Four Barrel coffee, my favorite coffee shop/roaster in the U.S.). Despite being situated next to a few coffee shops (Caffe Vita, Intelligentsia, etc) in Silverlake on Sunset Boulevard, Dinosaur Coffee has carved out a niche in the local community with their friendly and personable service, spacious interior, quality coffee (and tea), and occasional nightly events that include music shows, comedy nights, karaoke, coffee competitions, and more!
5. Deus ex Machina
Deus ex Machina is a hybrid coffee shop, art gallery, and clothing boutique showcasing the brand's surf/skate/motorcycle wear. It's truly a chill hang-out spot with indoor and outdoor seating at both more personal and communal tables, seats, and benches. They serve up beans courtesy of Handsome Coffee Roasters--a subsidiary of Blue Bottle Coffee purchased from the coffee mastermind behind Blacktop Coffee--as well as a delectable selection of fruit, pastries, and paninis. Coffee in hand, peruse their selection of fashionable clothes, check out their badass motorcycles, or post up and get some work done in a very Venice ambiance.
Verve Coffee Roasters started as a passion project between friends who grew up in Santa Cruz, California with a love of the ocean and a fiendish passion for coffee. From humble origins they have developed a coffee empire that pours love into the roasting process to create outstanding flavor profiles with attention to detail. All their beans are ethically sourced and far exceed the requirements of Fairtrade programs, which means you're not only enjoying a finely crafted cup of coffee, but positively impacted (coffee) farming communities around the globe.
7. Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea
Intelligentsia's roots date back to 1995 in not-so-sunny Chicago when its coffee entrepreneur owners decided to open their own coffeebar roasting their beans on some seriously antique machinery. Since then their small project has blossomed into a renowned coffee bar, roaster, sourcer, everything and anything coffee. With locations in Boston, Chicago, New York and of course Los Angeles (Venice, Silverlake, and Pasadena) that cover coffee bars, roasting works, and training labs, Intelligentsia is no stranger to dreaming big. They've introduced the concept of direct trade to the coffee industry and are committed to fair trade pricing as well as sustainable farming & environmental practices. Their goal is to make coffee an acceptable luxury and they have undoubtedly done that, and more.
8. Cognoscenti Coffee
From humble origins as a pop-up shop, Cognoscenti Coffee has upgraded to their own brick & mortars location in Culver City, the Fashion District, and South Park. Their store front (Culver City) is chic and minimalist featuring a rotating selection of roasters, both local and out of state. While Culver City isn't an L.A. destination in and of itself, stop in to re-caffeinate and dodge dreaded traffic on the 10 freeway or come by on a Wednesday for a coffee and hit the Guerilla Tacos truck posted out front.
9. Blue Bottle
Legend has it that the first blue bottle coffee dates back to the late 1600s when Franz George Kolshitsky, a man caught between Asia (and the rising Ottoman empire) and Europe (Austria) who is credited with creating the first coffee house--The Blue Bottle--in Vienna after Turks evacuated the city leaving behind mysterious bags of aromatic brown beans--what he knew to be coffee. Fast forward 300+ years to the early 2000s when a young third-wave coffee entrepreneur devoted his life to the sale of fresh coffee to Californians, maximizing the potential for flavor with each specific bean. On top of their dedication to fresh roasting practices, Blue Bottle works directly with farmers to source sustainable beans with maximal flavor. Today the Blue Bottle empire spans across the globe with locations in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, New York, Washington D.C., Miami, and Tokyo. Check out any of their 12 locations in L.A., though my personal favorites are Abbot Kinney and Fairfax locations.
10. Go Get 'Em Tiger
Serving up the same delicious coffee as its sister shop, G&B, Go Get 'Em Tiger has become a community fixture over in Larchmont. The coffee is naturally high-quality and paired with locally sourced and fresh breakfast foods that complement that sweet brown nectar of the gods incredibly well. Most days you'll find the same baristas and the same locals posted up here, and for good reason.
Over in West L.A. at Demitasse Coffee Roasters are some serious coffee geeks and tinkerers offering some of that sweet, delicious brown nectar of the gods. They have a bitchin' cold brew slow drip display, a steampunk coffee brewer, micro-roastery, coffee cuppings, home brewing & roasting classes, and free wifi for all you millenials. Check out Demitasse and ask for your barista's signature drink to expand your coffee horizons.
Locations in Little Tokyo, West Hollywood, Santa Monica.
12. Bar Nine (Collective)
Another hidden gem in Culver City is Bar Nine Collective. Located in an expansive warehouse space with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, Bar Nine curates a quasi-futuristic vibe along with some seriously artisan coffee. They roast on site so it's safe to say the baristas know their beans, and with Bar Nine's coffee provider (Ninety Plus Coffee Agents) commitment to ethical social practices, restoration ecology and sustainable farming (mainly in Ethiopia and Panama), they have a very well rounded and holistic approach to the curation of their third-wave coffee.
Other honorable considerations:
- Espresso Cielo