• Alyssa Chen

Coffee and the City: Los Angeles

Updated: May 8

When talking about coffee, I can barely call myself a connoisseur. To me, drinking coffee is more like a sensual experience, rather than the technical analysis. Of course, the coffee beans, the way to brew coffee that contribute to the taste still matter. What I mean is, the interior design, ambience and every little detail in a cafe are equally important and a completion to the experience. Cafes can also been seen as a “phenomenon” in an everyday urban environment- they reflect a city’s lifestyle, and further characterize the urbanity. That’s why I love visiting cafes in different cities- it is a good way not only to discover the taste of gourmet, but also the personality and culture of the city that nourish these cafes.


My recent stay in Los Angeles allows me to rediscover and discover different perspective on urbanity through my cafe experience. Los Angeles is well known for its inspiring arts and diverse cultural experiences. There are insane amount of coffee shops in this charismatic city and growing coffee culture to go with it. Below are few I have visited and impressing me in different aspects.



GiorgiPorgi


Before we are physically in the store, I have learned from my friend that it’s a super dope place- the owner Giorgi only opens the shop whenever she wants. The shop is located in LA downtown- the neighborhood looks shabby, grungy and definitely not seem the most accessible area. No signs, names, banners, only a skinny door to the shop. However, I fell in love with this cafe at the first glance! The interior design is very industrial and earthy- a huge moss wall/ceiling at the entrance, further down comes a simplistic coffee bar in a cement surrounding with neon ceiling design. There is no menu here. Either you know what you want, or the barista would ask you two questions- milk or no milk, hot or cold- and make the drink for you. The taste of coffee is not a wow but has been a high quality for me, not to mention that the creative cupwares elevate the whole experience! We had a good chat with the barista and it is a pure pleasure for me to just observe them making and serving beverages with a cool attitude! This is a very unique place and one of my most favorite in LA.



Blue Bottle


My friend told me that Blue Bottle was the cafe for the hipsters and the fastest expanding one now not only in the US but also globally. I have to admit my bias after learning this debrief as being a trend follower is the least thing I want to do (my ego…!!) Perhaps it’s the best when one does not hold any expectation- I couldn’t find a precise word to describe how joyful and pleasantly surprised while drinking that look-so-normal Latte. That aroma and rich taste made my day and I couldn’t resist the temptation to go back for that wonderful experience!


The Blue Bottle I visited is at Playa Vista- it is very small, subtly decorated. However, altogether with the fantastic drink and super friendly baristas, it provides a relaxing, calm and sensual escape experience- more like a welcoming oasis in urban life. Sipping coffee in this setting makes me feel that life is beautiful for being simple!



Stumptown


It is my friend’s most favorite in LA in terms of the taste of coffee. I have to confess that I was too full to have anything when visiting this cafe. Still, I cannot forego this cafe for its other attractiveness to me. The Portland-based shop (FYI: everyone tells me that Portland is famous for its being weird. I assume that means characteristic!) is located in an art district. Before entering the shop, I smell the cool personality already by seeing the signage “WE WELCOME ALL…you’re SAFE here” and a punk customer sitting at the front door. The interior has an urban warehouse vibe yet the the decoration and baristas are laid-back and friendly. I only realized that they also serve unusual pastries- Kimchi croissant, Miso butter scotch cookies- after leaving. It is definitely my biggest regret for not being able to save some space in stomach for them!



Intelligentsia


It is a household name in LA when it comes to high-end coffee: they buy their beans directly from farmers around the world. From the line queuing outside the shop, one can already tell that it is a hipster place. To me, this cafe has a strong attitude – from the laid-back seating outside, industrial chic interior, the open space concept, knowledgeable baristas who are proud of their craft, and the spectacular view with almost everyone working in front of laptop. Coffee is definitely impeccable here ( I can still remember the WOW on my first taste!), which attracts quite many coffee snobs here. That could be the reason why the baristas could sometimes look austere to customers who don’t know coffee well, according to my friend. If that’s true, I would say it is a perfect integral part of the cool style to this shop.


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