Los Angeles and the making of a Great Coffee City

Reise, Urbano Americano, USA

Urbano Americano's passion for coffee LA guide. Photo: Devan Wells
Urbano Americano’s passion for coffee LA guide. Photo: Devan Wells

Portland, Oslo, Melbourne. All cities well-regarded for their coffee culture. Los Angeles? Not so much. However, that is changing. Fast. Coffee in Los Angeles is as good as its ever been, and is finally starting to be taken serious as a coffee destination.

In the past few years, Angelenos have gone coffee crazy, opening and embracing coffee shops and bars every bit as good as those in traditional coffee capitals. From modest one-room affairs barely big enough to sit down with your flat white, to elaborately done warehouses with on-site roasteries: the places and the people behind them are as diverse as the city itself. A life-long Los Angeles native, barista, and coffee lover myself, here are several – in no particular order – of my favorite places to get coffee in LA.

Go Get Em Tiger
(230 N. Larchmont Blvd) – nestled in cozy and affluent Larchmont Village, the brick and mortar operation from beloved (and award-winning) baristas Charles Babinski and Kyle Glanville, of Intelligentsia, Sqirl, and G&B fame, is barely a year old, yet already carries the air of a neighborhood institution. The small and well-curated shop carries a rotating selection of coffees from niche roasters such as Heart, Ritual, and Tim Howell. Its mainstream claim to fame, however, is the iced latté – the New York Times dubbed the handshaken drink the best of its kind. My personal favorite is the “business and pleasure”, a clever three-for-one with a shot of espresso, citra hops-infused sparkling oolong tea, and a handshaken almond milk (of which is made in-house, naturally) cappuccino.

Foto: Devan Wells
Go Get Em Tiger. Photo: Devan Wells

Mennoti’s Coffee Stop
(56 Windward Ave) – another recent entrant, this lovingly done Venice hole-in-the-wall is run by none other than Christopher “Nicely” Alameda. Nicely, a latté art award-winning barista with an almost cult-like following for his intricate latté art, is a warm, affable person and enthusiastic barista. Exclusively brewing San Francisco’s Four Barrel coffee – the logo of which Nicely recently had tattooed – the latté art here is a work of art: vivacious tulips and luscious rosetta spreads adorning lattés, cappuccinos and cortados. Paying homage to its eclectic Venice Beach location, Nicely and staff always have soulful classics playing – anything from Sly and the Family Stone, to Michael Jackson, to Brazilian funk sweetheart Tim Maia is game. And the crowd is equally reflective of its surroundings, meaning one can (and should) expect to see anyone and everyone. Dogs are welcome, too.

Photo: Devan Wells
Mennoti’s Coffee Stop. Photo: Devan Wells

Stumptown Coffee Roasters
(806 S. Santa Fe Ave) – this Portland export, comfortable housed in a gigantic Arts District warehouse, complete with a dedicated roastery, is a real joy. On a still industrial stretch of Santa Fe, Stumptown brews Stumptown coffee and serves baked goods from neighboring Bread Lounge. Also available are a wide selection of Stumptown coffees; the Duromina, an Ethiopian coffee with notes of lemonade, hops, and peach juice, is a personal favorite.  The operation is slick, and from the single-origin espresso drinks and on-tap cold brew, to the self-serve Fetco stations – of which you pay a small “donation” to – the whole place drips with clean, slick industrial cool.

Stumptown. Photo: Devan Wells
Interior view of Stumptown. Photo: Devan Wells

Intelligentsia Coffee
(3922 W. Sunset Blvd) – easily the granddaddy of this list, and with its unique, salmon-colored building and Moroccan-inspired floor tiles, Intelli (as it is casually known), is a Silverlake institution. Opening way back in 2007, Intelligentsia popularized specialty coffee in a city that was otherwise barren and devoid of quality caffeinated options. Perched on prime real estate in the buzzing Sunset Junction, the people watching is among the best in the city, with an eclectic mix of Silverlake locals, destination-minded visitors, Hollywood types, and the occasional celeb. On offer is Intelligentsia coffee, espresso-based drinks, and teas, alongside the ever iconic California flag mugs.

Coffee and cookie at Intelligentsia. Photo: Devan Wells
Iced latté, cappuccino, and cookie at Intelligentsia. Photo: Devan Wells

G&B Coffee
(324 Hill St.) – the coffee bar from Go Get Em Tiger proprietors Charles Babinski and Kyle Glanville brought quality coffee and sparkling teas to Downtown’s Grand Central Market, a rougher, more “lived in” version of the European food markets and eating halls popular throughout the continent. By utilizing the first-come-first-serve format typically used in bars, G&B negated the need for a stand-alone space, thus revolutionizing the LA coffee scene. Props. Much like Go Get Em Tiger, on offer is a smart collection of coffees from Heart, Ritual, and Tim Howell, with drip coffee on Fetco, and much-lauded iced lattés, among other caffeinated drinks.

Photo: Devan Wells
G&B Coffee. Photo: Devan Wells
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