shot to the heart
Coffee is a legal drug. And, Los Angeles is its pusher man.
I wish my opinion of the coffee and culture of Los Angeles could be easily said it exists, because of my hometown affinity to the city. However, my ethics as a writer and a journalist to report truth, opinion and actual findings would betray such an idea.
While I love the east coast as well as the west, it is with an overwhelming sensation from actual experience in the coffee shops of the city that I find my self surprised, intrigued and inspired by what Los Angeles coffee culture is and continues to become.
The spirit here remains overwhelmingly welcoming. The spaces continue to push the idea of bar design in the interest of customer service – there’s the panoramic bars that allow baristas to see you no matter where you are; front-of-house-bars aligned with fresh florals that greet you upon entry, near horse shoe shaped bars that service you irrespective of how a stool might seat you and cafe redesigns – although not nearly five year old are happening, for the pursuit of aesthetic and hospitality happiness.
Then, there is the unlisted menu item called customization – the offering that happens individually by each cafè, the item that you can only get there, at a certain time, by a certain barista and on a certain day. It could be flavored farmer’s market sourced kombucha in Silverlake, pies and Thai infused signature drinks in Chinatown, after hours events in Venice, throw downs in the Inland Empire, lifestyle tracts in exterior counties where coffee isn’t just grouped with a lifestyle, it is one; books upon books and entire albums played at a time in Echo Park; hand made alternative milks in Larchmont; day classes, and pop up food vendors in Culver City, Long Beach and Downtown L.A. and so much more. All these aforementioned things are as much an accoutrement to a cafè as its choice of in-season florals.
I’ve longed for this apex moment in specialty coffee. While the apex isn’t fully here – it’s still arriving in a way – the full embodiment of coffee as a lifestyle is definitely on a journey to being so integrated to how one receives it, that there’s enough to start watching it express itself outside of a moniker vacuum of specialty coffee only. I mean look at the Moleskine store in Milan!
I haven’t been nor am I now, a big list person. Lists are often too generic for my personal reporting. While they do function as a bellwether of a trend at the time, I like to err on the side of the thing, ‘that thing’ about a shop that makes me drawn to it – the reason why one should go here or there. Culture includes: coffee, a famed barista, a champion barista, a popular store, it’s community relationships, it’s farm level access and above all its consumer. No one thing can be the culture because the culture is bigger than that, more complex than that. Thank the creator of soil for that!
Additionally, coffee is full of dichotomies and contradictions and pursuits. These function as single and collective ideas all at once. Therein lies the most challenging part. But oh, Los Angeles, this City of Angels, my City of Angels, my city of Coffee Angels it’s found a way where, individual approaches within the collective idea of specialty can thrive on expression and differentiation while making room to push pass trends and further the culture of coffee.
Los Angeles isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t has to be. Lines can be long, sparkling water has been near non-sparkling, walls devoid of any art can feel like a space with shallow roots, counters so full of multiple roaster options feel dizzying, the choice can seem daunting, or the lack of diversity behind the counter – at times, still can make a girl or a boy feel, as if they don’t see themselves in a culture born in a country whose soil breeds the contrary of these visual demographics.
Alas, life is a journey and coffee is life!
I am humbled as always to be able to see how I see, live a culture I love and drink from the fruitage of the hands of the world.