a coffee with… Joy Park of Elabrew

this wave is a light

The noon is warm, warm enough where a breeze is welcomed and comforting. The residue of spring petals plucked by the days wind mingles with the smell of coffee as I sit inside the stucco and glass façade that is 2425 Colorado Boulevard, the address of Elabrew’s first coffee house.  While here, living organisms – human and molecular – combine to create what is soon ushered to me on a bench sized table with hand created art that is as modern as the science of the cold brew coffee set before me.

It is this day and among these cultural accouterments that I sit and chat with owner, Joy Park about the founding of Elabrew: its infamous truck seen all around the city of Los Angeles, her dedication to customer service, the title of being first specialty coffee company at Coachella and why Elabrew will soon join the zip codes of Downtown Los Angeles, with its first seven-day-a-week location.

Our conversation commences atop a bench where Joerael Elliott’s – a barista who’s been apart of the Elabrew team since the beginning – art appears as it does throughout the shop and on many of its designs. As the coffee wafts through the air it’s a centrifugal force in consumption, community and conversation.

smdlr: Joy, tell me about Elabrew.

JOY: The name I originally wanted for Elabrew, I couldn’t trademark. I’m a fiery character so I appealed it and still couldn’t get the name. So, I said I’m going to create a new name. I kept the brew aspect and Joereal helped me to create the name. E-L-A can stand for many things; ultimately we are elevating the experience of coffee.

She raises her hands up.

smdlr: What led Elabrew to find a home in Santa Monica in a complex like the Colorado center?

JOY: At the time, I was building out the coffee truck. This center was originally the ‘Yahoo Center.’ We were doing events, movie sets and things in the local community with the goal of elevating the experience of coffee, whether someone’s experience was with Starbucks, a mom and pop shop or as a home brewer.

JOY: In coffee, there’s always somewhere to go. And, like art there’s no one-way to look at coffee. With more perspectives, there’s so much more meaning.

smdlr: Lets talk about that a little more, you are situated across from a Starbucks. You came coming into an area where you were going to charge more for coffee and present a different aesthetic while doing it. What was your approach to getting your perspective heard?

JOY: Coffee is more than just science, its art and science.  We try to achieve a balance in the exterior that you see and in the interior by what you consume. We use organic products and take pride in the coffee we feature.  I treat this [Elabrew] like my baby. She hugs herself. Would you want to give bad products to your baby?  No. I might take this a little personally but that’s how I roll, it can’t not be personal.

smdlr: This is the amazing thing about the culture of coffee, putting ones self into means bringing in all of ones interest. What caused you to be so passionate?

JOY: I’m in this because of customer service. My team makes us propel further. I try to keep an open mind. I hired them all as baristas and now they have all different kinds of roles, I wouldn’t be able to find that out if I didn’t have an open mind.  And, I’m the biggest nerd in the game; I just want to get better so everyday day my focus is the customers.

smdlr: How has focusing on the customer helped you established who Elabrew is?

JOY: Before Elabrew was here, it was a Tully’s – people came and got commercial coffee – more caffeine, bigger drinks. There’s a Starbucks across the street, I respect them, they built the first building blocks and its up for me to continue on them, it’s why I get to charge $5 for coffee.  I charge more and give less but I knew the people would love it. People come here as a daily habit and for relief, so why not add value?

smdlr: I so agree. As we’ve talked, you’ve mentioned that your focus on the customer has led to a unique approach to your Coachella campground residency this year. Can you share it?

JOY: We elevate the personal and emotional space of people. With Coachella, our first year was great, it’s in a desert and it feels like the end of the world – in a good way.

smdlr: The end of the world! So dramatic, I love it.

JOY: Well, even here at Colorado center we take advantage of our surroundings, there’s direct sunlight, vegetation, palm trees, lots of beautiful colors, it’s really welcoming. But, we discovered that the people of Coachella also needed nourishment and so this year, it’s not just about giving the people coffee, it’s about nourishing the people of Coachella with an experience.

smdlr: Now, this I love. To me ‘experience’ in coffee is the sum of its cultural parts equaling a whole.  So, now I’m curious, how will you be nourishing the Coachella customer?

JOY:  Music brings out the happiness in people.

smdlr: What’s your default sound?

JOY: I like hip-hop. But I trust my baristas with the playlist when they’re on shift. So at Coachella we’ll have our Beats by Dre boom box so you can hear the songs we rock out to while you’re getting caffeinated.  Last year we brought the truck, but this year we’ve built a booth for the campgrounds. We’re serving Ritual and Kuma Coffee Roasters for coffee. And, we have two special Coachella drinks with the party goer in mind – one is the Gummy Bear, its crimson berry iced tea and lemonade and the other is Hyper Bear – Red Bull, and Crimson Berry cold brew iced tea, its very healthy and full of vitamins.  We have our own Coachella designed tees, bandannas and folded zines for keepsakes.

smdlr: So that’s coffee, music, fashion, art, design and literature.  That’s one heck of an experience.

JOY: The people of Coachella are a community in a desert. We found last year that they were asking for more, needed more, so I’m there to take care of their needs.

smdlr: I get the sense that taking care of the people won’t stop with Coachella.

JOY: I’m happy to share that we’ve signed a lease on our first 7 day a week space coming to downtown L.A in the Gallery Row District, on the ground floor of the Santa Fe Lots across from Cole’s Varnish in the summer of 2014.

smdlr: Why downtown?

JOY: There is still room for revitalization and an elevated coffee experience.  And, that’s the kind of opportunity Elabrew likes.

I raise my hands up.

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