Friday, June 28, 2013

Field Trip LA! - great coffee in Venice

series of posts from visiting interesting little (and large) cafes, food-related establishments and other places of inspiration.

From brewed coffee at the doughnut shop to artisan coffee in hipster central. On our way back to Santa Monica we stopped at a popular coffee shop in Venice - Intelligentsia. My friend had wanted to go for a while but the weekend line outside that had piqued her interest also seemed too much trouble to wait in with a baby. Today however we were in luck!

The queue outside the shop turns out to be a bit of a product of the space design - the company want each person to have an individual experience of ordering their coffee, and so everyone waits in the corridor until a barrista becomes free, hence frequent lines.

Look at all those MacBooks!

Once inside the converted industrial shop space you are served by mustachioed and waistcoated baristas who work behind an encircling counter of glass, wood and metal that takes up most of the shop floor.

The effect was a little steampunky, particularly with the re-purposed lighting equipment sticking up here and there. The flat caps and bow-ties had me feeling a little embarrassed on their behalf, but I think they didn't mind. Perhaps the uniform choice is a play on the name, and they were gents? Perhaps this is just how people in Venice dress. Either way, the coffee was excellent! ("And what makes excellent coffee?" I hear you ask...)

Latte art lesson in progress

What's particularly interesting about this company that has shops in Chicago (the first, 1995), New York and LA is that they not only roast their own blends but also work with growers and millers to develop their own direct trade coffees.

The growers are paid more than fair trade rates, directly, and Intelligentsia get to develop the best product they can with them, or as they more artfully state - "continuously expand(ing) economic opportunity and culinary possibility." I like an idea of a positive feedback loop built into a business model, I hope it continues to work for them.

A beautician's lens used as a lamp

Not a bakery or cafe but an honourable mention. Next door to Intelligentsia coffee more or less is a shop called Bountiful Home with perhaps the most cake stands you'll ever see in one place.

Stacked to the ceiling on every surface were what I thought were ceramic stands and glass domes of many shapes and sizes. The lady at the counter informed us that they are all glass, and that the green part is milk glass. They had a couple of different colours but mainly the striking pale green, which is the same shade as the 1940s jadeite items produced by Fire King (though these are new and not branded as Fire King).

1940s style jade-ite salt and pepper pots

As a souvenir from the trip I got a medium-sized found cake stand that fits a 9 inch cake. The airplane boxes they made up for me ensured, somehow, that the fragile glass dome survived the trip to Japan. I wonder how long it'll survive with use... very delicate!

Didn't get, but wouldn't this be great for Battenberg?


Wait, don't go away yet, look what I found - Identity Coffeebar+gallery. A small coffee bar in Harajuku, branded as Intelligentsia. Now you can try Intelligentsia's direct trade coffee and buy the beans in Tokyo. (The staff at Identity did not wear steampunk uniforms, but were very friendly ;) )

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