SOUTHERN California is used to the spotlight, but when it comes to independent coffeehouses, we're still in the rain shadow of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe this is because Angelenos don't have to endure the lurking damp and early darkness that send so many Seattleites running to the comfort of their neighborhood coffee bars. Or maybe it's because we've historically liked the ice-blended drinks that play so much better at the beach (it's really hard to carry a demitasse of espresso in flip-flops over the sand).
Although there are hundreds of places to get a cup of coffee -- or a soy decaf triple latte -- in this town, it's surprisingly difficult to find a really good one. Between over-roasted beans, drinks with a proportion of milk more suited to a milkshake than a latte, anemic shots of espresso and flat-out terrible brew, it's harder than you think to get a satisfying caffeine fix. Fortunately for those of us who take coffee seriously -- and in ceramic cups, straight, instead of under a mountain of whipped cream -- this is finally changing.
Check out some of these neighborhood haunts for a serious dose of quality joe.
Espresso so chic
Caffe Luxxe. This 4-month-old coffeehouse is an all-around aesthetic experience, from the chic Montana Avenue address to the sleek coffee bar where you order your drinks to the black-clad baristas (all adept in latte art). Co-owner Mark Wain got his training -- and gets his beans -- from Seattle, but returned to Southern California (he went to high school in Orange County) to open his cafe. He has plans to open an adjoining roasting facility in the coming months. You won't find a blender or a drip machine here. Instead, activities focus on two Synesso espresso machines, which make beautiful espresso drinks, including cappuccino that comes only in the traditional 8 ounces, and a perfectly made ristretto -- a shorter pull of espresso, all gorgeous caramelly crema. The drinks are served in Italian porcelain cups (for a little more cultural authenticity) and if you get hungry, they serve excellent pastries from Breadbar. 925 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 394-2222; www.caffeluxxe.com.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday October 30, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 0 inches; 30 words Type of Material: Correction
Barista title: In Wednesday's Food section, an article on local coffeehouses identified Coffee Klatch's Heather Perry as the 2003 World Barista Champ. She was the 2003 United States Barista Champion.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 01, 2006 Home Edition Food Part F Page 2 Features Desk 0 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Barista: In the same section, an article on local coffeehouses identified Coffee Klatch's Heather Perry as the 2003 World Barista Champ. She is the 2003 United States Barista Champion.
Kean Coffee. Last December, after selling his coffee business, Diedrich Coffee (which Starbucks purchased), Martin Diedrich opened a new coffeehouse, a small storefront and roasteria that he named after his son. Devoted attention to a single shop shows in both the quality of coffee, which Diedrich roasts himself six days a week, and the quality of service: The baristas all practice amazing latte art (gorgeous swirled leaves are their forte). Locals gather in the cozy neighborhood shop to buy just-roasted arrivals such as Guatemalan Antigua, drink anything from a freshly brewed cup of Kenyan to an espresso macchiato (a shot of espresso with a button of steamed milk) to a Turkish caffe latte with cardamom, and eat fresh pastries (creme brulee bread pudding, anyone?) from local Pacific Whey Cafe. 2043 Westcliff Drive, Suite 100, Newport Beach, (949) 642-5326; www.keancoffee.com.
King's Road Cafe. This busy West Hollywood cafe is actually two shops: a bistro and a coffeehouse next door, where they not only serve spectacular coffee but also roast it on site. In fact, the Probat roaster is behind the brass counter where the barista pulls the shots and swirls pretty fine latte art. On a street where average coffee shops proliferate, this cafe roasts and serves a noticeably superior cup. 8361 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 655-9044; www.kingsroadcafe.com.
Coffee Klatch. Owner Mike Perry has an impressive awards case (including awards for excellence from the Specialty Coffee Assn. of America), but nothing compared to his daughter Heather's: She's the 2003 World Barista Champ. That award-winning attention to detail shows in the coffee and espresso served at both family-owned stores, one in San Dimas, the other in Rancho Cucamonga. Perry roasts his beans on a 24-kilogram Diedrich roaster in his San Dimas store. ("A coffeehouse without a roaster is like a bakery without an oven," Perry says.) Heather runs the Rancho Cucamonga store and gives classes in latte art when she's not off competing. 806 W. Arrow Highway, San Dimas, (909) 599-0452; 8916 Foothill Blvd., Suite C, Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 944-5282; www.klatchroasting.com.