It takes a lot of caffeine to keep a city like Los Angeles moving. Lucky for fans of brewed beans, that translates into a "latte" cool coffeehouses (pun definitely intended). Whether you need to take a meeting over macchiatos, pour over every Tinder date detail with pals and pastries, finally finish that screenplay with help from a frappe or are simply craving a Steve Martin “half double decaffeinated half caf with a twist of lemon” special, here’s the buzz on 13 shops for satisfying sips.
Once responsible for a popular espresso catering pop-up, the brothers Morales went brick and mortar in 2015, opening a ceramic-tiled, high ceilinged, hipster hang in Highland Park. Since then, they’ve been up to their eyeballs in a rotating selection of roasters like Heart and 49th Parallel, matcha, milks, fresh pastries, pea tendril-covered avocado toast and fried chicken-n-waffles dripping with blueberry maple sauce and crème fraiche. Even though there’s lots of bench seating, window alcoves and a small patio out back, arrive early to snag a spot on weekends as it gets crazy crowded. Be prepared to disconnect — there's no Wi-Fi.
If you mess with the bull before morning coffee, you get the horns so best to find the familiar antlers of Alfred’s logo in seven locations including Brentwood, Koreatown, Studio City, and Beverly Hills before you do anything you’ll regret. While sipping the signature roasted-in-LA Stumptown blend with its notes of dark chocolate, fruit and marzipan, be sure to check your emails on their Wi-Fi and snap shots of their Insta-friendly everything from the meme-orable “But first, coffee” signs and wallpaper to the to-go sleeves. Grab an Alfred x Compartes candy bar to keep the hunger beast at bay later in the day.
The LA caffeine scene is crowded, especially in several of the neighborhoods where GGET has taken root like the Arts District, Los Feliz and Highland Park. But the company founded by two United States Barista Championship winners has a dedicated cult following, the kind of following that rocks $60 branded hoodies. That dedication probably has something to do with the fact that they roast their own coffee in LA, developed a flavor matrix to take the guesswork out of buying beans, serve house-made chai, zesty chilaquiles, flaky croissants and turmeric almond macadamia lattes, sell cheeky merch and build shops decorated with IKEA-ish furniture and life-size motivational wall illustrations. The name, too, is inspirational as these hometown heroes believe coffee kickstarts the winning.
Just the name has you assuming you’re in for all kinds of adorable if you head over to this Melrose Avenue establishment. And then you arrive and see the giant outline of a yeti on the wall surrounded by moss, a hand-painted abstract mural on the opposite side of the spacious cafe and a ledge filled with dangling flora and your hunch is completely validated. Luckily, the beverages, from cold brews to Cubanos, don’t disappoint either. Ritual beans are prepared on a La Marzocco machine and La Tropezienne Bakery supplies the pastries — try the blue corn scone. Another bonus: The woman-owned business is on the less frenzied end of the trendy shopping street, which means free parking is easier to find. Oh, and they let you use their Internet connection.
Back in the mid-'90s in Chicago, Doug Zell and Emily Mange dreamt of achieving percolated perfection with every pour and 22 years later their regulars in six cities, including LA, would swear they succeeded. Their single origin coffees are sourced around the world (Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, Colombia and Peru) and bought direct from celebrated and sustainable family farms, small co-ops and estates. Then it’s off to the Roasting Works Intelligentsia runs, which are often located in the cities they service to ensure maximum freshness. While the coffee quality is consistent across the board, the cafes vary wildly. Venice is bright and light. Silver Lake is saturated in color. Hollywood is sleek while Pasadena looks like a funky industrial loft.
In a quaint and quiet residential section of Pasadena, Lavender and Honey has people buzzing. First, there’s the sweet space with a good amount of seating and an outdoor patio. Then there’s the Klatch Coffee and small-batch cold brew concentrate that they craft themselves. They also haven’t forgotten that some patrons associate with people who’d rather drink something other than coffee. For those visitors, they have a tea bar, a fresh lemonade selection (lavender-infused with strawberry jalapeno shrub for the win) and various hot chocolates. They’ll also feed you five kinds of yummy toasts. And they have a free parking lot; that’s worth its weight in gold around here.
Kiwis invaded the South Bay in 2011, bringing with them their fervor for flat whites and knowledge of New Zealand coffee practices. They’ve been making converts in Manhattan Beach and El Segundo ever since with their premium two bean-blend espresso they developed with Dillanos Coffee Roasters that tastes of candied pecans and dried fruit. House-baked pastries and bread, grass-fed butter and ORA King salmon sustainably farmed in their homeland don’t hurt either.
This Tujunga Village gem has been welcoming valley denizens with hot drinks, locally sourced salads, tantalizing taco bowls and a deep bench of a dessert case for more than 20 years. Not offering Wi-Fi doesn’t stop creatives from clacking away on their laptops or memorizing lines for the next audition on the wraparound garden patio or in the reading room.
Brewing to order on Olympic in Sawtelle Japantown since 1997, this funky little multi-roaster coffee bar uses the siphon method for smooth full-bodied cups with minimal bitterness. The counter looks like a chemistry experiment but the red-walled shop is a pleasant place to lounge, especially when they have an art show on.
Indie coffee shops in Silver Lake are far from endangered, let alone extinct, but there’s something special about Dinosaur Coffee on Sunset. The interior design is minimalist, but there are small appealing moments for requisite social posting. The airy café has plenty of space and tables of varying sizes including a long communal one and a few bistro sets out front for digital nomads or social drinkers to relax at and genuinely nice baristas who don’t get annoyed by order indecision or at least they don’t let it show. They serve San Francisco's Four Barrel, carry beans from Terrain and Dogwood, placate the dairy-intolerant with oat or almond milk, stock pie and cookies and maintain a clean bathroom. The only drawbacks are lack of Wi-Fi and parking.
The folks behind Golden State beer-and-burger joints couldn’t find a good cup of joe on Fairfax while setting up shop so they opened Cofax. The name’s a nod to their address and legendary career Dodger Sandy Koufax. The Dodger tribute continues with the merch, blue and white color palette and bobblehead collection. Realizing that Southern Californians can’t live on coffee and draft kombucha alone, they introduced a line of breakfast burritos with slow-smoked potatoes and brought on Blue Ribbon Pie Champ Nicole Rucker to make sweets. There’s no Wi-Fi and not much room inside to get comfortable with your iced horchata latte, pastrami burrito or sea salt and honey glazed donut, but if you start the day with that tasty trio, does it really matter if you have to stand?
From the beach boardwalk views to the bearded, tattooed or both baristas, the taxidermy to the vinyl sound system, a secret menu hidden behind the namesake’s photo to the pricey offerings that can be Irished up at the bar next door (same owners), the tiny coffee ground encapsulates Venice Beach culture in a nutshell. It also happens to be a pretty good place to quickly snag the classics and other more unique energy drinks like #2 Pencil (espresso blended with activated charcoal), Love Potion #9 (raspberry syrup and chocolate ganache) or Caffe Rico (vanilla syrup, half-and-half, espresso, dusting of cinnamon and orange peel garnish). The foam art is top-notch as the dude who runs the show dominated the Latte Art World Championship three times.
These down under wonders have been causing quite a stir since they relocated from Sydney. They utilize various preparation methods and a deep roster of roasters including Sightglass, Slaye, Reuben Hills and George Howell at their two branches (Fairfax and downtown). They move a lot of their homeland’s drinks of choice — flat whites and long blacks. PCP also doesn’t drop the ball on food. Their healthy Australian is showing in the reputable culinary program. Think savory hand pies, roast lamb sandwiches, and black rice porridge with pickled okra.