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l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
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Discussions > Regional > US West > l.a. café crawl...  
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harrymanback
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 11:52am
Subject: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

i went to la-la land yesterday to see a melvins show and took the opportunity to check out l.a.'s coffee scene.  didn't hit up every single place, but hit up three big names: coffee klatch, groundwork, and intelligentsia.  the capp's i got on this trip shocked me.

first, i had a noob in tow (a friend of mine who has lived on the central coast his entire life, and therefore while he likes good coffee, has never had a good espresso-based drink).  because of this, i thought what we needed to do was drive all the way out to san dimas right off the bat, since klatch and heather perry made me think "guaranteed good capp."

boy was i wrong.  first, nothing special about the café aesthetically.  not run-down, but not as nice as i'd thought it'd be.  but way more important was the cappuccinos we were served.  i ordered two double capp's, and what came out were two huge drinks -- i mean bigger-than-a-latte huge!  i then noticed the menu board stated a single comes as 12oz, a double 16 oz, and a cappuccino is a 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 frothed milk drink -- wtf?!?!  i know for a fact this wasn't how heather perry was serving up her competition capp's (saw her in petaluma...great performance, obviously).  so how is this how they do it up in their shop?  starbuck's sizes in the shop and competition sizes at competitions?  and what's with that new math?  very weird.

anyway, the capp itself wasn't bad, just way too milky.  the shot was good, even though i couldn't fully taste it with all that milk.  the foam was good, but definitely not great -- not silky micro foam -- and it was the kind that had to be helped along in the pour with a spoon.  overall, a very disappointing start to the trip.

then it was on to groundwork (the location across from amoeba records on sunset).  again, super-duper cup size.  i had no expectations after klatch, so just shrugged and went ahead with tasting.  the shot was way too hot, burning the coffee.  it was still drinkable, but that's about it.  the foam was also only "ok."  definitely a step down from klatch.  if this were the only "good" café in your little town, you'd consider yourself lucky.  but that's the best i can say.

then onto intelligentsia.  i'd heard mixed things -- mostly good things, mind you -- but a few very negative comments from coffee people i really respect.  considering my first two experiences in the city of angels, i was truly scared now.

wow it was great.  not the absolute best i've had, but they were doing (mostly) everything right: the right size cup!  woo-hoo!  finally!  we got a drink of thirds for a capp!  the foam was near perfect: incredibly silky micro with just a few larger bubbles...but excellent-sia.  the attempt at small heart failed into more of circle, but the milk was stretched, folded back in, and poured properly.  and the taste...finally.  my noob friend was like, "ok.  now i understand why you're a nut about this stuff."

the only negative comments about intelligentsia: they had grounds in the doser.  the grinder kicked on when she dosed, but it was grinding too much so coffee was piling up in der.  plus one person dosed and tamped and set the portafilter next to the machine...so it was ready to go, when the other barista was ready to pull the shot / steam the milk.  odd.  nice that the shot didn't sit, but bad that the grounds had been around for so long.  the result was a slightly stale shot -- it didn't really pop.  also, the capp was slightly under temperature.  this is much better than being slightly too hot -- and burning the shot or scalding the milk.

intelligentsia also had a clover.  i haven't had clover coffee yet so i was tempted, but having finally had a great capp, i decided to leave well enough alone and save that for another trip.  besides, there will be other trips down this way to try out other shops, and intelligentsia will be a stopping point for sure from now on.

harry.

p.s.  couple other things on klatch...i knew i was going to take a pound of coffee home from somewhere on this trip, and to give them a chance to redeem themselves i bought some yerg on the way out.  this morning, it made a very nice press.  not the best i've had, but "right up there" (like intelligentsia'a capp was right up there among the best of capp's).  sadly, one other negative point: while this roast was dated two days ago, they did have product on the shelf going back over two weeks.  honestly, i don't know what to make of this café given their proven competition chops vs. in-house standards.

p.p.s.  the melvins absolutely rocked.  big business was in on the set, so two drummers on stage.  way cool.

 
"i should pull up the hardwood to see if there's carpet underneath! . . . no, that's never the case."
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rocktageous
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 1:04pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

I've never been to Coffee Klatch, but I would've expected more for them. If you, or anyone else, should try another LA cafe crawl, you have to stick to the 2nd and Main Groundwork, Redcat, Inteli, Choke, Coupa, and Luxxe.    

Lastly, don't say La-la Land. It's as bad as Cali and Frisco.
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harrymanback
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 1:24pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

lol.  generally speaking, i don't like l.a. -- the term was used on purpose.  i hadn't planned on hitting up that groundwork, i just happened to be in that area because of the record shop.  and thanks for the suggestions.  i too was surprised with klatch.

harry.

 
"i should pull up the hardwood to see if there's carpet underneath! . . . no, that's never the case."
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GaryH
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 2:05pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

harrymanback Said:

.. klatch and heather perry made me think "guaranteed good capp." boy was i wrong.  first, nothing special about the café aesthetically.  not run-down, but not as nice as i'd thought it'd be.  but way more important was the cappuccinos we were served.  i ordered two double capp's, and what came out were two huge drinks -- i mean bigger-than-a-latte huge!  i then noticed the menu board stated a single comes as 12oz, a double 16 oz, and a cappuccino is a 1/3 espresso, 1/3 steamed milk, 1/3 frothed milk drink -- wtf?!?!  i know for a fact this wasn't how heather perry was serving up her competition capp's (saw her in petaluma...great performance, obviously).  so how is this how they do it up in their shop?  starbuck's sizes in the shop and competition sizes at competitions?  and what's with that new math?  very weird.

p.s.  couple other things on klatch...  sadly, one other negative point: while this roast was dated two days ago, they did have product on the shelf going back over two weeks.  honestly, i don't know what to make of this café given their proven competition chops vs. in-house standards.

Posted September 16, 2007 link

Very good description of the Coffee Klatch coffee house. I've been to Klatch in San Dismal and Klatch doesn't look, feel and experience like a third wave coffee house. I visited Klatch in August and some of the bags with beans were over a month after roast. You're not the only one who was disappointed with Klatch. See this post.

http://coffeegeek.com/forums/worldregional/uswest/281016
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harrymanback
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harrymanback
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 3:15pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

thanks for that link, gary (lol @ the expresso comment).  i'd never seen that thread before and never read anything negative about klatch, so i was quite surprised.  unlike in mark_c's experience, i didn't talk to the baristi about my disappointment.  on my first trips to cafés, i order rather straight-forwardly to see how the shop is run.  if they're near the mark (like intelligentsia), on my ensuing visits i'll make a comment here or there, to try to get my drink exactly how i want it.  if it's way off the mark, i just won't go back.  still can't believe how bizarre that experience was given my well-founded expectations.

harry.

 
"i should pull up the hardwood to see if there's carpet underneath! . . . no, that's never the case."
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MarshallF
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 4:25pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

harrymanback Said:

thanks for that link, gary (lol @ the expresso comment).  i'd never seen that thread before and never read anything negative about klatch, so i was quite surprised.  unlike in mark_c's experience, i didn't talk to the baristi about my disappointment.  on my first trips to cafés, i order rather straight-forwardly to see how the shop is run.  if they're near the mark (like intelligentsia), on my ensuing visits i'll make a comment here or there, to try to get my drink exactly how i want it.  if it's way off the mark, i just won't go back.  still can't believe how bizarre that experience was given my well-founded expectations.

harry.

Posted September 16, 2007 link

Like many shops, particularly in non-urban settings, Coffee Klatch must make concessions to local tastes or starve to death. They are perfectly capable of making a "short" (what we would call "correct) cappucino, but it is not what 90% of their customers want. So, if you walk into Klatch (or ANY shop where you are new), you are playing Russian roulette if you don't first have a little conversation with the barista about what kind of cappa you want.

Klatch, and any other self respecting shop, by the way, will be happy to remake your drink, if it was not what you expected. To stay silent when you had a chance to actually correct a misunderstanding and, instead, sulk and broadcast your disappointment on the Internet is really an irresponsible form of consumerism.

And a tip on Groundwork: 2nd and Main Downtown is best for espresso.
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MarshallF
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 5:04pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

[Intemperate response to "La-la land" self-removed.]

Marshall
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harrymanback
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harrymanback
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Posted Sun Sep 16, 2007, 10:47pm
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

o0o.  burn.  i don't like sprawl and i don't like smog (i'm a new urbanist, an asthmatic, and a bit of a nature nut).  i love where i live now, but there are obviously many people who enjoy l.a. immensely.  my downstairs neighbor, for example, just moved here from santa clarita and misses it terribly for the weather -- while i much prefer the weather here.  go figure.

regarding klatch, i am sure i could have gotten what i wanted (or close) if i'd been more direct.  like i said, the shot was good.  however, my goal was to see how the shop was run...not try to get exactly what i wanted.  also, judging by business, klatch was very slow as was groundwork, and intelli was hopping.  maybe a testament to the "build it, and they will come" philosophy?  idk.  i was there for one day for 15 minutes so there very well could be business reasons for these serving sizes.  anyway, i've always felt if you do what you love, that is, provide a product or service that you truly believe in, you will be successful -- this being especially true for small business owners (not gigantic corporate marketing machines).  more than anything, i was just shocked with klatch.  the two week old coffee i saw and the month old that gary noted -- can't think of a good reason for that.

didn't mean to insult anyone's locale or shop.  just wanted to give my honest opinions: i enjoy this site for its honest dialogue.  i will return to l.a. for various reasons (despite not being my favorite place, it of course has plus sides), and coffee is one of them.  unfortunately, while i love where i live, there is no great coffee shop here -- not even one making concessions.  no great shots to be had at all.

and 2nd and main seems to be the prevailing opinion, so it's definitely on my short list.  thanks.

harry.

 
"i should pull up the hardwood to see if there's carpet underneath! . . . no, that's never the case."
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mikep
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Posted Mon Sep 17, 2007, 7:03am
Subject: Re: l.a. café crawl -- surprising results
 

harrymanback Said:

...
so how is this how they do it up in their shop?  starbuck's sizes in the shop and competition sizes at competitions?  and what's with that new math?  very weird.
...

Posted September 16, 2007 link

For what it's worth, even the Chicago Intelligentsia cafes still have American Cappuccinos on the menu. If you want the "traditional" style, you just need to specify when you order.

 
http://www.smallcoffee.blogspot.com
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MarshallF
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Posted Mon Sep 17, 2007, 8:52am
Subject: 3rd Wave "Look and Feel"
 

GaryH Said:

... doesn't look, feel and experience like a third wave coffee house.

Posted September 16, 2007 link

So, what is a 3rd Wave coffee house supposed to look and feel like? Someone's garage? Italian contemporary? Craftsman revival? Slick wood and stainless steel? A laptop factory? A cart on the sidewalk? I've seen all of these. I never detected a common look or feel. The only common theme was a commitment to excellent coffee.

Marshall
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