Coffee in L.A.: Above and beyond a cup of joe

A new wave of Los Angeles-area cafes is brewing up more sophisticated flavors with a mix of methods. The result? A jolt to a coffee culture steeped in ho-hum tastes.


FOR THE RECORD:
Coffee shops: An article in the July 14 Food section described Paper or Plastik cafe as being in Pico Village. It is in PicFair Village. —

Los Angeles has never lacked for stimulation, but when it comes to coffee its tendencies, like much of the rest of the country's, have been more about habit than taste. Oh, sure, coffee joints are ubiquitous, both the homegrown variety (Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf) and the interlopers (Starbucks, Peet's, Seattle's so-called "Best").

But when, in the middle of the last decade, artisan roasters and skilled baristas started to raise the bar on coffee culture yet again on the West Coast -- at Vivace and Victrola in Seattle, Stumptown and Ristretto in Portland, at Blue Bottle, Four Barrel and Ritual in San Francisco -- L.A. was mostly left behind.

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Cognoscenti Coffee

Small Atwater Village bakery in which Cognoscenti, a one-man company manned by former architect turned pop-up barista Yeekai Lim, has set up a coffee bar using beans from Four Barrel (San Francisco).

Gelato Bar

Nik Krankl mans the espresso machines at his mother's (Gail Silverton) gelato shops in Los Feliz and Studio City, while he canvases the city for his own cafe location.

Paper or Plastik

Bright bustling cafe in Pico Village -- with a working dance studio attached -- brewing Intelligentsia beans.

CoffeeBar Los Angeles

Sleek new cafe in downtown L.A.'s Bank District, brewing coffee from Noble (Ashland, Ore.), Verve (Santa Cruz) and Ecco (Santa Rosa)

LAMill

Elegant Silver Lake restaurant and cafe, outgrowth of a family-owned roasting facility in Alhambra. Proprietor Craig Min medium-roasts single-origin coffees with a global reach.

Map: Coffee bars

Selected connoisseur-grade coffee bars in Los Angeles neighborhoods and in Orange County.

Spring for Coffee

Two tiny high-volume downtown cafés, specializing in Blue Bottle beans (San Francisco).

Cafecito Organico

Two cafes in Silver Lake devoted to Central and South American single-origin coffees. Roaster Angel Orozco opened these cafes to provide a place for organic coffee growers to sell their wares.

Intelligentsia

Chicago-based company that has inserted itself seamlessly into three L.A. neighborhoods. Single-origin and fair-trade coffees light-roasted at its Glassel Park roasting facility.

Coffee Commissary

Airy, Minimalist West Hollywood cafe with multiple bean sources -- Coava (Portland, Ore.), Sightglass (San Francisco), Victrola (Seattle) -- for multiple styles.