Dayglow Coffee
Dayglow Coffee
By The Editors / August 22, 2019 9:08 am

There are plenty of places in and around our city that are doing wonderful things with coffee beans (Go Get Em Tigers, PCPLA, Verve, Blue Bottle, Trail’s Cafe). But below, you’ll find seven places that are the absolute cream of the crop, where you’ll find your favorite barista’s favorite baristas.

Four of them make up the Mt. Rushmore of LA coffee roasters — places that import beans from all over the world and then give them that dose of je ne sais quoi that makes them truly exceptional. But we would be doing a disservice if we didn’t also highlight three non-roasters: coffee shops that we consider the very best at serving their customers. Whether it’s working with the right producers, making sure the water is chemically perfect for each brew, or perfecting the process in a way that fuses art and science together, these spots collectively make the very best joe LA has to offer. From purist to casual, snob to neophyte, these are the places worth a detour on your morning commute.

THE ROASTERS

Cognoscenti Coffee / YELP

Cognoscenti
Culver City

Their Story: Started in 2009 as a pop-up shop by architect-trained Yeekai Lim, who partnered up with Na Young Ma shortly after with the opening of Proof Bakery, offering high-quality coffee and pastries to LA. In 2012, the pair came together to create Cognoscenti in Culver City, and the rest is history.

What makes em unique: Cognoscenti is one of the few locally founded and minority-owned specialty coffee shops roasting and serving up quality and consistency in the Southland. Cognoscenti serves only single-origin espresso and brewed coffees, and exercise a no-dial-in method for espresso for sustainability and service reasons. Coffee with a conscience is a much better brew indeed.

Brew you’ve gotta try: Two options top our list — El Diamante Guatemala and the Benti Nenka Ethiopia.

Try at: There are three Cognoscenti locations in LA — two downtown (one in the Fashion District) and the flagship in Culver City.

Alana's
Alana’s Coffee Roasters

Alana’s
Mar Vista

Their Story, in brief: Eric Stogsdill began roasting coffee under his daughter’s name at local LA farmer’s markets in 2009. Customers would come up, press their face into a bag of beans and smell the incredible concoction Eric was (eventually) brewing up. In 2017 a brick-and-mortar dream became a reality in Mar Vista, and since then Alana’s has been serving the community and collecting regulars ever since.

What makes ‘em unique: To quote Eric himself, “We’re one-million-percent local. I was born in Santa Monica, raised in Mar Vista, this is 100% local coffee.” The shop reflects Eric’s SoCal vibes to the letter. Alana’s is all about an inviting environment, with integrity for their workers, farmers and customers.  From a coffee standpoint, Eric is about making coffee a sensory experience, stripping away the industry buzzwords and fostering an emotional attachment to the brew.

Brew you’ve gotta try: Honeyed, naturally processed coffees are what Alana’s is known for, and The Sidamo natural is a must-try. The brew is bursting with chocolate and blueberries notes — the kinds you can actually smell and taste, not the kinds the sommelier makes you feel inferior over for not sensing in the slightest.

Try at: Ride Venice Boulevard until you reach Alana’s on the north side of the street — the best way to experience these roasts is with the roasters sitting right next to you.

cafe demitasse
Demitasse Cafe

Demitasse
Little Tokyo

Their Story: Founder Bobby Roshan’s deep dive into coffee came at the expense of his law degree, when his coffee club went from a hobby to stave off the boredom of corporate law to a full-fledged obsession. With a commitment to fighting the steady destruction of our planet, Demitasse and scrapped single-use anything, while keeping the excellent java flowing freely.

What makes em unique: Creativity sits at the heart of Demitasse’s existence, and they don’t just pay lip service to the idea. They’ve never repeated a seasonal drink in the eight years of business. Moreover, each barista has their own specialty drink that can only be made by them, and we’re not just talking wacky flavored lattes. If you’re interested, there’s only way to find out more — go ask them yourself. 

Brew you’ve gotta try: Of their roasts, the Colombian is one Demitasse is particularly proud of. Bucking the tradition profile of Colombian beans, Demitasse’s is a fruit bomb: a floral, flavorful brew that will have snobs thinking it’s a natural (and they’d be wrong).

Try at: Stores in Santa Monica and Mid Wilshire, but the original location is in Little Tokyo, and well worth the trip.

Trystero
Trystero’s coffee garage shop (now closed) / YELP

Trystero
Elysian Valley

Their Story: Greg Thomas has been creating his own concoction out of his garage and serving it to a select few for 10 years now. It’s one of Los Angeles best kept secrets, and one that’s likely to stay that way given the availability (or lack thereof).

What makes em unique: A one-man operation out of Atwater village, four sentences on Trystero’s site sum up Trystero’s as best as we could ever describe: serving conspiracy theorists since 2009. Unfortunately, the second sentence is a doozy, Trystero has closed its garage doors and is only available in two places.

Brew you’ve gotta try: The Ethipoian roast is the headline grabber here, go straight-up espresso style for the best result. 

Try at: There are only two spots for this elusive brew — Spoke Bicycle Cafe near Atwater and Handy Market in Burbank.

THE NON-ROASTERS

Dayglow
Dayglow Coffee

Dayglow
Silverlake

Their Story: A newbie on the list, having only been around for a year and change, this sunset spot is known best for light roasts. Currently on the menu are two Scandinavian supplies: Taylor Made and La Cabra. The store, tucked inside an old building, has a neon, pastel Mediterranean vibe that sets it apart from the rest of the roasters and shops on the list.

What makes em unique: Dayglow is an ardent non-coffee-snob location, where you can get your sweet vanilla latte guilt free. However you like your coffee — dark, light, syrup, milk, sugar — they’re ready to serve, not judge.

Brew you’ve gotta try: The Warhol — a double espresso, half and half, cinnamon, vanilla and orange coffee cocktail that brings sweet, creamy aromatic taste without overpowering the coffee notes. 

Try at: Dayglow has one location on Sunset, so best grab a two-top there.

Bakers & Baristas
Bakers & Baristas

Bakers & Baristas
Artesia

Their Story: B&B is just as good a restaurant as it is a coffee shop, making it the perfect spot to have your coffee and eat there, too. Everything is made from scratch — pastries, desserts, bread, syrups — and there are absolutely no shortcuts.

What makes em unique: Their coffee manager’s philosophy is one centered in art and creativity. They source their beans worldwide, willing to stray away from the most economical or popular beans to provide new, high-quality experiences for their customers. Their choices might make econ majors scratch their heads, but anyone with two taste buds to rub together can tell they haven’t lost the plot.

Brew you’ve gotta try: The honey lavender latte is sourced with local honey, but if you make the trek don’t sell your experience short. Talk to a barista and find out what’s going on with their pour-overs.

Try at: If you’re an Angeleno, you’re going to have to take a hike down to their Artesia location for the full experience, but it’s good to get out of your neighborhood once in a while and head off on a culinary adventure. So get to it.

Endorffeine
Endorffeine / YELP

Endorffeine
Chinatown

Their Story: Ask those who know LA coffee, and eventually Jack Benchakul’s name will magically appear. Like the Candyman of coffee, Jack’s taken his supertaster palate and combined it with a love for chemistry to provide customers with one of the top coffee experiences in town.

What makes em unique: For Jack, it’s all about the water. With a molecular biology degree, Jack is super specific about the water chemistry that goes into his coffee. Here, ionic content is king, and how the salts — be they calcium, magnesium and everything in between — and ions interact with each coffee is key. Jack tailors the water to the beans for the perfect pour, down to the very molecule. Oh, and he prepares every order taken in Endorffeine himself.

Brew you’ve gotta try: For the purists, an espresso and pourover — the shot-and-a-beer of coffee — is still the way to go. No matter what bag of beans he’s using, you can be sure that it will be a Nordic light roast. For those looking for something a bit sweeter, Jack bottles his own drinks, and the Thai Iced Coffee provides a sweet, refreshing option that doesn’t hide the coffee notes under a mountain of sugar.

Try at: Across the way from Howlin’ Rays in Chinatown, behind a U-shaped counter is where you’ll find Jack and his magic beans.