From latte art videos on Facebook to not-so-witty quotes on T-shirts, coffee is an indisputable aspect of our everyday lives. Every frappy hour is national news, and liking the taste of coffee is viewed as a mark of adulthood. I don’t claim to be a coffee expert that can easily discern between single-origin coffees and blends. However, I love coffee because of how much it has to offer in regards to its taste, variety, effect and experience. For the rest of the quarter, I will be embarking on an in-depth exploration of coffee from all aspects, and hopefully become more coffee-cultured.
There’s a coffee shop on just about every street in Los Angeles – a search in the coffee and tea category on Yelp generates over 7,000 results.
Even though going to these coffee shops requires time, effort and money, the experience is worth it. Taking advantage of all Los Angeles has to offer and escaping the UCLA and Westwood bubble can really add to your college experience.
Out of these thousands, here are my thoughts on four coffee shops in Los Angeles near UCLA, in terms of coffee quality, atmosphere and functionality as a study spot.
Blue Bottle is a well-established chain known for its high quality coffee, with a location in Beverly Hills, near West Hollywood and at the Grove.
What struck me the most about this Beverly Hills location was how big and roomy it was, since trendy coffee shops usually tend to be smaller. The interior is minimalistic and clean, with a tan and white color scheme. There were a lot of bar seats, and some outdoor seating.
I had the New Orleans cold brew, which is the quintessential cold brew – smooth and non-acidic with a great milk flavor. Despite how much I liked the canned Blue Bottle cold brew from Whole Foods, it pales in comparison to a freshly made cup.
Out of the four, this location had the strongest trendy coffee shop vibe, attracting bearded hipsters and fashionable Asian tourists alike.
The service was really quick; my drink always comes out in around 5 minutes regardless of how crowded it is. Although there are many hot coffee options on the menu, the only iced coffee option was cold brew, as Blue Bottle doesn’t serve iced lattes.
Due to its spaciousness, relaxed vibe and soothing indie music, this place is great for studying or just relaxing, instead of just getting coffee on-the-go.
Coffee Tomo is a coffee shop in Sawtelle, right around the corner from Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle. It has a cozy, vintage vibe due to its tile floors and old wooden chairs and tables. This is more of a grab-and-go type of place because of how small and crowded it is to me.
Unlike many other coffee shops, it doesn’t attract just a young crowd – there was a mix of different ages and types of people – students, families and middle-aged friends, which was refreshing to see. I personally wouldn’t study here unless it was during a less crowded time, because of the noise level and lack of space.
I had the iced Tomo Latte, which featured condensed milk. I’m usually a sucker for lattes with condensed milk, but this was too sweet for me. The condensed milk added a nice flavor, but it overpowered and muted the coffee, making it taste more like a sweet milk drink. The mix of both caffeine and sugar was too much for my poor heart, and I couldn’t finish it.
The price was a deal-breaker for me, since it was $5.75 for a sub-par drink. While its location is great due to its proximity to other restaurants in the Sawtelle area, I don’t really see myself coming again, unless it’s out of a desperate craving for coffee.
Philz is the pride and joy of the Bay Area, where it seems as if there are as many people walking around holding brown cups as red ones. Luckily for UCLA students, there’s a Philz close to Third Street Promenade and the Big Blue Bus stop.
I had the iced mint mojito, which is what Philz is known for. Coffee and mint is a weird combination that could go disastrously wrong. Philz makes it work as a surprisingly refreshing drink, with real crushed mint leaves at the bottom and a heavenly layer of cream on the top. However, the potency of the mint might make the drink a bit much for some people.
Despite the fact that this location is always crowded, the service is always pretty fast. In addition, the menu offers many different kinds of roasts with different notes, as well as many decaf options.
If you’re able to find an empty seat, this location would be great for studying, due to its large wooden tables and great view. However, considering how packed it always is, it’s probably not your best bet unless you get there early. I highly recommend giving it a shot the next time you find yourself in Santa Monica, though – it’s the perfect complement to a walk around Third Street or the Pier.
Downtown, Union Station
Although Barista Society in Downtown is far from UCLA, I recommend it to any student who is ever catching a train home from Union Station. Barista Society will always hold a special place in my heart, since it’s where I drank my first great iced latte, starting a coffee addiction that’ll probably last the rest of my life.
It pains me to see so many people go to Starbucks in Union Station, since a much better coffee option is right down the tunnel in the East Portal. The iced lattes have a perfect milk-to-coffee ratio, and are sweet without being too sweet. In addition to the standard latte flavors, Barista Society also offers one with condensed milk and another with mint matcha.
This is a grab-and-go spot without any seating, so it can’t double as a study location. However, there’s the option to order online and set a pick-up time, which is a great option if you’re crunched for time at Union Station.
Despite all of the great coffee shops in LA, we can’t forget to give love to the national chains. Next week, I review cold brews from large coffee chains.