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Sidequest: Coffee Crawl

Photo credit: Ava Johnson

By Ava Johnson, Aashay Ghiya, and Aidan Doyle

May 15, 2024 8:47 p.m.

On today’s episode, Podcasts contributors Ava Johnson, Aashay Ghiya, Aidan Doyle and Hela Khalil review their experiences at three Westwood coffee shops: Ministry of Coffee, Espresso Profeta and Elysee.

Ava Johnson: Welcome to Sidequest, a mini series by the Daily Bruin Podcasts where we send Podcasts contributors on adventures around Los Angeles to experience everything it has to offer. In each episode, the contributors come to the studio and tell us about their experiences, funny stories and reviews. This is Sidequest, and I am Ava Johnson.

Aashay Ghiya: I am Aashay Ghiya.

Aidan Doyle: I’m Aidan Doyle.

Hela Khalil: I’m Hela Khalil.

AJ: In this episode, we went on a coffee crawl. We went to three classic Westwood cafes or Westwood staples: Ministry of Coffee, Espresso Profeta, and Elysee. Frequently visited by many UCLA students, we were on the hunt to find a coffee shop that could fit our criteria. We wanted to know if there were places we could study, if we enjoyed the coffee itself or if it would break the bank. As amateur coffee fanatics, our opinions might not mean much to you, but perhaps our opinions may make you consider where you’ll go on your next excursion into Westwood. As the four of us explored Westwood, we each had our own thoughts and opinions on the drinks we tried and the businesses themselves. We’re excited to share them with you today. Aashay, do you want to start us off with the Ministry of Coffee?

AG: Yeah, so right after entering into the shop, there’s a few stairs that will take you down into an indoor seating area, which reminded me a little bit of the fishbowl – except for the fact that you were literally looking down and seeing everyone just doing whatever they needed to do. There was a lot of dim lighting and some hanging plants here and there, which definitely felt like a bit of a study vibe – but I’ll have Aidan tell us more about that.

AD: Yeah, the lighting was phenomenal. I felt like it was geared towards studying. And it was only helped by the bookcases and the nice dark wooden walls, which in my opinion just contribute to a relaxed atmosphere.

HK: Yeah, I love Ministry. I have definitely studied in there before. It’s my ideal environment for studying. The noise level was perfect. There wasn’t any music blasting. It seemed like everybody in there was there to study and very focused. Plenty of seating both inside and outside. Decor was great. I really liked the vibes.

AD: Which was a stark contrast, in my opinion, to the outside, which wasn’t geared towards studying. And if you ever want to study, Ministry might actually not be the best place for you because the inside, at least it seemed, is always going to be fairly crowded.

HK: Yep.

AD: And the outside, there are no umbrellas, it’s always going to be sunny because we live in LA, and the tables are small. So studying is going to be a little difficult.

HK: Yeah, my takeaway from that is that inside, if there is space, or if you go earlier in the day, great place to settle down for the day and study. If you want to enjoy a drink or a meal or catch up with somebody – sitting outside.

AJ: Yeah, I think that’s definitely true. You get the best of two environments in that setting. I mean, you might not get the best customer service. But Hela, what do you think about that?

HK: Yeah, I think – okay, maybe this is partially my fault, maybe this is partially theirs: I thought I ordered an iced vanilla latte because before going into the coffee crawl, we decided that we wanted to have a control drink where we order the same thing at every coffee shop and then some sort of specialty drink that was unique to each shop. So, we decided on an iced vanilla latte with oat milk because I feel like that’s a pretty standard beverage that a lot of people our age like to enjoy. I thought I ordered that, but turns out when the coffees came out it was just a standard iced latte with oat milk. So, for the rest of the coffee crawl, that was the control drink. But yeah, I think there was a bit of miscommunication with the customer service. Again, might have been my fault, might have been theirs.

AJ: Didn’t they also spell your name wrong?

HK: They did also spell my name wrong.

AJ: They spell my name wrong every single time I’m there.

HK: Yeah.

AJ: And it’s literally a three letter name.

HK: Yeah, I felt I literally said H-E-L-A for my name, and lo and behold, they spelled it wrong, but that’s not unconventional.

AJ: That was obviously true about the first drink we got. We also had a specialty drink. Aashay, do you want to talk a little bit about our turmeric latte?

AG: Yeah, so we ordered an iced turmeric latte, which to me tasted like a very smooth version of eggnog.

AD: And I think we were all surprised when the iced turmeric latte came out with no caffeine.

AJ: Yeah, we didn’t really understand what we were ordering there.

HK: It kind of just – I think it was literally a turmeric shot with some milk, which I – I mean, I liked it. It was just unexpected for me.

AD: But overall it was an enjoyable latte. The taste was strong. The mouthfeel was maybe slightly weak. There was a good aftertaste. I think overall, despite our surprise, the turmeric latte was definitely a hit among among us coffee crawlers.

HK: OK, Aidan, what even is mouthfeel? What the heck does that mean?

AD: Oh, you don’t…

HK: I don’t know!

AD: You don’t know what mouthfeel is? I think you just kind of have to know.

AJ: All right, well, let’s go back to things we do know – the price of these two drinks, which I think was $12.25 for two.

HK: Yep.

AJ: Kind of pricey, I would say.

HK: Yeah.

AJ: Apparently not surprising for the rest of our coffee crawl, but I was personally surprised. I always feel like Ministry is a little more expensive than what you’re getting. I think that typically the – I usually get the iced vanilla latte, and I’m kind of unimpressed by that. But I will say, I’m typically quite impressed by their food. They have one of the largest food and drink menus that we’ll see on this coffee crawl. And personally, my biggest recommendation is the rose bay roll. I know everyone talks about the fries. I’m sure they are great, but it’s a breakfast place in my mind, because that’s when I like to study. And the rose bay roll is great. It’s a fried egg on a brioche bun with arugula and halloumi cheese. It’s pretty solid – really can’t go wrong. It’s definitely enough food. It is pretty pricey, though.

HK: Yeah.

AJ: And before we move on to our next spot, we’re just going to do a quick, rapid-fire review of what we thought of it. Hela, what did you think?

HK: Okay, I’m going to give it a 6 out of 10.

AJ: I think I’m going to go 6.5 out of 10.

AG: I’ll go in the middle, 6.3.

AD: I’ll do a strong 7 out of 10.

HK: OK!

AJ: And then we moved on to Espresso Profeta, which I think was Aidan’s favorite. Do you want to tell us about that?

AD: Oh, it most definitely was my favorite. There’s not a bad thing that I could say about this place. The vibes were immaculate. The setup was immaculate. The sofa was immaculate. And while one of you or all of you might disagree, I thought the customer service was perfect. Now immediately when I walked into this place, I thought it screamed kind of a Spanish socialist underground resistance kind of coffee shop.

AJ: I love that because it’s an Italian name – Espresso Profeta is Italian, not Spanish.

AD: Right, but something just uniquely Spanish about it. I can’t explain it.

HK: I got that vibe.

AD: I think some of the listeners will understand what I’m saying. Even if my co-hosts don’t. Now immediately when we walked in, we noticed one thing in particular – that there were a bunch of paintings all around the coffee shop. Now somewhat embarrassingly, I thought that they were famous paintings. And so when I asked to buy one, I was somewhat surprised by how excited the cashier was. It turns out that he was selling one of his own paintings. Now, it didn’t make it any less exciting for any of us. We got some cool videos with us buying the paintings, and I still have the painting on my wall in my room right now.

AJ: I mean, as excited as they were to sell you that painting, they weren’t particularly excited to sell us any coffee. I think that the customer service at Espresso Profeta, as much as Aidan will think it adds to the vibe, is less than ideal. You kind of just stand there and hope that they’ll let you order at some point when they deign to let you pay them. So that’s my opinion on the customer service. I’m not sure if Hela feels the same way.

HK: I mean, when I walked in there, I was low-key really scared. But the vibe that I was getting from them was they were taking it seriously. They were not messing around, and they were masters at their craft – which in my opinion turned out to be true because their coffee was phenomenal.

AG: And just like we did at the Ministry of Coffee, we ended up buying an iced latte as a control and a Cardi P latte as their recommended specialty. Now I will say that the ordering experience and customer service experience was a lot like the “Seinfeld” episode “Soup Nazi.” They have the rules, and you just have to play by them. For younger listeners, I will liken it to playing “Overcooked” – where one player simply takes orders, and the other player serves them.

HK: Yeah, Cardi P, in my opinion, highlight of my day.

AJ: Oh yeah.

HK: 1,000 points for the name. So creative, but also just an amazing latte. It was cardamom and pistachio. I could definitely taste every component that was intended to be in this latte.

AD: I thought the taste was sharp, even poignant in some cases. I thought the aftertaste was also phenomenal. I don’t think there is a single bad thing about this latte.

HK: No.

AJ: Oh, I don’t either. I think also the fact that it’s the same price in terms of the two drinks (Ministry of Coffee and this) is insane.

AG: If you don’t want to get a cardamom pistachio cake, you might as well get a Cardi P latte here at Profeta and not feel a difference.

HK: Yeah, what did you guys think of the control – the iced latte with oat milk? I mean, I don’t really remember it, meaning it didn’t really stand out to me.

AD: Personally, I thought it was below par, but it tasted bland. Didn’t really have a full texture. And the mouthfeel was off, but the aftertaste was very, very very, solid.

HK: Again with the mouthfeel.

AJ: I thought it was fine. I think that I wasn’t wowed by any of the iced oat milk lattes we had. Just not a super big fan of non-sweetened coffee, to be completely honest with you. But I think it was one of the better ones we had today.

HK: Yeah, right. I have to agree with that.

AJ: What do we think that our final rating for Espresso Profeta was?

HK: I’m going to give it an 8.5 out of 10.

AJ: I’m going to give it a 9. I think that while it might not be the best place to study, just because there is a ton of natural light, and there’s not a lot of outlets. Also, most of the seats are kind of iffy when you’re sitting inside – if you’re going to get one – to be completely honest. It’s one of my favorite places to meet up with someone and have a cup of coffee. I think that the vibes are the best there. And I think that it’s just a really cute place to be.

AG: Yeah, I would give it an 8. And on a similar vein as Ava, I would definitely give it a higher rating than I would normally have done because they have a very nice couch as part of their seating area. And there’s also a lot more space between tables, which is something that you don’t normally see at a lot of coffee shops where they’re trying to maximize the busyness of the environment. And Profeta really allowed for a more laid back, almost underground socialist kind of a vibe that Aidan was talking about.

AD: Well, I couldn’t agree more. I’m going to give it a 9.5. I think in every metric this coffee shop is off the charts – study-ability, vibes, coffee. It cannot get any better. And you know, you leave the coffee shop, like Hela said, you feel like you’re serious about coffee. Like you’ve just witnessed a craft. Not like you’re just going to get energized, like you’re going for that coffee high. Like you want something more.

AJ: So we were on a high after we went to Espresso Profeta, which was promptly brought down to earth.

HK: Yeah, we were shook.

AJ: Yeah. And then we went to Elysee, which Hela is going to tell us a little bit more about, but let’s just say it was not our favorite.

HK: Yeah, I mean, after Profeta we were so happy. We were basically dancing in the streets, vlogging. We strutted into Elysee with our heads held high. But we were quickly disappointed. The first thing I noticed when I walked in there was they had a beautiful dessert case with cannolis, macarons. Anything you can imagine. It made me very hungry, actually, after just having a lot of drinks all day. But in terms of study-ability, I would say the vast majority of people in there were studying. I just could not see myself doing it because it was more restaurant vibey, kind of dark. Yeah. Aashay?

AG: Yeah, I would say it kind of really blended the line between a patisserie and a restaurant. So it felt a little bit less friendly, less cozy, less receptive to kind of just locking in when you need to.

HK: Yeah, I would feel like, I don’t know. If I tried to study there, even though it seems like a very normalized thing, I would just feel weird about it.

AD: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s too bright for studying. It’s too much natural light. And it’s just a little too distracting in general for studying.

AJ: I will say though, it’s one of the later open ones in Westwood. So I think that if you’re really trying to lock in at night, people love to go there and try to do that.

AD: But just to be clear, “later open” is only till 10. So if you want to go to a coffee shop to study at 1 or 2 in the morning, like I love to, then Elysee is not the best.

HK: What kind of coffee shop is open at 2 a.m.?

AD: Well, I like to study at 1 or 2 a.m. And if there’s a coffee shop, all the better.

AJ: Have you ever found a coffee shop that is open at 2 a.m.?

AD: I have not, but I’m still looking. I’m still looking.

HK: Yep. Yep. I mean, something I’ll say is the food menu there looked amazing. And I’ve heard very great things about their breakfast. Again, the desserts looked awesome.

AJ: Yeah, but would we go back? I mean, it wasn’t our favorite.

AD: Never. I mean, what about the cost, you guys? I mean, $14.50?

HK: Most expensive by far, and anything compared to Profeta – especially something that’s more expensive – come on, come on, just disappointing to me. I mean, Aidan has a few words to say about the customer service.

AD: Well, yes. So as we all know, I bought a painting at Profeta. And I brought that painting to Elysee. And when I got to Elysee, I left that painting by the counter. And it was not knocked over not once, not twice, but an astonishing three times. And, yes, maybe it was my fault. But I don’t think any of us appreciated the very stern talking to that we got. We were basically kicked out of the shop.

HK: We were not kicked out. We were just told to move the painting.

AD: Well, it felt like we were being kicked out.

HK: I think that’s kind of what contributed to my feeling of discomfort overall in the place. I just felt like we were being watched.

AJ: The coffee was just not good enough to keep us there.

AD: No, it was not.

AJ: We ordered our same thing. We ordered our iced oat milk latte, which was not great.

AD: Not great.

AJ: I don’t think any of us liked it.

HK: It tasted like a black coffee with some milk.

AJ: And then our specialty drink was nothing particularly special. I think it’s a very traditional place. So that kind of makes sense. But we did an iced mocha, which just tasted like hot chocolate. We weren’t really a fan of it.

HK: It tasted like a cold hot chocolate. It had whipped cream. So that was a little added bonus.

AJ: I think I actually paid extra for that.

HK: Wait, really?

AJ: I think she asked me and I was like, uh, sure.

HK: Maybe that’s why it was so expensive.

AJ: We spent $2 extra.

HK: Yeah, we eventually got bored with our drinks. So we decided to, like literal toddlers, mix our drinks together. And that’s also kind of why we probably got more looks because we looked a little crazy.

AD: Well, when we mixed our drinks together…

AJ: They still were awful!

AD: They were worse! They were worse!

HK: They were worse. I didn’t think it could get worse. I’m sorry.

AD: No, we thought we’d hit rock bottom. And then somehow we went lower.

AJ: Well, at risk of just continuing around this circle, let’s just give it our final rating and call it a day.

HK: I’m sorry. Like a 3.5 out of 10.

AJ: I’d go 4. I think that they have potential for their food. I don’t think I’d go back for their coffee.

HK: Yep.

AG: I go 5. This is one a middle-of-the-pack coffee shop would be like.

AD: I’m also going to go 5. I think it was weak, but it was not so weak to go below a 5. I still think that it was a pretty coffee shop. It has potential. Just not strong enough to go above a 5.

AJ: And before we wrap up today, we’re just going to do a couple quick final thoughts.

AG: The Ministry of Coffee is an incredibly cozy and aesthetic spot in Westwood. Indoors, there is a great space to study, although it can get crowded; and outside serves as an excellent spot for socializing.

AD: Now Profeta was our favorite spot. While we were divided on the customer service, the vibes were immaculate. The place itself was beautiful. And the coffee was the best that we had tried all day.

HK: Yep. And unfortunately, we were left a little bit disappointed from Elysee. I’m sure the food was great. And I would totally go back to try it. But the drinks were not our favorite and not great in terms of study-ability.

AJ: Now that’s all we have time for today. We hope these reviews will be useful for your next time you’re looking for a coffee shop in Westwood. Thank you for listening to our second episode of Sidequest. If you haven’t listened to our first episode, check that out to hear our thoughts on Erewhon and come back next week to hear about our next LA adventure.

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