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This story first appeared in the Jan. 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
You’ve got an agent and projects in the pipeline, but Soho House hasn’t taken you off the waiting list. What’s a homeless hack to do? Gone are the days when Quentin Tarantino and Charlie Kaufman huddled over watery cups of joe at House of Pies — Los Angeles has become a sophisticated coffee town. Shops that are self-consciously “third wave” (translation: artisanal) prevail, as do prep methods such as pour-overs and siphoning, both of which allow for brewing ground-to-order cups. And one never can know too much about a bean’s origins, from its pinpoint geography to the altitude where it was grown. In 2014, two of the most buzzed-about nouveau roasters — San Francisco’s Four Barrel Coffee and Seattle’s Caffe Vita — are set to join L.A.’s piping-hot scene, further setting coffee lovers’ hearts aflutter. For writers determined to enjoy a properly prepared cup while pounding out Oscar-worthy prose, these coffee shops come close to the new holy trinity: impeccably sourced brew + indulgent staff + ample wall outlets.
Alfred Coffee & Kitchen
8428 Melrose Place, West Hollywood; alfredcoffee.com
Tucked into Melrose Place’s fashion row, this bilevel brew spot quickly became a magnet for writers who love the fact that there’s an entire floor with no staff presence — which means hours of guilt-free laptop time. “It’s very hipster with their Rag & Bone uniforms,” says fan Maria Arena Bell, a producer and former head writer on The Young and the Restless, who swears by the double-shot nonfat cappuccino.
? THE COFFEE Portland, Ore.’s Stumptown Coffee Roasters (which recently opened its own downtown L.A. cafe at 806 S. Santa Fe Ave.).
? HOT SHOT The Gibraltar, a “short latte” in a lowball glass with two espresso shots and 4 ounces of milk.
801 N. Fairfax Ave., West Hollywood; coffeecommissary.com
Hard-to-find roasters and unlimited free parking make Coffee Commissary a daylong destination for local writers. No matter how crowded it gets, there’s always room along one of the communal bars. Celebrity sightings include Sophia Bush and Amanda Seyfried. Next door is L.A.’s most well-known butcher, Lindy & Grundy, featuring meat from humanely raised animals.
? THE COFFEE Coava (Portland, Ore.), Victrola (Seattle), Sightglass (San Francisco).
? HOT SHOT The Cubano, a cinnamon-infused cappuccino.
6114 Washington Blvd., Culver City; popupcoffee.com
His pop-up coffee stand earned owner and head barista Yeekai Lim a cult following, which accompanied him to his first permanent spot inside Atwater Village’s Proof Bakery and now to his Culver City shop. Director and Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish (2012’s Between Us) is a fan of taking meetings there.
? THE COFFEE Four Barrel (San Francisco), Bows & Arrows (Victoria, British Columbia).
? HOT SHOT The Cortado, similar to a Gibraltar.
2100 Echo Park Ave., L.A.; fixcoffeeco.com
Sure, purist-minded Fix has great coffee and knowledgeable baristas, but two other draws are “outdoor shade and plugs outside,” says Andrew Knauer (The Last Stand), who’s there almost daily. He has his ratio down of what to spend while working there: “Five dollars an hour plus $1 in the tip jar every time I get something. You don’t want to be that asshole who doesn’t tip.”
? THE COFFEE Intelligentsia (Chicago), Handsome (L.A.), Verve (Santa Cruz, Calif.).
? HOT SHOT A straight-up 6-ounce cappuccino. Says a manager, “It’s not defined by a big dollop of foam on top.”
930 Broadway, Suite A, Santa Monica; funnelmill.com
This coffeehouse, which serves its own roasts, draws a slightly older crowd of writers — some of whom might be attracted by the no-cellphone policy (“It was requested by an Oscar winner,” says owner JC Ho). If you’re after a rarefied coffee kick, try the $80-a-cup Kopi Luwak, brewed from beans that have passed through the digestive tract of the Asian palm civet — can’t get more single-origin than that.
? HOT SHOT The vanilla latte, with homemade vanilla milk; Tahitian vanilla beans are fermented in the milk for three days.
? BRING-HOME BEAN Panama Geisha Esmeralda, Lot 2 ($75 for 8 ounces), made from unwashed beans that give a fruitier flavor.
Graffiti Sublime Coffee
180 S. La Brea Ave., L.A.; no phone or website
If A Clockwork Orange were to be remade as a music video, this giant, high-gloss whiteout of a coffee shop could be the set — making it an appropriate place to spot alternate-universe enthusiast (and creator of The Guild) Felicia Day. Although its policies slowly have become more draconian (Wi-Fi limits, drink minimums), there’s still ample seating, open outlets and free parking. Treats include gluten-free Fonuts.
? THE COFFEE Intelligentsia
? HOT SHOT Iced Sister Midnight, made with ganache mocha and two shots of espresso and shaken in a martini shaker with a choice of milk. The shop’s iced coffee is a 24-hour cold brew made with Lamill beans.
Handsome Coffee Roasters
582 Mateo St., downtown L.A.; handsomecoffee.com
Coffee purists have a spiritual home at the headquarters of this downtown-based roaster founded by former Intelligentsia employees, including 2010 World Barista Champion Michael Phillips. There’s no Wi-Fi, and sweeteners and soy milk are banned — the owners say both disturb the integrity of the bean — but laptops are allowed.
? HOT SHOT The basic 5-ounce espresso with milk. Says a barista, “We just do coffee here.”
? BRING-HOME BEAN The seasonal Regalo de Popayan, with a chocolate flavor profile ($17 for 12 ounces).
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; 3922 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; intelligentsiacoffee.com
“The more chaos that’s happening, the more I can focus,” says Scott Neustadter, who wrote (500) Days of Summer. He penned half of his upcoming film, an adaptation of the young-adult novel The Fault in Our Stars, at Venice’s Intelligentsia in only three days. Both the airy beachside outpost and the more cozy Silver Lake branch of this Chicago transplant — which roasts its own beans — are good bets for distraction. Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker, producers on ABC’s The Neighbors, were at Intelli Silver Lake doing their Jane Lynch impressions while working out a character when they looked up to see the real deal at the counter, inquiring about home brewers. Says Berger: “Hopefully she didn’t think we were mocking her. She probably didn’t because we aren’t very good at impressions.”
? HOT SHOT The Affogato, with Straus organic vanilla bean ice cream.
? BRING-HOME BEAN Colombia’s Tres Santos has a velvety body with a clean finish ($16 for 12 ounces).
1636 Silver Lake Blvd., Silver Lake; lamillcoffee.com
This high-design coffeehouse with red banquettes and a brass chandelier might qualify as Soho House Eastside for the sheer number of successful scribes who gather over the house’s own roast. Part of the draw, according to co-exec producer Amanda Lasher (Gossip Girl), is the ability to set up for the day and order breakfast, lunch and dinner. She jokes, “I think of Lamill as my third agent since they wind up with 10 percent of whatever I make on a project.”
? HOT SHOT The Creme Brulee cappuccino, with caramelized sugar.
Paper or Plastik Cafe
5772 W. Pico Blvd., L.A.; paperorplastikcafe.com
“It’s a very cool space that has a lot of creative energy,” says Modern Family co-executive producer Dan O’Shannon of this coffee shop-slash-dance studio where patrons can spy on rehearsals of the owner’s signature dance form, MiMoDa Jazzo. Laptop policies seem to change frequently, but the mezzanine overlooking the studio always is a good spot to work.
? THE COFFEE Intelligentsia, Coava, Handsome and its own roast.
? HOT SHOT The single-origin Gibraltar.
$2,200 for Coffee at Home
To go pro at home, try the Livia G4 Auto PID espresso machine, which clocks in at a venti-sized $2,220. Made by Pasquini (a brand Tom Hanks bought a couple years back as a gift to upgrade the joe in the White House press corps’ break area), the stainless-steel Italian-made machine offers customizable shot temperatures, a heat rack for cups and a near-commercial-grade steam wand. Some Hollywood denizens go even bigger: An Emmy-winning actress recently bought a commercial Pasquini model with spots for four cups and a steam wand that can toggle between latte microform and larger cappuccino form. Cost: $24,000.
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