Intelligentsia Coffee - Can we discuss
This place sucks. I have been five or six times - hope springs eternal. I have had an espresso, regular coffee a few times, and a capuccino.
A) The staff is so into what they are doing and so proud of themselves that they are incredibly slow, and inefficient -- it hence takes about 10 minutes to stand in a line of 3 to get a coffee.
B) The space is not comfortable. The interior has an enormous dead space, and no seating. The exterior seating is also awkward, maybe three okay tables. Many of the tables are in full sun, where most people can sit for about 10 minutes without risking skin cancer.
C) It is REALLY expensive.
D) The coffee just isn't good. People say it is good, but I simply do not what they are talking about. Yes the capuccino is very pretty, and they do steam milk properly (which is unusual in la). The capuccino was fine - it was like fourteen dollars and an hour of my life - but it was fine. The espresso I had was just plain bad - maybe it was a misfire, because it was almost tepid. The coffee though is just bad. They drip it to order in a very fancy machine, but it just does not taste good.
Why can't we get a nice independent coffee shop in LA where the coffee is consistently good and the seating is comfortable?
Ditto what ChinoWayne said about Intelligentsia not being an "independent" coffee shop.
The impression I got from Intelligentsia is that they designed the store to put the focus on the coffee, not on comfortable seating. I went late at night when it was not very crowded, so I didn't have to suffer any wait. As someone who is both a coffee aficionado and has a personal stake in the coffeehouse business, it was refreshing to see staff who take great care in making their coffee drinks, not just half-heartedly tamping the espresso, not jamming a steam wand into a too-big milk pitcher and not scalding the heck out of the milk. Their six ounce cappuccinos/lattes/mochas are meant to be enjoyed in a few sips, not nursed for hours while reading a book and sitting in an oversized easy chair.
Anyway...I don't know where you are in LA, but I find that Antigua Cultural Coffee House in El Sereno and Zona Rossa in Pasadena have consistently good coffee and decent seating (and you can't get more independent than a family who roast their own beans and have run their own Guatemalan plantation for more than 100 years...)
Zona Rosa Caffe
15 S El Molino Ave, Pasadena, CA 91101
Antigua Cultural Coffee House
4836 Huntington Dr S, Los Angeles, CA 90032
I suspect LA Mill's upcoming store in Silver Lake will be more to the original poster's liking. It's set to have what sounds like a full food menu orchestrated by the team behind Providence, so I assume the seating will likely be much more cushy. However, if the service is too restaurant-like and not enough like a living room-away-from-home, complaints may again ensue...
Sorry you hated it. I love their lattes. I love their mochas. I love their cappuccinos. I love their Iced Angelenos. I love their Chemex coffee. I even love that I can get great Breadbar viennoiseries without having to get into the insane bloodsport traffic around Cedars and the Beverly Center any more. Yeah, it would be nice if the room wasn't an echo chamber of if some umbrellas could be deployed, but I'm happy to suffer the sound and sun for that amazing coffee. And I dig that the baristas who work their have the sort of passion to be into the drinks they make. I'd rather have that than the goof-offs one finds behind most coffee counters, more into talking about their dates last night or how their manager needs to get bent than focusing on my order.
While nice chairs or shade would be good, I'm much more concerned about the drinks, and Intelligentsia's have always been perfectly executred. The furniture at a coffeeshop is secondary to me. I'm not there to write a screenplay or read Kafka. If the coffee keeps me happy, great. It's sad that so many people want cups of boiled ash from Starbucks (and Groundworks' rendition of Clover coffee is more in that vein), but hey, if it keeps the Intelligentsia lines manageable for me...
I went about a week or so ago. What I was excited about was the ability to obtain their beans directly. The beans I've tried make great coffee and home, and with their Black Cat blend we can reliably make espresso at home.
The space isn't inviting, I agree with that. They made me a coffee with the Clover while we were waiting and I enjoyed it.
What I really didnt' like was trying to find a parking space!!!! That was a pain! Might have to just mail order.
After having visited third-wave cafes Caffe Luxxe and Groundwork numerous times, I finally made it to Intelli-LA last week. To address your issues based on my visit:
A. I went at noon on a Friday. The wait for drinks was less than 5 minutes from payment to pickup. Building a cap or making a cup of Clover takes time, and those pressed for it should probably head to one of the majors with superautomatics that can practically build your entire drink with the push of a button.
I find nothing wrong with the staff being into it - it's actually quite refreshing. What's wrong with taking pride in your work? I can see how one can get the impression that they are proud of themselves, but I didn't detect any arrogance.
B. Agree with the seating - a lot of space inside, not enough outside. Also, the constant street noise can be irritating. I counted no less than three sirens rushing by in the course of an hour.
C. Disagree - $2 for a double and $3 for a cap (IIRC) is very reasonable, considering the quality of their drinks. How much does $* charge?
D. Taste is obviously subjective. Personally, I did not enjoy the double and cap as much as Luxxe, Groundwork, or the third wave shops in the Bay Area, but quality is still right up there. There are so many factors in producing a great cup so there will be some variability.
For your espresso, what are you comparing it to for reference? They pour ~1oz. ristrettos and results in a very intense, flavorful cup with minimal bitterness if pulled right. However, it shouldn't be tepid right after pulling the shot unless they did not preheat the cups (I doubt there is an issue with their machines.)
I had a cup of the Clover. I believe the machine fully extracts the flavor profile of the type of bean being used, whether it runs to your liking or not. Maybe you would have enjoyed it with a different origin.
Again, it boils down to personal prefs. Like it or not, it's an example of current state-of-the-art coffeemaking.
REALLY expensive? Compared to what? Their drinks are about the same price as Starbucks or Coffee Bean, and infinitely better.
Anyway, it's a matter of taste. A lot of people, including me, love their coffee. Check one of the many threads about small cafes/coffee houses for alternatives.