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Coffee - real coffee - in the SGV.

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bulavinaka May 19, 2013 09:14 AM

I know it's been mentioned more than once that it's hard to find a really good cup of coffee in the SGV. The types of tea houses that serve a million iterations of milk tea, boba and taro are everywhere. Some are very good and I visit them often when I'm out here. But sitting down to a nice latte, an espresso, or a legit pour over seemed to be a pipe dream. The short-lived Fleur de Lys on Atlantic did a nice cup, but after shutting down a while back, there seemed to be no hope outside of Charbucks.

Yesterday was a bit of an eye-opener for me. My son had a class to attend at Cal State LA in the AM so I got a little earlier start in the SGV area than I normally do on the weekend. Wanting a "real" cup of coffee (latte to be exact), I yelped "coffee and tea" on their "Nearby" function. De Cafe Baristas was one of the first listed - they're located in that newish megadevelopment on Atlantic and Hellman in Monterey Park. I wanted to visit this huge center anyway so I dropped in for my cup, and I was really surprised at how good my cup was. Deep complex flavors, perfectly balanced with just the right amount of steamed milk, the foam was perfectly soft, and a beautiful embellishment on top to boot. They proudly indicate their use of Intelligentsia coffee beans, offer a full coffee/espresso menu, and even do pour overs with a chosen single-source coffee bean of the week. I think most of their business rolls in from the adjacent movie theatre. What hurts them here is the somewhat difficult access relative to parking. The parking is all underground, so grabbing a quick cup, which so many coffee drinkers tend to do, is not going to happen. One has to be somewhat determined to come here. Nevertheless, they are a legitimate source of real coffee.

Cloverleaf in Temple City is in my top three places for Taiwanese-style baked goods. They, along with Flour and Tea, and Oh My Pan have a standard of quality that is head and shoulders above the dozens of other bakeries offering similar goods. What sets Cloverleaf apart from everyone else is their ability to also do some very decent renditions of more "American" types of baked goods, as well as serving espresso-based drinks that are of a standard that most would find worthy. I visited them yesterday for the first time in many months, and I noticed they now also have a pour over station with a list of six singular-origin coffee beans as well. While I didn't have a chance to sample their pour over (I came for their breads), two other customers ordered it.

It now appears that real coffee house-level coffee is becoming accessible in the SGV. I'm sure I've only touched the surface - any others worth trying around the Valley?

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  1. blimpbinge RE: bulavinaka May 19, 2013 10:53 AM

    " The parking is all underground, so grabbing a quick cup, which so many coffee drinkers tend to do, is not going to happen."

    If you are able to park on one of the green parking spots that line atlantic, or even park on the block behind the plaza on hellman, it miiight be doable.

    I've wanted to try that place for awhile, nice to know it's good.

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      andytseng RE: bulavinaka May 19, 2013 03:42 PM

      I really enjoyed my first few visits to De Café Baristas, but a situation occur that kinda rubbed me the wrong way: I walked in around 9PM on a week night, and there were still a lot of people hanging out inside. I went in, the guy took my order (cappuccino for here), I headed towards the register and paid. He poured the cappuccino in a paper cup and I interrupted and told him I wanted it for here, and the guy said, "Well, actually we're closed."

      Sounds like a dumb thing, and really nothing to get up in arms over, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. I thought to myself, "Well, you had no problem taking my money..." There were still a lot of people there, and if I dilly-dallied with my coffee, you could have easily just asked me to leave. Which wouldn't have actually been an issue since I usually just finish pretty quickly and leave; not that they know that, but at least let the situation play out.

      The coffee is still solid. I was planning on supporting it, but I just don't feel inclined to make a special trip for it. I'd still go if I were watching a movie there. A little disappointing considering I live a short 3 miles from them.

      Sorry for my vent, but to add something to the thread: Taza in Arcadia is also worth checking out. Same requisite single-origin coffees from well-known roasters and fancy machines and attention to and respect for the quality of the beans, etc.. They also bring in pastries from Semi-Sweet Bakery, which happens to be one of my favorites.

      1 Reply
      1. re: andytseng
        TonyC RE: andytseng May 19, 2013 09:12 PM

        de cafe Baristas is serving all Bittersweet pastries program these days: http://la.eater.com/tags/bittersweet

        9pm is closing time. If you go to Chung King @ 9PM, they'd give you the same attitude. No need to abuse them, they've been open since 8.A.M. Or you can heat up your GS3's brewgroup at 8:30 P.M. and grind your beans while waiting for the machine to warm up.

        Alternatively, you can go to Starfucks, drive East towards burnt beans @ Fresh Roast, or head NW towards Handsome. Oh wait, they're open only til 6PM.

      2. TonyC RE: bulavinaka May 19, 2013 09:06 PM

        FWIW: de cafe Baristas espresso is almost all Herkimer: http://herkimercoffee.com/ and yes, you can get it by the 3/4 lb, in Hermiker bags, if you ask nicely.

        Eater writeup here: http://la.eater.com/tags/de-cafe-bari...

        They also do a proper cortado.

        Alternative: machiatto down the block, just for the latte art + some LOLz.

        Cloverleaf stopped using Intelli beans long ago. The "baristas" are a buncha n00b Chinese HS kids who don't know wtf they're doing, nor what they're serving, nor how to properly tamp, nor how to measure the temp of their microfoam. #FML.

        1 Reply
        1. re: TonyC
          blimpbinge RE: TonyC May 23, 2013 01:18 PM

          "They also do a proper cortado."

          Thank You.

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          odub RE: bulavinaka May 19, 2013 11:39 PM

          FYI: You're talking about the "Atlantic Times Square" development in case people need another reference.

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            odub RE: bulavinaka May 19, 2013 11:42 PM

            Also, have you tried Fresh Roast? http://www.yelp.com/biz/fresh-roast-s...

            And just to point out, there is an Intelligentsia in Pasadena, albeit up by Old Town (parking issues) but technically speaking, that's still SGV.

            1 Reply
            1. re: odub
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              pley RE: odub May 20, 2013 12:18 AM

              Intelli is actually in old town. Sometimes I want to go there, but don't bc it's too much of a pain.

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              pley RE: bulavinaka May 20, 2013 12:12 AM

              De Cafe Baristas and Taza are my top 2 in the sgv.
              On weekends, Taza has baked goodies from Sharon (i think that's her first name) Wang (formerly with various Thomas Keller locations). They also may get some goodies from Sharlena Fong of Semi Sweet (also TK alum).

              2 Replies
              1. re: pley
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                pley RE: pley May 20, 2013 10:05 AM

                Also, Taza has a Clover. Plus, in Pasadena, technically sgv, there's Massetti Caffe Mobile, a gorgeous coffee cart on south lake, with even more gorgeous espresso. One of the best cappuccinos I've had.

                1. re: pley
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                  Bradbury RE: pley May 21, 2013 01:57 AM

                  Agree on Taza. It's now become my go-to place east of Old Town, as Jameson Brown has gotten more inconsistent and Coffee By The Books (my previous obscure fave) seems to have been wrecked by the sale of the Fuller bookstore.

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