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Blue Bottle is Taking Over The World

By the world, I mean LA (and NYC, and Tokyo):

Handsome will be gone. As will tonx. How do we feel about this?

And why is Stumptown still serving Rockview milk when all the other LA boutiques are steaming Clover/Straus?

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  1. My gut reaction: though I've enjoyed Blue Bottle when up North, I've become quite a fan of Handsome over the past couple years.

    And while I'm happy for the crew there - and especially with BB offering all of the employees continued employment - I feel a little let down it's going away.

    tl;dr I'm not particularly thrilled

    1. Handsome is going to go out of bizzzzz ?????

      That's news to my downtrodden ears.

      At least we still gots G and B as well as two guns (which I quite like) in addition to Deux and balconi. Not terribly shabby.

      1 Reply
      1. re: kevin

        To be fair, G & B is far better than Handsome in terms of skill. But they aren't roasters...

        Handsome made my favorite espresso ever (Dandy), so this is tragic news.

      2. Told them they should offer sugar...
        Seriously, perhaps the bigger issue with Handsome was being a little too hip (ster) at the expense of alienating clientele.
        Or maybe they got an offer they couldn't refuse, but since two founders had already moved on, I don't think that's the case.

        12 Replies
        1. re: cls

          they were doing gangbusters. the founders left because they knew the buyout was coming.


          1. re: cls

            Did you read the article? They are purchasing Handsome because they are the most successful roaster in all of Southern California.

            It's not "hipster-y" to not offering sugar, it's just trying to offer the best possible product. Is Father's Office also "too hipster-y"? Or any restaurant that doesn't allow substitutions?

            Why would you want to destroy the flavors of Handsome coffee with sugar anyway?

            1. re: BacoMan

              Beards, overalls, fixed gear bikes, seedy downtown neighborhood, the schtick of no sugar "so you can taste the natural sweetness of the coffee." Seems like the poster child to me.
              No judgement, but being that trendy may hurt as much as it helps.

              1. re: cls

                Seems like "hipsters" know how to appreciate coffee.

                1. re: cls

                  <so you can taste the natural sweetness of the coffee>

                  Reminds me of the conversation I had with a cab driver in The Mission recently.
                  The topic…'hipster'. WTF is the definition anyway? I paid extra for the cab just to have the long, interesting conversation.
                  They're trying not to be pretentious but interestingly they end up SOUNDING pretentious. I've purchased espresso from all over the world and there's sugar offered.
                  Sugar cube. Offer the sugar cube for my espresso or ANY sugar for that matter. I'm not putting it IN the espresso so why do they care what I do with it? So weird.

                  1. re: cls

                    it seems they listened.

                    One of the partner who left Handsom is opening a new cafe. he says there will be sugar:


                  2. re: BacoMan

                    I read it, did you?
                    It's a press release, not an article.
                    In it, Handsome is called a "celebrated roaster" not the hyperbolic "most successful roaster in all of Southern California."

                    Maybe you're missing the point.

                    1. re: BacoMan

                      That should be up to ME.
                      The L.A. dining scene is getting waaaay
                      too authoritarian for this CH.

                      1. re: VenusCafe

                        Then don't go to Handsome.

                        Why should it be up to YOU how a business runs?

                    2. re: cls

                      I don't know about hipster (how to define that term anyway?) but I've always enjoyed a sugar cube with my espresso…and it does nothing to alter the taste of the espresso.

                      1. re: latindancer

                        did you smuggle in a sugar cube to Handsome Coffee, Latindancer ?????

                        Thanks. :)

                        1. re: kevin

                          Yeah, just call me The Smuggler.
                          Gotta have it.
                          I'll do whatever it takes and more :).

                    3. I'm hoping this doesn't effect the quality of my tonx deliveries. I've been pretty happy with the quality and selection of their coffee and I like the bimonthly "surprise coffee" delivery.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: LAgirl2

                        From the article, it looks like your SOL. They are dismantling Tonx in order to create an in-house technology team. =/

                        This is some of the worst news ever to hit the specialty coffee scene.


                        1. re: BacoMan

                          Yup they want Tonx for their online delivery system not for what they physically deliver. Which sucks for a promising startup.

                          1. re: Johnny L

                            Well, it's actually great for them. Bad for the rest of us.

                            1. re: BacoMan

                              I was a little sad when I received my tonx delivery in the mail yesterday. I'm enjoying this new batch of beans from Equator and I'm not looking forward to the changes unless I'm getting this same quality of bean and roast.

                      2. Darn, was quite fond of handsome, they opened my eyes to eliminating sugar from my coffee. Observed some planning meetings a few months back and thought they were in the process of expanding rather than selling. Glad I picked up one of those cool denim aprons!

                        Does BB still skew towards a darker roast?

                        1. Wow, this sucks horribly.

                          Blue Bottle has never been as good as Handsome.

                          I can't believe Blue Bottle is that big of a company that they can just buy out their competition. Scary shit.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: BacoMan

                            I guess what starts off as sourcing quality beans turns into a business real quick.


                            1. re: js76wisco

                              Yeah, if you want to make a bundle of money, you might as well invest in them. It'll probably be the next Starbucks (sadly).

                              1. re: BacoMan

                                I get gifted their whole beans occasionally, I stopped buying them frequently a few years back when I felt the quality started to suffer, however now I feel like the quality is a lot better. I never had Handsome but I will take BB or Starbucks any day.

                            2. re: BacoMan

                              I've come to appreciate coffee biz margins... Whole lotta margin...

                              1. re: Sgee

                                There is?

                                As far as I've been told there's almost none actually.

                              2. re: BacoMan

                                Blue Bottle got a boat load of money from an investor a year or two ago and have been using that money to expand. For example, they are opening a shop in Tokyo and they also started packaging their New Orleans iced coffee.

                                1. re: JonDough

                                  Can't wait for the IPO.

                                  I wish I was a billionaire so I could give Portola Coffee Labs a $100 to out compete them though.

                                  1. re: BacoMan

                                    Ditto. I think Portola is better than BB any day. I waited in line for about 20 mins at the Mint Plaza BB for a good cup of coffee. The pastries at Portola are considerably better too.

                                    1. re: js76wisco

                                      I like Portola—that flat white!—but while I've never had the pastries at BB, it's hard for me to imagine that Portola's are better. I really, really miss Christopher Garren's, because while their coffee was no great shakes, they had amazing pastries and so I wouldn't be tempted to buy the stuff at Portola.

                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                        I begged both Christopher Garren's people and Portola's people to combine their powers so that those marvelous pastries and cookies at Garren's would be sold at Portola, but alas... It was a seriously tragic loss to the complex to see them go.

                                        That is my only gripe with Portola, the rather mundane Cake Monkey pastries. They're pretty much just one notch about Starbucks' pastries. Not sure why so many shops use them.

                                        1. re: BacoMan

                                          how much are portola beans at the shop?

                                          it's 14.95/12oz from amazon.

                                          1. re: ns1

                                            They also serve up the siphon shit at portola which is good to know as well as balcony and maybe fresh roast, though i'm not a fan of fresh roast.

                                        2. re: Das Ubergeek

                                          Christopher Garren's was out go to with Portola until they closed. I like the blueberry pop tart and the cake monkey yodel at Portola. The breakfast burrito is ok. Not a lot of options for food at SoCo at 8am.

                                          I tried 3 cookies at BB that were pedestrian at best. Rarely if ever do I throw away cookies but these made it to the trash bin after a few bites.

                                2. I do enjoy Handsome but I've never been thrilled with Blue Bottle.
                                  I've grown up with excellent roasters from the NW (not Starbucks thanks) and when I tried Blue Bottle espresso at the Ferry Building I literally threw it out…just way too sweet and tart for my palate. Nice crema and great artwork…
                                  The line was long but mostly tourists who'd heard and wanted to try.

                                  1. Very entertaining commentary.

                                    The LATimes article is quite accurate. It's purely a business decision and pretty mutually beneficial for the major stakeholders.

                                    How it will play out for employees and fans? No one knows yet. Will probably be an opportunity for some, not so much for others.

                                    1. Look, without naming names and getting overly specific, Handsome was going to run itself into the ground eventually. They were bleeding money with expensive marketing decisions (ex. co-branding clothing apparel), throwing big parties, using the business expense account as a personal piggy bank, catering special events for free and other poor business practices. This was a blessing for anybody financially involved. That being said, it's hard to believe that any investor made a profit on the takeover deal - actually they would have been really lucky to walk away with just their money back.

                                      On a service level, not providing sugar was their prerogative. It was a dimwitted and pretentious concept mostly because no matter how great the coffee was a majority of people in america love them some sugar. And sugar was, is, and always will be just as much a beloved drug as caffeine.

                                      1. In other words, "...coffee companies often spend more energy differentiating based on brand, aesthetics, fancy faucets, or marketing smoke and mirrors, and not enough energy on improving their core coffee experience."

                                        -TONY KONECNY from Tonx, one of the only guys who made a boatload on the deal.