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Blue Bottle is Taking Over The World

TonyC Apr 8, 2014 09:26 AM

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. a213b RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 09:46 AM

    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. k
      kevin RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 09:51 AM

      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
        BacoMan RE: kevin Apr 8, 2014 02:27 PM

        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. c
        cls RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 10:08 AM

        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
          TonyC RE: cls Apr 8, 2014 11:14 AM

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


          1. re: cls
            BacoMan RE: cls Apr 8, 2014 02:29 PM

            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
              cls RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 03:16 PM

              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
                ns1 RE: cls Apr 8, 2014 03:40 PM

                Seems like "hipsters" know how to appreciate coffee.

                1. re: cls
                  latindancer RE: cls Apr 8, 2014 06:08 PM

                  <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
                    TonyC RE: cls Apr 16, 2014 11:12 AM

                    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
                    cls RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 09:21 PM

                    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
                      VenusCafe RE: BacoMan Apr 11, 2014 04:59 PM

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

                      1. re: VenusCafe
                        BacoMan RE: VenusCafe Apr 11, 2014 05:04 PM

                        Then don't go to Handsome.

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

                    2. re: cls
                      latindancer RE: cls Apr 8, 2014 05:11 PM

                      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
                        kevin RE: latindancer Apr 8, 2014 05:53 PM

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

                        Thanks. :)

                        1. re: kevin
                          latindancer RE: kevin Apr 8, 2014 06:00 PM

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

                    3. l
                      LAgirl2 RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 10:14 AM

                      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
                        BacoMan RE: LAgirl2 Apr 8, 2014 02:30 PM

                        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
                          Johnny L RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 07:23 PM

                          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
                            BacoMan RE: Johnny L Apr 8, 2014 09:44 PM

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

                            1. re: BacoMan
                              LAgirl2 RE: BacoMan Apr 9, 2014 09:29 AM

                              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. s
                        Sgee RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 02:03 PM

                        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. b
                          BacoMan RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 02:24 PM

                          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
                            js76wisco RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 02:43 PM

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


                            1. re: js76wisco
                              BacoMan RE: js76wisco Apr 8, 2014 02:55 PM

                              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
                                JonDough RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 03:13 PM

                                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
                              Sgee RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 02:57 PM

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

                              1. re: Sgee
                                BacoMan RE: Sgee Apr 8, 2014 03:50 PM

                                There is?

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

                              2. re: BacoMan
                                JonDough RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 03:12 PM

                                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
                                  BacoMan RE: JonDough Apr 8, 2014 03:51 PM

                                  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
                                    js76wisco RE: BacoMan Apr 8, 2014 04:25 PM

                                    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
                                      Das Ubergeek RE: js76wisco Apr 9, 2014 11:29 AM

                                      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
                                        BacoMan RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 9, 2014 12:29 PM

                                        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
                                          ns1 RE: BacoMan Apr 9, 2014 12:45 PM

                                          how much are portola beans at the shop?

                                          it's 14.95/12oz from amazon.

                                          1. re: ns1
                                            kevin RE: ns1 Apr 9, 2014 12:47 PM

                                            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
                                          js76wisco RE: Das Ubergeek Apr 9, 2014 12:58 PM

                                          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. l
                                  latindancer RE: TonyC Apr 8, 2014 05:09 PM

                                  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. r
                                    revets2 RE: TonyC Apr 9, 2014 01:12 PM

                                    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. m
                                      mcgoose RE: TonyC May 4, 2014 01:47 AM

                                      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. m
                                        mcgoose RE: TonyC May 4, 2014 03:00 AM

                                        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.

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