With so many artesian coffee shops opening up in LA, separating the good from the great becomes difficult. It used to be that any coffee shop that prepared drip-to-order was worth going to, but now even Starbucks, with their Clover system, does this, so other things are taken into consideration when evaluating a particular shop. First and foremost is the quality of the coffee. This criteria may seem a bit redundant, but it nonetheless cannot be ignored. Second is the ambiance. This includes the equipment being used in addition to the way the shop is decorated. Decoration may seem frivolous, but considering it characterizes the shop, I consider it to be important. Third is the staff. Anybody can call themselves a Barista, but places passionate baristas stand out. Demitasse, a coffee shop on Wilshire and 3rd in Santa Monica, is a place that has become my go-to for coffee because it fulfills these criteria. In the following paragraphs, I will use their Kyoto Drip, as the beverage of choice in explaining why Demitasse is an elite coffee shop.
Ice Coffee is a difficult thing to master. The traditional method of adding ice to coffee, is flawed. The ice will melt, and subsequently water down the coffee. For cheap, bitter coffees, this is fine, as it makes the beverage more palatable. For a finer coffee, however, adding ice is on par with adding milk, as the nuances that make the coffee special are destroyed. Kyoto drip is made in a Japanese slow dripper, a device that resembles an egg timer morphed with a oversized Christmas ornament. The process, which takes upwards of 36 hours, yields a coffee that, in the words of James Freeman (owner of Blue Bottle Coffee), is akin to drinking a fine rum or bourbon. Demitasse is big on Kyoto drip, boasting three Japanese slow drippers. This is a beverage meant to be consumed sitting down in the store. The futuristic looking decanter it is served in has a section hollowed out for ice. This keeps the coffee cold, while preventing the ice from watering down the coffee. The coffee itself is thick and slippery, almost like a syrup. It is very strong, yet in no way bitter. Citrusy with fruity undertones make this drink refreshing and sweet, perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. It is served on a beautiful bamboo tray, with the decanter and a small glass. It is this attention to detail that separates Demitasse from its competitors and makes it a special place.
Demitasse has a very modern looking interior, but unlike many similar places, avoids feeling cold. There are two reasons for this, the layout of the store and the equipment. Demitasse only has a handful of tables; the best place to sit is at the bar, which allows you to see your coffee being prepared. While sitting at the bar, the sheer amount of equipment Demitasse has cannot be ignored. From an espresso machine, to the Steampunk, a $15,000 siphon machine, to the Japanese slow drippers, Demitasse feels like a candy store for coffee lovers. On top of this, the staff knows how to operate all of these machines, and are passionate in doing so.
All the people working at Demitasse love coffee. The owner is always in the shop, either making your coffee, or sitting – drinking coffee – on her computer most likely doing managerial work. Always talkative, she is open to answering any questions about the place. What stands out about Demitasse, however, is the freedom the baristas have. Everyday there is a barista signature drink, which is usually espresso based, and entirely the creation of a certain staff member. Some of these are delicious (the Handlebar), and some are straight up strange (Seoul Fog). The point is that the baristas are given free reign. I know Intelligentsia is similar in this regard, but most coffee shops I have been to curtail the creativity of baristas. This experimental side of Demitasse shows how it’s not just a money-making venture, but a place passionate about coffee.