In surfing, there is a saying that goes “you never leave surf to find surf.” What this means is that when driving around, looking for surf, the first place with decent waves is where you’ll surf. I have abided by this rule for two reasons. One being that often it is the act of going surfing rather than the quality of the waves that make the overall experience enjoyable. The other reason is that finding another surf spot often involves finding traffic. Recently, I have been applying this rule to coffee. If I pass a decent looking coffee shop, rather than continue to another place.
Today, while running some errands on my bike, I decided I wanted some coffee. Initially, my plan was to go to The Refinery – a pour over place on 4th and Santa Monica – but riding down Broadway, I passed The Funnel Mill. I had been there when I was younger with my dad, but had a hot chocolate. Hot chocolate, as delicious as it may be, is not a great gauge of a coffee shop and I knew I would be able to find a decent cup of coffee there. The prices, however, made me question my decision to walk in the front door.
Coffee in Los Angeles is not cheap, but the Funnel Mill takes overpriced coffee to a whole new level. The cheapest coffee on the menu was $9. That’s pretty expensive you may be thinking, but just guess the price of the most expensive cup. $90. Yup. $90. Kopi Luwak starts as coffee beans. Instead of being picked, washed and roasted, Kopi Luwak undergoes a much more…interesting journey from shrub to cup. See, the beans are eaten by these little, ugly animals called civets. These fellas apparently will only eat the best coffee beans so the final product will naturally be top notch coffee coffee. The beans somehow manage to stay intact during the journey through the digestive tract of our furry friends and are therefore pooped out looking like your normal, non-bacteria laden coffee bean. A farmer will then come along and collect this fecal matter/coffee to be washed, roasted and sent to coffee shops around the world like The Funnel Mill.
Despite this fascinating process, I am taken aback by price. Remembering the mantra of “never leave coffee to find coffee”, however, I order their Nicaraguan roast ($9), and sit down in a comfy chair to wait.
The coffee is served in a tall, clear, beer-stein like glass resting on a silver platter. This must be how the queen has tea served to her. Upon bringing the cup to my mouth, my nose is greeted with the crisp, sweet aromas of some fruit I am unable to pinpoint. I am initially not that impressed with the taste. I think the coffee may still be a bit hot. There is a nice citrus-like aftertaste and hopefully as the coffee cools, subtle flavors will begin to emerge. I will now go to the restroom to wash my hands. When I return, I will decide whether this cup of coffee was worth $9.
Nothing much exciting to report in the bathroom. A lack of water pressure marred the hand-washing process. My coffee has cooled to an ideal temperature, however and a distinct flavor profile has emerged. While the coffee is in my mouth, the citrus dominates the palate. Something similar to tangerine, perhaps a bit more bitter. Swallowing the beverage, a nuttiness becomes prominent. I’m leading towards pistachio, but I may being making that up. The aftertaste is slightly sweet but still nutty, somewhat like a handful of Planter’s Salted Peanuts.
The coffee has really cooled off now, and tastes completely different. Instead of citrus, the mouth is greeted by a fruity taste. Sweet but still crisp. The nuttiness has become sweeter, and now the coffee itself begins to match the aftertaste. The coffee is at the temperate of a lukewarm bathtub and tastes wonderful. But was it worth $9? Of course not! The does not mean, however, that the experience was not worth $9. The Funnel Mill is one of the more luxurious coffee shops I have been to. To my left is a water fall made out of a sheet of glass. The sound of the water, along with the burr of the coffee grinders, make for a very relaxing environment. Bamboo and other tropical plants are scattered throughout the shop, hiding the dull street the Funnel Mill is located on. If I was making six-figures, this would be my everyday coffee shop. Still, if I happen to pass by the Funnel Mill, I find no reason to sway from the “never leave coffee to find coffee” rule and buy a cup of $9 coffee.