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Wake and Roast: The L.A. TACO Guide to Finding the Best Low-Key Local Coffee Beans

11:48 AM PST on March 10, 2021

    [dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]s a person who has always worked from home, the worst part of the pandemic—aside from the catastrophic loss of life, the exacerbation of inequality, the abject failure of our institutions, the devastation of small business, the isolation and loneliness, the anxiety and survivors guilt—has been the inability to camp out in coffee shops.

    Coffee shop writing is more fun than a home office and a whole lot cheaper than a coworking situation (even when you buy multiple items at the shop and tip extremely generously, as you should), and there’s always interesting eavesdropping for inspiration. I miss it dearly, even the crowded days when there was barely any space, the WiFi was busted, the power outlets were full, and when the college kids were a little too excited about their engineering final.

    But over the last year, we’ve all had to learn to make do. So to recreate a fruitful coffee shop environment, here’s what I recommend: Turn off your WiFi, cover up your power outlets, spill something sticky on your table, ask your partner to shout about real estate or the Rihanna remix that they’re working on....and make sure you grab some killer coffee beans.

    The first few are easy, but for that last one, here are some of the best local, under-the-radar coffee roasters, in no particular order. 

    Trystero Coffee. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    Trystero Coffee

    Coffee aesthetics aren’t all about slick minimalism; there’s also an erudite punk streak to the business, less Gattaca and more Mad Max. And few roasters are more erudite and punk than Greg Thomas of the Pynchon-inspired bicycle-delivered Trystero Coffee. Over the last dozen years, they’ve built a largely word-of-mouth community of fans who order over email and get regular home deliveries or occasional pickups from like-minded shops like Spoke Bicycle Cafe or Thank You For Coming. Trystero has always leaned into experimentation, and lately, they’ve been toying with beans processed anaerobically and blind taste testing kits. And if you like your coffee alcoholic, Trystero beans have frequently shown up in brews from Highland Park Brewery.

    trysterocoffee.com; Instagram: @trysterocoffee

    Trinity Coffee. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    Trinity CBC

    In San Pedro, multi-hyphenate roaster-designer-artist-philanthropist-raconteur husband-and-wife team Paul and Christina Bobadilla have been running their coffee roastery Trinity Coffee Brew Cultura, mostly out of their home since 2017. They have occasional pop-ups around the port cities, and Paul delivers fresh beans all over town, from OC to NELA and everywhere in between. They have stellar single-origin stuff and cleverly named blends, stylish merch, and bottled cold brew in badass flavors like horchata, cafe de olla, and one infused with CBD. 

    trinitycbc.com; Instagram: @trinitycbc

    Kindness & Mischief Tacos. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    Kindness & Mischief Coffee

    Highland Park’s most underrated coffee shop quietly started roasting their own beans in late 2019, with a little help from Long Beach’s Rose Park. Over the last 18 months, they’ve dialed in their skills and refined their packaging (like the rest of their design choices, it’s cute as hell), and now they might be the area’s most underrated coffee roaster, too. And they’re definitely the friendliest coffee shop in town.

    5537 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; kandmcoffee.com

    Photo via Arcade Coffee Roasters.

    Arcade Coffee Roasters

    Riverside is way out there, but if you need to justify the drive, the experimental roasters at Arcade are a solid choice. They have an exciting portfolio of beans from global sources, a deft touch with lighter roasts in particular, and a detailed fact sheet for every producer. They pull awesome shots at their coffee shop, the bag design is supremely stylish, and subscriptions are totally affordable. It’s an impressive outfit.

    3672 Chicago Ave. A., Riverside; arcadecoffeeroasters.com

    Unincorporated Coffee Roasters. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    Unincorporated Coffee Roasters

    Way up in the foothills, the often-overlooked and always unincorporated community of Altadena is home to several outstanding coffee shops and, since they opened their doors in the summer of 2018, one mustache-logoed coffee roaster. But that wasn’t the beginning—they’ve been selling at farmers’ markets since 2015, and they still regularly post up in Brentwood, Playa Vista, and Montrose. They’ve got a high turnover, so there’s always a super fresh bag, and their Roaster’s Club gives you access to some great, highly allocated beans.

    3021 Lincoln Ave., Altadena; unincorporated.coffee

    Photo via City Bean Roasters

    City Bean Roasters

    City Bean is something of an odd duck; they’re one of the rare high-volume roasters that don’t have an attached coffee shop anymore. That might keep their profile low, but that’s how they like it—City Bean is an anti-capitalist company with a profit-sharing model not designed to become a global brand. Instead, they roast wholesale for various restaurants and shops around town and offer their beans to walk-in customers at some of the best prices in town. They put out a wide variety of roast profiles, from light to dark, and you know their sourcing is meticulous and ethical.

    5051 W. Jefferson Blvd., West Adams; citybean.com

    Patria Coffee. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    Patria Coffee

    The South L.A. roasting scene is alive, and right now, Compton-based Patria is at the head of the class. They roast exclusively organic coffees from all over the world, with an always-strong seasonal dark roast for those who like their coffee a little toastier than today’s third-wave standard. Their espresso blend is on point if you’ve got the equipment, and their bottled and chilled cafe de olla flash brew is the perfect hit of sugar and spice.

    108 Alameda St., Compton; patriacoffee.com

    1802 Roasters. Patria Coffee. Photo by Ben Mesirow for L.A. TACO.

    1802 Roasters

    Like many shops around town, 1802 Roasters started selling their coffee beans at Farmers Markets. But in 2019, they soft-opened their own home base in Cypress Park before finally going full time… right as the pandemic popped. Difficult as it’s been, they managed to adapt, turning their parking lot into a drive-thru coffee window, with room for a few tables scattered around in the shade. They sell bags of beans in every roast level, with some limited-run options from less common regions like the Philippines, and their back patio is big enough to host the occasional food pop-up to pair with their coffee.

    1206 N. Cypress Ave., Cypress Park; 1802roasters.com

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