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  • Tomas Lee

Coffee: 3-Way Death Match


This time, we gonna see a death match with three completely different kind of animals: One lives in the concrete jungle surrounding by many other beasts, one lives by itself in the mountain hillside very safely, and one domesticated in the city feeds by thousands naturally. All of them has put some serious investments in espresso machinery (La Marzocco and Nuova Simonli) and coffee equipments. And who gonna be our winner? Let's find out.

Elabrew COFFEE | DTLA, CA

Products Score: 70 Service Score: 70 Store Score: 75

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5

Located in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, at the ground floor of an old lofts building, on the 6th Street where most of the busiest activities are going on. But, during my weekend visit, it's a totally different scenery. Even still, there's no street parking outside the cafe and I was forced to circle a few times before a space was found from a block away. The store was mined under the tall skyscrapers. Their logo full of dark, heavy metallic synergy isn't really fitting into what surrounded. Once you walked inside, the dark metallic wall arts immediately drained you up. Daylight barely came thru the glass windows to the inside of the store. Contrarily, the Barista was playing some old pop music albums on an antique turntable, the vinyl record player. At the back of the store, there're only a few bench tables at hallway space for seating. The vintage tube lightbulbs and some yellow spotlights on the ceiling were turned on, created an optical illusion of the dim tunnel traveling you back into the Great Depression age. I was the only customer, ordered a pour over, and sat myself on one of the tiny benches to finish some works with their Wifi. A very quiet but "dark" early afternoon. About the pour over coffee, there wasn't much memory left me. Visually, I can't determine from the color of coffee (not sufficient light inside). And its flavor wasn't strong enough for me to find out its origin neither.

Constellation COFFEE | LA CANADA, CA

Products Score: 80 Service Score: 75 Store Score: 75

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️🌟 3.5/5

If you often hike at the Mt. Wilson or live nearby the La Canada area, I am certain you never missed this place in the past. The only coffee roaster resided by the mountain hillside. Parking was super easy in the plaza. A very clean, sunny storefront with some small plants in the front welcomed me. It's so "California". During my early daytime visit, the cafe was totally packed by the elders, housewives, students and freelancers. Inside, it's very bright and spacey to fit for 22-25 persons. Besides the simple decoration, the cafe, as well, offers a variety of coffee drinks from different regions and pastries. Mapcap Coffee was their choice of coffee bean supplier. A pour-over was what I had. The barista had taken his conscious time to brew the coffee and carried over to the bench by the door where I sat at. Plated with the glass pour over coffee carafe topped with the glass lid to store the heat but not imprudently presented the pour over in a simple coffee cup. From there, you can tell their devotion about coffee making and quality control. The Kenya brew recommended by the barista tasted great with strong acidic tone and aroma flavor, somewhat I preferred. It's definitely a comfy location for catching a small talk and doing some personal works if you are already nearby for activities.​

COFFEEHOLIC | WEST COVINA, CA

Products Score: 70 Service Score: 80 Store Score: 70

Final {verdict}: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ 3/5

From the business perspective, their cafe simply has the best location ever, literally right by the Edwards Stadium 18 Cinema, plus surrounded by other commercial buildings. Naturally, organic growth in foot traffic occurs at all the time from dusk to dawn. Even though with the prime location, in simple decoration and the smallest footprint comparing with other two, it didn't stop their passion to invest heavily into machinery and equipment like the $24,000 Nuova Simoneli Black Eagle espresso machine. I got there around 9am and a few early bird students are already there working hard in their homework. The barista could immediately read from my face that I was a newcomer. Their special coffee menu (Klatch Coffee, their bean supplier) was large, from slow bar to "Ying Yang" Latte. After a minute of struggle, I listened to her recommendation trying the Pumpkin Seed Spice Latte, which made of the seasonal house-made pumpkin syrup. Sat myself at the very corner of the bar table and quietly observed her making of my drink. Even though she's very dedicated, but you could tell from her fresh skill that she's not a professional barista. But generally, the drink was above average. Very frothy but the pumpkin seed flavor could be stronger. The vibe didn't keep me staying long inside. After finishing the drink, I simply took off.

When it comes to the quality of coffee drinks, the choice of bean is very essential. However, the barista's skill is 2X more important than the expensive machinery investment. Sometimes, the beautiful, styled decoration could function only as a supplement to win customer mindshare. Retail location matters, but after all product and service speak for the business the most, whereby being the fundamental keys to the success. And I guess you already know who the winner is in this round.

Thanks for reading! :) Please comment and press ⭐️ below if you liked this article. Your responses would help me to improve the quality of content and other readers.

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