An experimental coffee craze in Los Angeles
The Intelligentsia’s unique back bar features Starbucks’ original 1972 La Marzocco machine. (Caroline Pardilla)
The Intelligentsia “slow bar” in Venice, California, is taking coffee geekiness to a whole new level — combining the concept of brew-to-order drinks with R&D bars, where bartenders create unique experimental cocktails for one night only.
After undergoing an intensive certification program, the baristas at Intelligentsia create an individualized experience for every customer using a variety of brewing methods and a menu that lists the flavour profiles of each bean. The Komo Ethiopia tastes of jasmine, tarragon and tropical fruit, and the Black Cat Project espresso evokes hints of honey, butter pecan and pear.
Coffee enthusiasts from all over gladly endure Intelligentsia’s long, slow-moving queues for a taste of its well-made java. Unique to the beachside coffee shop, the back bar features Starbucks’ original 1972 La Marzocco machine -- a shiny, squeal-worthy sight for any coffee nerd.
From 8 am to 2 pm Monday through Friday, the featured barista of the week is given the freedom to highlight the black gold in any way they want; whether through an espresso tasting session, a siphon coffee and Farmshop pastry pairing or drinks named after favourite ‘90s music such as the “Ritual de lo Habitual” espresso (after the Jane’s Addiction album).
“The choices people have made on how they want to use the slow bar aren’t always about pushing progressive ideas,” said Charles Babinski, a coffee educator for the Venice location. “Sometimes they’re just about sharing their experiences of how they interact with coffee.”
During the next few months, the program will evolve to “guest slow bars” which will include baristas from other Intelligentsia locations.
Caroline Pardilla is the Los Angeles Localite for BBC Travel. She also writes Carolineoncrack.com.