Looking for a Guide to L.A.'s Coffee Scene? There's an App for That
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles isn't traditionally known as a coffee city, but those who have spent time in the cafes and shops that have opened up in the last few years can see that changing.
Whether it be via shops like the pint-sized Spring for Coffee—which has not been serving up brews from its 200 square feet for two-and-a-half years—or a new roaster like Handsome Coffee Roasters, Los Angeles has been picking up its game. This week even the New York Times' magazine took note.
London-based Blue Crow Media may seem an unlikely entity to try and catalogue that growth, but brothers Derek and Mark Lamberton last week launched the LA Coffee app for iPhone, iPad and Android, their fourth after London, New York and San Francisco. Their apps focus on the details of interest to coffee geeks, including roasters, brewing machines and grinder models.
This week, we asked Mark about the process of getting the app up and running.
ERIC RICHARDSON: Why coffee? Which came first, the idea for doing apps or a passion for good coffee?
MARK LAMBERTON: The passion for coffee came first but the app was close behind. It began in London, which has a great coffee scene that, like LA's, has grown substantially over the past year. I'm a barista here and my brother Derek is an app publisher, writer and, of course, coffee lover. We combined our interests and started making the apps.
ER: What do you look for in a coffee shop? Is it environment, sourcing, or brewing techniques?
ML: It sounds simple, but the first thing we look at is the cleanliness of the equipment. Is the espresso machine well loved? Has the grinder's hopper been cleaned recently?
But generally we follows the beans. From there it's a matter of how the baristas prepare the coffee. And, we should add, their preparation techniques generally coincide with their interest in coffee.
All the cafes included are independent, so the environments range from outdoor carts to blinged-out shops with top of the line equipment.
ER: Is your goal to grow the list, or to continue to just keep 50 as the target number of cafes that you want to feature?
The goal is to help people find the best cafes and carts. The number is arbitrary.
ER: You've done apps for several other cities. Did anything strike you as different or unique about L.A.'s coffee culture?
ML: We were really impressed by the enthusiasm we ran into while researching the app. There is definitely a feeling in LA that things are taking off, and although there is still considerable outside influence, it's evident that in the next year or two, LA will be a global influence on the coffee world.
ER: Downtown gets three mentions on the top 25 list, with two spots going to Spring for Coffee and one to Coffee Bar. What struck you about those places in particular?
ML: Well, keep in mind that the top 25 list is generated by people's ratings in the app - not us. We'll likely include an editor's pick tab in the future, but for now the ratings are up to people who buy the app. Having said that, we think Spring for Coffee is one of the best.