Today’s coffee adventure brings us to another staple in the so-called “third wave” coffee movement: Blue Bottle Coffee. Founded by self-proclaimed “coffee lunatic” W. James Freeman, Blue Bottle was an effort to provide an alternative to the stale, over-roasted coffee that was once the status quo. The operation began as a coffee delivery service, bringing sustainable, artisanal coffees directly to customers' doorsteps. His business soon morphed into an Oakland café, and is now inching toward world domination with locations throughout the Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, and Tokyo.
My first Blue Bottle experience was in Oakland several years ago, when some friends enthusiastically introduced us to the brand. The café was sleek and gorgeous, and the coffee and food were exceptional (especially the waffles, oh how I dream of the waffles!). I excitedly brought a bag of beans home with me, eager to extend my Blue Bottle experience as long as I could. You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Blue Bottle would be opening here in L.A., in what felt like a mass migration of all my favorite Food Unicorns (as it was around that same time that Stumptown, Salt & Straw, and Blue Star Donuts also set up shop in L.A.). Currently, L.A. boasts five Blue Bottle locations, with three more on the way, each living up to the high standard set in Oakland.
One of the newest spots is located in Culver City’s Platform, a gorgeous collection of hip shops and restaurants nestled in the bottom floors of modern condos and office spaces. Blue Bottle fits right in with the sleek, modern feel of the complex: it boasts some beautiful and unusual architecture, featuring a huge staircase for lounging and a loft-like seating space offering birds-eye views of the rest of the café. The entire space is flooded with light from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and the blonde wood accents and simple decor offer a modern, Scandinavian feel. There are lovely extra touches throughout, including a small lending library, featuring collections of books assembled by notable curators. The staff perfectly embodies Blue Bottle’s values, all very friendly and approachable, and clearly enthusiastic about coffee.
The cappuccino was inarguably excellent. It was beautifully poured, with a very good ratio of espresso to milk, and its velvety, creamy texture made it clear that it was made with very good milk. It’s possible that I had Christmas on the brain whilst sipping this beauty, because I couldn’t help but conjure memories of bourbon-spiked eggnog while enjoying its nutty, amaretto-like flavor. Its finish was pleasantly bitter, with a cozy, lingering warmth and richness.
Blue Bottle sets a high standard for its cafés, and each one I have visited has lived up to that standard, serving high-quality coffee and offering a comfortable, pleasant experience. At the end of the day, Blue Bottle is still a chain - and for that reason, it lacks the personality and character you can find in the smaller cafés this city has to offer. However, this operation is polished, understated, and most of all, consistent - an admirable feat given how quickly the company has grown. If this and the other “third-wave” coffee players are an indication of the future of coffee chains, then we are in good hands indeed.
Blue Bottle Coffee Culver City
Platform, 8830 Washington Blvd #103, Culver City, CA 90232