It’s that time of the week again… time for caffeination and foamy goodness as we explore Los Angeles’ best coffee shops! The second stop on the cappuccino train is Funnel Mill, a purveyor of exotic coffees and teas located near 10th and Broadway in Santa Monica.
Upon entering, it’s very clear that this is not the same breed of coffee shop as many of the newer, hipster places on our list. The decor feels sparse and a bit disjointed, as beautiful Asian elements like jars of loose-leaf teas and a little fountain are juxtaposed with brown leather easy chairs tucked behind a wall of floor-to-ceiling curtains. It’s obvious that this is a favorite spot for students and writers; even on a Saturday afternoon we can’t snag a table amidst the sea of laptops and textbooks. Perhaps the best spectacle here lies behind the bar, where a team of mad scientists use a hodgepodge of exotic-looking coffee paraphernalia to brew up their rare blends. As strange as all these elements may sound, it’s pleasant in its own way, and is a refreshing change from all the “industrial-chic” we’ve been seeing around town.
If you’ve heard of Funnel Mill before, you probably already know that they offer an $80 cup of coffee. That’s right, by appointment only, you can taste the legendary Kopi Luwak coffee, made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a cute little mammal called the Luwak. You can also partake in a traditional Chinese Cha Tao tea ceremony, sample from the extensive exotic tea and coffee menu, or taste coffees brewed with a syphon reminiscent of something you’d see in a Steampunk movie. We did none of these things, unfortunately, because this is not “The Great Los Angeles Exotic Tea and Coffee Project.” It’s “The Great Los Angeles Cappuccino Project.” So predictably, we ordered up some cappuccinos.
Now, bear with me for a moment as I take you on a bit of a tangent. If you grew up in the 90’s, you may remember the cult classic Mike Myers film, “So I Married an Axe Murderer” (or “SIMAAM” as my super-hip friends and I called it). In the opening credits of the movie, we follow an absurdly large coffee cup as it leaves a cafe table empty, then is washed in the kitchen, and finally is refilled with espresso and the fluffiest foam to be served to Mike Myers (who jokes that he ordered the LARGE cappuccino... HELLO!). Ok, so the largeness really isn’t a factor here at all (the cups at Funnel Mill are a perfectly reasonable size), and this is in no way one of those 90’s poetry slam coffee joints. What is similar here is that impossibly fluffy foam, plopped on top of espresso in such a heap that it simply can’t be contained by the cup. I mean, just look at that luscious spillage.
The amount of foam, while lovely and impossibly fluffy, is perhaps too much. And the espresso, while certainly solid and far better than everyone’s favorite coffee chain (cough), isn’t really anything to write home about. So, we’ll deem this the absolutely perfect “90’s Cappuccino,” great for enjoying some avant-garde poetry or perhaps a live performance of “Smelly Cat.”
That being said, I absolutely cannot wait to go back to Funnel Mill to do a tasting of their impressive rare coffee beans brewed in the syphon, or perhaps the traditional Cha Tao tea ceremony. Clearly these folks know their stuff, and I’m told they’ll happily talk to you about coffee for hours on end. Please note: I’m still on the fence regarding whether or not I’d ever sample the $80 Luwak-poo coffee. I’ll get back to you.
Santa Monica, CA 90401