Believe it or not, I am less than halfway through my list of the 55 best coffee shops in Los Angeles. Even so, over these past few months I have met so many interesting and passionate people, explored areas of my city that I'd never seen before, and have learned so much about the hard work and artistry that goes into the cappuccinos I've enjoyed. And for the record, I have enjoyed each and every one. One unexpected perk of this process, however, has been reconnecting with people and places that I have loved, but haven't visited in a while - like this old favorite of mine, The Conservatory.
Technically, it's called The Conservatory for Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa, but those of us in the know call it simply, The Conservatory. And there are a lot of people in the know here - almost every customer in line on my recent visit was a regular, and the staff had their orders memorized. It's no surprise that this family-run operation has amassed so many fiercely loyal customers; their house-roasted coffees and wide variety of teas have been setting the standard of excellence in their area for over 20 years. As it's situated just steps away from the Sony lot, on any given day you'll find production executives stopping by between meetings or a PA rattling off a laundry list of orders from their iPhone. The staff treats them all warmly and like family; you can tell they're genuinely happy to have them there.
The café itself is charming and a little quirky; a huge papier-mâché tree looms in one corner while burlap coffee bags are stacked next to the beautiful vintage roaster in the other. Behind the counter, there's the "Great Wall of Tea" - rows of gleaming gold tins full of any type of loose leaf tea you could imagine. There's an eclectic mix of personal touches throughout, like a handwritten list of the day's coffee, beautiful potted orchids on the countertops, a collection of vintage coffee pots, and a huge American flag hanging over the espresso machine. It feels well-loved and lived-in, and something about it feels like home.
Upon ordering, I settled in at a little bistro table with the locals, some having meetings, others laughing with their children, and a few cozied up with a good book. My cappuccino came adorned with a lovely lovely bit of foam art, served in a perfectly simple ceramic mug. Its flavor was bold and direct, offering an intense bitterness at the beginning of the sip that soon mellowed out into a smooth sweetness, a flavor that recalled toasted marshmallow and walnut. It was so satisfying and delicious that I was somewhat forlorn upon reaching the bottom.
Apart from its wonderful espresso drinks, The Conservatory offers a wide variety of treats that are not to be missed, especially the rotating brewed coffee, the delicious scones and coffee cakes, and the rich, spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate. And on a hot summer day, nothing beats one of their refreshing iced teas. It's also worth noting that their almond milk of choice is Mylk, an exceptionally delicious raw concoction with simple ingredients that's made locally in Culver City. Definitely worth checking out if that's something you're in to.
After experiencing so many excellent cappuccinos from some of the finest coffee roasters over these past few months, some small part of me feared that this old standby wouldn't live up to the fond memories I'd been harboring of it. Luckily, that fear was unfounded, and the coffee at The Conservatory was even better than I'd remembered. I may not work within walking distance of this gem anymore, but its unpretentious atmosphere and delicious coffee make it worthy of a regular visit - and who knows, maybe someday the staff will remember my order, too.
The Conservatory for Coffee, Tea, and Cocoa
10117 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232