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The molé cortado at Paper or Plastik
The molé cortado at Paper or Plastik
Oren Peleg

15 Coffee Drinks in LA to Break Up Your Average Caffeine Routine

Go beyond the regular latte

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The molé cortado at Paper or Plastik
| Oren Peleg

If the so called third-wave coffee movement has succeeded in introducing a more robust appreciation of coffee, it has also opened up the possibilities for how coffee can be served. For a while, it seemed that everyone was serving traditional Italian-style sizes of lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos. And while the quality of those drinks has vastly improved over ten years ago, it's starting to get a little boring with the same old drink formats.

Instead, cafes are now going beyond the traditional options of drinking black coffee and espresso shots, or with varying ratios of milk. Today, coffee bars have begun experimenting with new recipes that aim to highlight certain flavor notes, or deliver a unique experience. Whether they're inspired by spices and international ingredients, most of them reflect a new kind of approach to enjoying coffee in Los Angeles. Here now are 15 of LA's most delicious specialty coffee drinks.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. Angeleno at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea

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3922 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 663-6173
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Intelligentsia could be held responsible for the rise of Los Angeles’s third-wave coffee scene. And the Angeleno is the killer drink that blasted it into mass popularity. Four shots of espresso, ice, milk, and agave nectar (which adds more complex flavors than sugar would). Essentially a sweetened ice latte, but the result is solid.

2. Molé Cortado at Paper Or Plastik Cafe

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5772 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 935-0268
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If the name has you thinking of a Mexican hot chocolate, you are not far off. The espresso is spiked with mole bitters before frothed milk is added, meaning that the molé comes on subtly after the coffee flavor hits your tongue. Furthermore, as it is mole and not ganache, the taste is more savory than sweet. A dusting of spicy paprika gives color to the drink and a rich aroma before each sip.

3. Rose Vanilla Latte at Rubies+Diamonds

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(323) 465-0400
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The hyper-stylized décor of Rubies + Diamonds should tip you off that everything here is done with flare. The rose vanilla latte is a particular example of this. Adding the all-natural rose water and homemade Madagascar vanilla syrup creates an exotic variation of a latte. The rose and vanilla soften the intensity of the espresso in the drink’s heated version, but iced is how the added flavors shine. The vanilla and milk create a creamy base for the rose’s floral notes to stand front and center, while the espresso rounds things out with a kick.

4. Iced Mint Cubano at Cafe Demitasse

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135 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(213) 613-9300
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The cubano is an espresso drink similar to a cortado, but as its sweetened relative. At Demitasse, the drink is iced and fresh, hand-crushed mint is added complementing the chocolate flavors of the espresso and balanced by the creaminess of the milk.

5. Business & Pleasure at Go Get Em Tiger

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230 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004

The Business & Pleasure is novel not so much for the two drinks themselves, but for their pairing as a binary. A double shot of espresso is split into two single shots. One is had straight (the Business), while the other shot becomes a cappuccino (the Pleasure). Start with the Pleasure for a sweet, creamy almond macadamia milk cappuccino, then finish with the Business for a velvety, dark chocolate taste. Use the side of the signature Fizzy Hoppy Tea as a palate cleanser.

6. Iced Horchata con Espresso at Cafe de Leche

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5000 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042
(323) 551-6828
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Few things taste as classically Los Angeles as horchata. And for those of us how grew up with it, many a hot summer day was spent sitting on the curb cooling off with this thick, grain-based drink. So next time the weather is hot (which, let’s face it, can just as easily be in February as in September) and it’s time for an iced coffee, try this nostalgia-ridden, cinnamon-sweetened alternative.

7. White Coffee at PappaRich

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500 N Atlantic Blvd #116
Monterey Park, CA 91754
(626) 872-0464
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Papparich has a wide variety of traditional Malaysian coffee (or Kopi) from Kopi-C and Kopi-O to Cham, a coffee and milk tea combination. But the White Coffee (or Kopi Putih) is the thing to get. The drink is made from a powder consisting of coffee beans (typically roasted with butter), condensed milk, and sugar. The aroma is that of popcorn, and the butter gives a richness to the coffee’s taste with hints of roasted chestnuts and oats.

8. Palm Sugar Whiskey Iced Latte at Endorffeine

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727 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Endorffeine's palm sugar whiskey iced latte evolved from owner Jack Benchakul's love of whiskey, and his experimentation with it in his bi-weekly dessert events. The idea behind the drink was to create a chocolate counterpoint to the vanilla pandan iced latte, but without using actual chocolate — a sort of alchemist's mocha. The result is a well-balanced yet complex latte with notes of burnt sugar and whiskey standing in for chocolate. If you avoid most lattes because they're too sweet, this richly flavored concoction is for you.

9. Ca Phe Sua Da at Origin Cafe

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8532 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Don’t let this non-descript storefront on a primarily Hasidic stretch of Pico Boulevard fool you. Origin excels in showcasing a rich variety of international flavors and dishes. The ca phe sua da is no exception. For this traditional Vietnamese coffee, Origin uses locally roasted, 100 percent organic beans from Alana’s. A small metal filter brews the coffee straight into a cup half-filled with condensed milk, resulting in a photogenic separation of the two. Stir together with the cube of brown sugar provided, and enjoy.

10. Durian Coffee at Fresh Roast

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308 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776
(626) 451-5918

There is no shortage of durian-infused items on Fresh Roast’s menu: a durian smoothie, durian egg waffles, and even durian soft tofu. However, caffeine-fiends will find the durian coffee a particularly interesting option. If aroma is your top concern, it would be best to sip this drink with a plugged nose. As for the taste, the fresh slices of durian fruit sweeten and mellow the in-house roasted, cold brewed coffee.

11. Affogato Bomb at Love To Go

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307 S Mission Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

What sets Love To Go’s affogato bomb apart from the standard affogato is the inclusion of green and black teas. Or, said another way, this is a classic Yuenyeung with ice cream taking the place of milk. The espresso and tea enhance the other’s flavors when paired together, and the ice cream balances the drink with a nice creamy sweetness.

12. Spicy Coconut Mind at The Source Cafe

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509 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254
(310) 318-1600
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Cold brewed coffee has a milder flavor than straight espresso, yet more caffeine. Mix with coconut milk (considered by some to be a panacea) and cayenne pepper and you have equal parts juice cleanse and energy booster.

13. Espresso Fresco at The Cow's End Cafe

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34 Washington Blvd
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
(310) 574-1080
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What better way for a coffee lover to cool down after a day at the beach than with the espresso fresco. Equal parts Gaviña espresso and chocolate syrup are topped with a healthy serving of vanilla frozen yogurt. The espresso fresco is as much a dessert as it is a play on an iced mocha.

˜Yelp

14. Shakerato at Caffe Luxxe

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925 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 394-2222
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The shakerato is an Italian classic slowly gaining ground in the States as an alternative to ice-blended concoctions (I’m looking at you, iced latte). Café Luxxe makes a solid version using espresso, milk, ice, and dark chocolate. Air is introduced when the ingredients are shaken together resulting in a frothy final product. And don’t expect a shakerato to be sweet. This drink is known for its dry, intense, yet refreshing flavor. What is more, the dark chocolate adds a hint of smokiness.

15. Lavender Vanilla Latte at Barclays Coffee & Tea Co.

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8976 Tampa Ave
Northridge, CA 91324
(818) 885-7744
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Barclays has been holding down the north Valley with a solid coffee program and roasting operation for some forty years. A much more recent addition to the menu is the lavender vanilla latte. Barclays starts with a syrup made from equal parts lavender tea and sugar. Espresso, milk, and vanilla are then added. The drink can be made iced, but a hot mug smelling of vanilla and lavender is a truly soothing treat.

1. Angeleno at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea

3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

Intelligentsia could be held responsible for the rise of Los Angeles’s third-wave coffee scene. And the Angeleno is the killer drink that blasted it into mass popularity. Four shots of espresso, ice, milk, and agave nectar (which adds more complex flavors than sugar would). Essentially a sweetened ice latte, but the result is solid.

3922 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90029

2. Molé Cortado at Paper Or Plastik Cafe

5772 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90019

If the name has you thinking of a Mexican hot chocolate, you are not far off. The espresso is spiked with mole bitters before frothed milk is added, meaning that the molé comes on subtly after the coffee flavor hits your tongue. Furthermore, as it is mole and not ganache, the taste is more savory than sweet. A dusting of spicy paprika gives color to the drink and a rich aroma before each sip.

5772 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019

3. Rose Vanilla Latte at Rubies+Diamonds

6115 W Sunset Blvd, California 90028

The hyper-stylized décor of Rubies + Diamonds should tip you off that everything here is done with flare. The rose vanilla latte is a particular example of this. Adding the all-natural rose water and homemade Madagascar vanilla syrup creates an exotic variation of a latte. The rose and vanilla soften the intensity of the espresso in the drink’s heated version, but iced is how the added flavors shine. The vanilla and milk create a creamy base for the rose’s floral notes to stand front and center, while the espresso rounds things out with a kick.

4. Iced Mint Cubano at Cafe Demitasse

135 S San Pedro St, Los Angeles, CA 90012

The cubano is an espresso drink similar to a cortado, but as its sweetened relative. At Demitasse, the drink is iced and fresh, hand-crushed mint is added complementing the chocolate flavors of the espresso and balanced by the creaminess of the milk.

135 S San Pedro St
Los Angeles, CA 90012

5. Business & Pleasure at Go Get Em Tiger

230 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004

The Business & Pleasure is novel not so much for the two drinks themselves, but for their pairing as a binary. A double shot of espresso is split into two single shots. One is had straight (the Business), while the other shot becomes a cappuccino (the Pleasure). Start with the Pleasure for a sweet, creamy almond macadamia milk cappuccino, then finish with the Business for a velvety, dark chocolate taste. Use the side of the signature Fizzy Hoppy Tea as a palate cleanser.

230 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004

6. Iced Horchata con Espresso at Cafe de Leche

5000 York Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Few things taste as classically Los Angeles as horchata. And for those of us how grew up with it, many a hot summer day was spent sitting on the curb cooling off with this thick, grain-based drink. So next time the weather is hot (which, let’s face it, can just as easily be in February as in September) and it’s time for an iced coffee, try this nostalgia-ridden, cinnamon-sweetened alternative.

5000 York Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90042

7. White Coffee at PappaRich

500 N Atlantic Blvd #116, Monterey Park, CA 91754

Papparich has a wide variety of traditional Malaysian coffee (or Kopi) from Kopi-C and Kopi-O to Cham, a coffee and milk tea combination. But the White Coffee (or Kopi Putih) is the thing to get. The drink is made from a powder consisting of coffee beans (typically roasted with butter), condensed milk, and sugar. The aroma is that of popcorn, and the butter gives a richness to the coffee’s taste with hints of roasted chestnuts and oats.

500 N Atlantic Blvd #116
Monterey Park, CA 91754

8. Palm Sugar Whiskey Iced Latte at Endorffeine

727 N Broadway, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Endorffeine's palm sugar whiskey iced latte evolved from owner Jack Benchakul's love of whiskey, and his experimentation with it in his bi-weekly dessert events. The idea behind the drink was to create a chocolate counterpoint to the vanilla pandan iced latte, but without using actual chocolate — a sort of alchemist's mocha. The result is a well-balanced yet complex latte with notes of burnt sugar and whiskey standing in for chocolate. If you avoid most lattes because they're too sweet, this richly flavored concoction is for you.

727 N Broadway
Los Angeles, CA 90012

9. Ca Phe Sua Da at Origin Cafe

8532 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035

Don’t let this non-descript storefront on a primarily Hasidic stretch of Pico Boulevard fool you. Origin excels in showcasing a rich variety of international flavors and dishes. The ca phe sua da is no exception. For this traditional Vietnamese coffee, Origin uses locally roasted, 100 percent organic beans from Alana’s. A small metal filter brews the coffee straight into a cup half-filled with condensed milk, resulting in a photogenic separation of the two. Stir together with the cube of brown sugar provided, and enjoy.

8532 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

10. Durian Coffee at Fresh Roast

308 S San Gabriel Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

There is no shortage of durian-infused items on Fresh Roast’s menu: a durian smoothie, durian egg waffles, and even durian soft tofu. However, caffeine-fiends will find the durian coffee a particularly interesting option. If aroma is your top concern, it would be best to sip this drink with a plugged nose. As for the taste, the fresh slices of durian fruit sweeten and mellow the in-house roasted, cold brewed coffee.

308 S San Gabriel Blvd
San Gabriel, CA 91776

11. Affogato Bomb at Love To Go

307 S Mission Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776

What sets Love To Go’s affogato bomb apart from the standard affogato is the inclusion of green and black teas. Or, said another way, this is a classic Yuenyeung with ice cream taking the place of milk. The espresso and tea enhance the other’s flavors when paired together, and the ice cream balances the drink with a nice creamy sweetness.

307 S Mission Dr
San Gabriel, CA 91776

12. Spicy Coconut Mind at The Source Cafe

509 Pier Ave, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Cold brewed coffee has a milder flavor than straight espresso, yet more caffeine. Mix with coconut milk (considered by some to be a panacea) and cayenne pepper and you have equal parts juice cleanse and energy booster.

509 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

13. Espresso Fresco at The Cow's End Cafe

34 Washington Blvd, Marina del Rey, CA 90292
˜Yelp

What better way for a coffee lover to cool down after a day at the beach than with the espresso fresco. Equal parts Gaviña espresso and chocolate syrup are topped with a healthy serving of vanilla frozen yogurt. The espresso fresco is as much a dessert as it is a play on an iced mocha.

34 Washington Blvd
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

14. Shakerato at Caffe Luxxe

925 Montana Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

The shakerato is an Italian classic slowly gaining ground in the States as an alternative to ice-blended concoctions (I’m looking at you, iced latte). Café Luxxe makes a solid version using espresso, milk, ice, and dark chocolate. Air is introduced when the ingredients are shaken together resulting in a frothy final product. And don’t expect a shakerato to be sweet. This drink is known for its dry, intense, yet refreshing flavor. What is more, the dark chocolate adds a hint of smokiness.

925 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403

15. Lavender Vanilla Latte at Barclays Coffee & Tea Co.

8976 Tampa Ave, Northridge, CA 91324

Barclays has been holding down the north Valley with a solid coffee program and roasting operation for some forty years. A much more recent addition to the menu is the lavender vanilla latte. Barclays starts with a syrup made from equal parts lavender tea and sugar. Espresso, milk, and vanilla are then added. The drink can be made iced, but a hot mug smelling of vanilla and lavender is a truly soothing treat.

8976 Tampa Ave
Northridge, CA 91324

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