When asking about the best coffee shops in any city, there are some that come up in every conversation. In Los Angeles, Cognoscenti Coffee is one of those. With a brick-and-mortar shop in Culver City, plus pop-ups at Proof Bakery and Scoops Ice Cream, Cognoscenti's growth shows no signs of slowing down. The newest location opened in July, right in the heart of LA’s downtown area known as South Park, and it’s their biggest yet.
Cognoscenti founder Yeekai Lim decided to open in the South Park area after witnessing a shortage of specialty shops, with only Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in sight. The new Cognoscenti Coffee is located at the base of an also-new housing development called Level. With the recent housing boom to hit Downtown LA in the last few years, Lim’s new spot is guaranteed to draw lots of foot traffic to its large space.
While other Cognoscenti spots boast quality coffee, they lack the space to attract regulars looking to get some work done and stay awhile. Here, there are plenty of seats, tables, and large windows that create a comfortable, open space. The attractive polished concrete interior inside the cafe is just the right fit for the area's stylish vibe.
Lim says that the new shop is three times bigger than the Culver City location, also giving him the opportunity to offer food. The coffee program is the same, though: a single-cup brew, two espresso offerings, and a multi-roaster lineup. With plenty of space, Cognoscenti DTLA features a La Marzocco Linea PB, along with a not-yet-installed-at-press-time three-group Kees Van der Westen Spirit, Compak E10 grinders for espresso, and a Mahlkönig EKK 43 for filter coffee. Nitro cold brew is also on tap. For coffee, Lim is using Cognoscenti's own roasts alongside coffees from Heart Coffee Roasters and Take Flight Coffee. “We try not to rotate [roasters] unless we see variations in quality. We know the challenges coffee roasters face in purchasing coffee since we are delving into the coffee roasting world ourselves,” says Lim.
Special coffee drinks like the Snowglobe are a particular treat—an iced layered drink made with cold brew, sweet foam, orange zest, and finished with chocolate shavings. Other drink options include Good Luck Soda on tap and teas from Art of Tea and Red Blossom Tea Company.
Being able to serve food is something new for Lim. Most of the menu is made up of the type of food that perhaps pairs best with coffee—breakfast. Lim says, “I love eggs all day and I have some [traditional] dishes that I wanted to present like the Cilbir and Baked Eggs in tomato sauce.” He's also working on a porridge with eggs, and is actively seeking out a like-minded chef to create a better marriage of savory food with coffee. The menu is evolving, but for now, visitors can expect eggy breakfast sandwiches with Olympia Provisions meats and other items like potato hash and eggs.
Beyond eggs, Lim is looking to the future: more Cognoscenti locations are on his horizons, and a roastery, only a mile from downtown LA, is already set to open. In a landscape of ever-abundant options, it's safe to say that LA's discerning eyes will be fixed on all of Cognoscenti's next moves.
Tatiana Ernst is a Sprudge staff writer based in Los Angeles. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.