The light shines through from East and West facing doors illuminating through the new the DOC.U.MENT Coffee Bar and Gallery in Los Angeles. Simple long tables and school chairs fill the room. White walls that once were blank now hold the gallery's first exhibit, FACE.
When I first walked into this cafe in shortly after its opening a few months ago, these walls were freshly painted and full of possibility, and now that the art is hung and the coffee is flowing, that sense of possibility seems even greater. The art at DOC.U.MENT completes the vision of owners and artists Sojung Kwon and Byoungok Koh: a contemporary art gallery, coffee bar, and gathering space in Koreatown.
DOC.U.MENT is equipped with a La Marzocco Linea espresso machine and a Versalab M3 grinder, serving coffee from Calgary's Phil & Sebastian, Temple Coffee out of Sacramento, and Stumptown LA. They offer the standard classics–brewed coffee, espresso drinks, tea–but mix it up with drinks like their signature cold brew, “Document Cold”. The drink is brought out with milk, Howrigan Family Farms maple syrup, and ice already in the glass–the strong cold-brew concentrate is presented in a bottle on the side for you to mix to your heart's content. This small bit of theater belies the carefully thought out decisions throughout the space, from design elements and menu, to the art that hangs on the walls.
Sojung Kwon sat down with Sprudge over a few cold-brews to tell us more about DOC.U.MENT's approach.
Why did you want to open a coffee bar?
As artists, we have had many opportunities to travel and to stay in many countries like Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, and Vietnam. Everywhere we go, we wake up with espresso and end the day with a glass of wine, or the other way around. As we travel, we think of coffee and tea as culture, not just beverages. Koh and I each have run galleries featuring contemporary and experimental art works. While we're running these spaces we always needed other sources of financial support. That's why we wanted to combine these two ideas for a business: coffee and art.
What was the inspiration for the design of the space?
We tried to make it really empty and clean and simple as possible to keep it as a gallery. An empty space, with something needed. People will come and art will fill up the rest of the energy.
How did you find this Koreatown location?
While we were looking for a space, we heard that AndrewShire Gallery, one of the oldest and most successful galleries in K-Town, run by friends of ours, was leaving for another space. We loved the history and character of this location from the back door entrance to the tree in the front. The sunlight spreads across the space beautifully around 5pm. We also liked the fact that it’s facing a small street, St. Andrews Place, not on the main street, Wilshire. Also, after living in Los Angeles for a while, we realized that there were not many cultural spaces in K-Town. We wanted to add more options to the community.
How did you choose your coffee equipment?
The La Marzocco Linea is a really simple design, with history, fundamental function, and classic styling. We fell in love with the Versalab M3 grinder. It is made out of heavy duty metal with very detailed parts. It’s amazing. It is a beautiful machine, like a sculpture. People will say it is not as fast as other grinders, but the low RPM does not create much heat, so it will not affect the condition of the coffee. The consistency is really amazing.
Your cold-brew coffee setup is pretty sculptural as well. How did you develop that area of the coffee bar?
Koh and I had the idea that the cold-brew set up would be an installation piece. We bought the glassware from Yama glass. We built the racks ourselves. We always like to have some kind of movement in the space. The drops of the water falling, with the sound and the smell, is a meditation.
How did you come up with the name DOC.U.MENT?
The whole thing is our art practice and a life project. We plan to document everything from the beginning. We have been documenting every permit, blueprints, emails, photos of the people working on the site. In a couple months we are going to have a show about opening DOC.U.MENT. I love the name, but some people have walked in and asked if we do copies and have a copy machine.
FACE, their inaugural art show, is currently on display, featuring works by David Bell, Enrique Castrejon, Cirilo Domine, Todd Gray, Margaret Honda, Hyesook, Kristi Lippire, Maryrose Mendoza, Yong Soon Min, Sandeep Mukherjee, Alan Nakagawa, Kyungmi Sin, and Matt Wardell.
Julie Wolfson is a Sprudge.com desk writer based in Los Angeles. Read more Julie Wolfson on Sprudge.