“Thirst come, thirst served” is the motto of LA's Bloom & Plume Coffee, a coffee bar and cultural hub at the center of an unlikely and historic 2020.
Situated between Echo Park and Downtown Los Angeles, this beautiful—and very purple—cafe is easy to spot on Temple Street, and that's exactly the point. The cafe's aesthetic comes from owner Maurice Harris, whose famed flower studio by the same name is just next door. Inspired by his grandmother, a gifted milliner, “Bloom & Plume” references the flowers and feathers that adorned her creations, and the cafe embraces a rich color palette creating a sort of flower-wonderland maximalism. The décor is purple, gold, orange, green, and black. Patterns, textures, and imagery grounded in Black culture fill the space. The tables are gold, there are flower arrangements everywhere, and a neon installation of a Black Power fist holding a flower hangs on the wall outside.
At least, this was the focus—then COVID-19 hit, resulting in a drastic reorganization of the Bloom & Plume space and operations for its founders, brothers Maurice Harris and Moses Harris. This effort was spearheaded by Andru Jones, the cafe's General Manager—read an in-depth interview with them in a companion piece to this feature.
COVID-19 may have changed things, but the community that the Harris Brothers and their team have built continues on. You can still see the church fans hanging on the wall, a nod to the founders and some of the crew—they grew up as pastors’ kids. Bloom & Plume Coffee sets itself apart by a lack of pretense and an emphasis on community. My visits there have been friendly, talkative, and have restored my belief in tasty batch brew. It feels like a needed space the community has already embraced.
Maurice Harris opened his floral studio in 2010 after years of working in fashion design. His gorgeous flower arrangements usually make their way to upscale clients on the Westside of Los Angeles. In order to bring some of this excellence closer to home, he decided to open a coffee shop with his brother Moses, in which he could showcase his same panache in this new territory and create a community space. Bloom & Plume Coffee brews coffee roasted by Red Bay Coffee on Curtis batch brewers and a shiny, gold La Marzocco GB5. Perseverance has been key to realizing the Harris brothers' dream, with years of navigating local bureaucracy and enduring construction delays.
Where Maurice has a style background, his brother Moses has a finance background—together, the two have combined to provide not only a fashionable place to drink coffee, but a space that can serve as inspiration to young Black entrepreneurs. “There's no way to pass the baton for Black business models,” Moses Harris tells me. “If you want to run a cafe, or start a business, and you don't have a mentor or a proven model, how are you going to succeed?”
Teamwork and collaboration drive Bloom & Plume Coffee. The team focuses on hospitality, both with their coworkers and guests, creating a space where anyone who walks up to the outdoor counter feels welcome. Although the Harris Brothers do not come from the coffee world, he clearly loves the stuff, and his detail-obsession is tangible. Specialty coffee, like floral arrangements, is a luxury for the few lucky enough to have access or be in the know. Harris wants to offer some of this luxury to the folks in his neighborhood.
“We’re all equals,” says general manager Andru Jones. “I learn something from someone here everyday, no matter what level of experience.” Bloom & Plume Coffee is creating community on both sides of the counter, breaking through the coldness of the specialty coffee world—with spectacular style and proven systems, built for excellence even in these trying times.
For more about how Bloom & Plume are thriving here in 2020, read our in-depth interview with Andru Jones.
Josh Stenslien is a coffee professional based in Los Angeles. This is Josh Stenslien's first article for Sprudge.