This week marked the opening of Counter Culture Coffee’s 11th training center and lab. This is the North Carolina-based roaster’s second California outpost—after their Emeryville headquarters opened in April last year. This time, they’ve set up shop in sunny Los Angeles, right in the heart of what is probably one of LA’s most coffee-loving neighborhoods: Silver Lake.
Counter Culture calls a stylish aqua blue Art Deco building their home, designed by Design, Bitches. Fully equipped with a double espresso bar featuring a La Marzocco Linea PB and GB5 on one side and a dreamy pour-over bar on the other, all of it built with training and education in mind. Designed with a nod towards sustainability—a Counter Culture hallmark that includes a worm farm in Chicago and staff CSA memberships—the space makes capable use of re-used wood and paper-based materials, alongside a patio with a drought-tolerant garden.
Unlike Counter Culture's first foray onto the West Coast, their Silver Lake space serves only as a lab and a training center. That means no roasting, just a place to learn about coffee—all the roasting happens four hundred miles up the road in Emeryville. Folks won't find roasting at CCC LA, but they will be able to check out events and education classes, including the brand's their signature open-to-the-public Tastings at Ten, which are free weekly tastings held every Friday in all of Counter Culture’s training centers.
To learn more about the project I attended Counter Culture's grand opening party in mid-July, which featured Gelateria Uli icy gelato cups topped espresso and delicious Guerrilla Tacos (a must-have at any flavor-forward LA food & bev event). As folks wandered in and out from the nearby Silver Lake Farmers Market, I chatted with Jesse Kahn, the wholesale sales manager at Counter Culture.
Hey, Jesse Kahn—thanks for talking with me. Why did Counter Culture choose this location in Silver Lake, and did you always plan on opening in Silver Lake?
Jesse Kahn: Actually, we had specifically planned NOT to open in Silver Lake. We had been looking around LA for almost a year, looking for the deal of the century on an amazing space that would be perfect for our use. We looked heavily in Chinatown, Downtown, Echo Park, and Highland Park, and couldn't seem to find the right spot. We even spent a misguided afternoon in Venice looking at some very damp spaces by the beach. I think that a big part of the issue was that while we kept saying ‘we really want a place that FEELS like LA,' the spaces we were seeing were derivative warehouses—spaces that exist in multitudes in any post-industrial city or area.
One afternoon, after an eight-hour real estate misadventure, Allen (Yelent, our LA Sales Rep) and myself found ourselves drinking margaritas at El Condor, and the idea of the bright blue Art Deco building out back started getting thrown around. 18 months later, we have what I truly believe to be the next generation of spaces in which to learn about, talk about, and taste coffee.
How long has this location been in the works?
We signed the lease in April of 2015, but we've had our sights set on LA for a few years now.
We know Design, Bitches is responsible for the great design of the space, but did you have any preferences in how to space should look? Like the color, the seating, etc.
Absolutely! The conversations we had about creating a space that can be a classroom, a coffee bar, an event space, an office, a kitchen, and a tech lab all at once were totally collaborative. One of the things that I love most about the space is that it really feels light and unencumbered.
I knew that I wanted to create a classroom that could be indoor, outdoor, or both simultaneously and the space that Cathy and Rebecca created does that so perfectly. The ziggurat they came up with serves so many purposes: it divides the building nearly in half, provides built in seating for two classroom area, has pullout seating that can be moved anywhere in the building you'd like, acts as a projection screen for class materials, and it does all that without feeling like it's in the way.
I could honestly go on forever about all the fun elements of this space, but really you should just go there any Friday at 10am for one of our Tastings at Ten and bug Allen about it.
We talked about design, but let me ask: how will the event programming and lab be differ in LA than your other locations?
One of the most exciting elements of our Training Centers is that each one is very much for the food and beverage community that it serves. We're really excited to offer some unique events for LA. Stay tuned. We'll be offering the full Counter Intelligence curriculum in LA, along with our weekly Friday tasting series and our monthly catalog cupping for our wholesale customers. We also host a quarterly Professional Development series that is free and open to the whole coffee community.
The first Tasting at Ten event took place Friday, July 22, and you can learn more about these upcoming events on the Counter Culture Coffee website. Up next: training centers number 13, 14, and 15 will open over the coming year in Seattle, Dallas, and Miami.
Tatiana Ernst is a Sprudge staff writer based in Los Angeles. Read more Tatiana Ernst on Sprudge.