What started out as a backyard coffee party has quickly become a caffeine-driven pop-up playground for community creatives. Shreebs Coffee in the Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles prefers to do things differently, co-founder Casey Goch asserts. With an espresso-less bar, cold-brew cocktails, and a location built from a shipping container, Shreebs can certainly claim its declaration of difference from the other 10 or so coffee shops in the area.
Shreebs originally began in 2012 as a space for creative-minded individuals in the backyard of Casey Goch’s house in Venice, California, where she and her husband would host coffee parties for the neighborhood. Using coffee education and beans from The Conservatory in Culver City, the gathering eventually relabeled itself as a secret pop-up coffee shop and moved to the front yard of the house. Musicians would come in from the neighborhood and play guitar while others hosted business meetings out front.
“It just became this hub,” Goch remembers.
When Shreebs took a year break from its post, former customers started requesting Shreebs to provide coffee service at events: baby showers, photo shoots, and other occasions. From then on, Goch and co-founder Ren Fuller-Wasserman decided Shreebs could be a real business. After hosting various pop-up events in the LA area, the shop finally became a long-term piece when a shipping container store in the heart of the the Arts District came available. Shreebs as we know it now a semi-permanent pop-up coffee shop and community space for creatives.
Shreebs’ shipping container home is a stylish version of that which you may have seen in a typical junkyard or port terminal. The shop exterior is rust-free and adorned with thick, striped pastels of salmon, teal, and tan. The front of the cafe looks like a fancy front lawn in a trailer park. Shreebs’ 500 square feet of space sits atop a fresh patch of bright green AstroTurf and clean wooden picnic benches.
The shipping container was a fun challenge to clarify for the community at first.”In the beginning, we had to be waving people down on the streets because they didn’t understand, like ‘Do I stop? What’s going on here?’” Goch laughs.
The inside bar setup is simple. Without an espresso machine, Shreebs’ counter space is dominated by its pour-over bar and various syrups & concentrates dedicated to the cafe’s cold brew program. The lack of an espresso machine is intentional and a commitment to Goch’s concept of simplicity.
Cold brew offerings are the most defining aspect of Shreebs. In addition to serving single-origin cold brew and pour-over (for which they roast their own coffee for in small batches), the menu also includes a rotating selection of cold-brew cocktails. Shreebs is best known for its Horchata Cold Brew Latte, the recipe for which was designed by chef (and brother-in-law to Goch) Daniel Benhaim, known for his work as Because The Wind. The refreshing drink combines cold brew with rice, almond, oat, cinnamon, cane sugar, sea salt, olive oil, and almond milk. On a hot day—which is practically every day in LA these days—Shreebs take on an horchata & coffee cold brew beverage truly satisfies. Other current selections include the Choco-Chili Latte with dark chocolate, smoked chipotle chili, and cane sugar and the Cardamom Dulce of black pepper, cardamom, cane sugar, and sea salt. To complete the Shreebs coffee presentation, each beverage also comes paired with a “dunker” oatmeal mini cookie.
“Our biggest challenge with [Benhaim] is that he’s the flavor master,” explains Goch. “He’s bringing to us flavors like juniper and Douglas fir and all these crazy things and so we’re still trying to keep it accessible and not let it get too out there, but we’re looking to expand that menu and really go in that direction.”
But this is no mere cold brew shipping container. Shreebs is also intimately involved in the community around it, a throwback to the concepts early days as a Venice house party. These days that means hosting a variety of activities that fuel art and creativity, oftentimes run by the neighbors. Every Saturday morning, outdoor yoga takes place on the astroturf lawn before openings. Additionally, the shop runs a community arts blog, artist pop-ups, and has plans to begin movie nights. Most of the people who lead these events started out as regular customers.
“It’s really something special when people are able to service their own community. That’s what the coffee shop really does. For any successful coffee shop, your biggest asset is your people within a mile or two from you,” Goch affirms.
While Shreebs had initially agreed to its space in the Arts District as a pop-up, the shop is coming up on its one-year anniversary in the same spot. While they currently have no set ideas on where to move to next, Shreebs has many ideas on how to continue serving the community they have come to thrive within.
“It has really the traits of why we started this and how it all happened and how we’ve gone beyond the backyard,” Goch says. “But in some ways this really feels like a backyard.”
Katrina Yentch is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. This is Katrina Yentch’s first feature for Sprudge.