As we ready ourselves for the holiday season, a barrage of holiday sales and deals will ambush us on a daily basis from now through Christmas. How do you shop for that special coffee-particular person in your life while supporting small business? We have the answer. Tortoise General Store on Abbot Kinney has been a longtime favorite shopping destination for residents of Venice, California and beyond. Their handpicked collection of contemporary Japanese products and design elements for the home is nothing short of magical. Leonard Koren’s book Wabi-Sabi for for Artists Designers, Poets & Philosophers sits on the counter next to hand-forged bells, enamel tea pots, and tenugui cloths. Examples of the wabi-sabi aesthetic can be found throughout the serene space. We’d be happy to live there. And with all of the coffee equipment on offer at Tortoise, we know our morning coffee would be fantastic.
Nestled in a bungalow-style space on Abbot Kinney, Tortoise General Store can be found across the street from Intelligentsia and the new Blue Bottle Venice. Shopping here through the years, small objects have come home with me and found their place, like tiny hand-thrown ceramic pitchers and a small iron rabbit that became a cherished kitchen mascot. Friends have searched the jewelry collection and chosen wedding bands. Collectors attend their ceramics shows and score finds by significant potters. Tortoise also offers a workshops series covering everything from soba making, to wood carving, to coffee brewing.
A few coffee mugs and brewing equipment items have been available for a while at Tortoise, but recently we noticed the collection growing and evolving. In store we also spotted several enamel kettles, Koizumi drippers, Hario V60 filters, coffee bean tenugui cloths, as well as several mugs and handless ceramic cups.
The growing interest in coffee related inventory came about thanks to Tortoise’s Herbert Johnson. Johnson offered to give us a tour and brew some cups of coffee on their pretty patio. Tortoise carries Koffe coffee beans roasted in Toyama, Japan. “The roaster Koji Yamanaka came to LA and we had a workshop and he taught everyone his way of doing pour-overs. First you pour a little bit of water and wait for 30 seconds to a minute. A lot of people who do pour-over in Japan don’t really stir,” explains Johnson, who is also the founder of the independent denim line Prospective Flow.
When asked why the coffee brewing and serving inventory has grown so much, Johnson shared, “Most people think of this as a kitchen store. I like coffee equipment—that why we have more than we used to. I go to coffee shops in the Unites States and Japan. When I go to the ones here I see the Japanese products. So then I try to offer something else. We also still want to carry the basic stuff.”
When not at work, Johnson likes to drink coffee at Conservatory in Culver City. In Tokyo he likes to go to Toranomon, though Johnson is originally from Nagoya. “In Nagoya there are so many coffee shops,” says Johnson. “In Nagoya everybody goes to a coffee shop in the morning to eat breakfast. It’s the culture. In Nagoya I like Komeda. They have three hundred stores in Japan, most of them are in Nagoya.”
Johnson starts each day at Tortoise by making coffee for himself and his coworkers. “I cannot start working until I drink coffee. I drink a couple cups at home and then get here and make coffee.” With rustic ceramic cups of coffee in hand we continue the tour to the back building to view ceramics made by Nobuhito Nishigawara, Shussai-Gama and kiln earthenware by Sori Yanagi.
Tortoise also carries a selection of Kaikado Tea canisters, made in copper, brass, and tin by a family owned business in Kyoto since 1875, that are also ideal for storing coffee beans. Tortoise also carries a selection of Hario kettles, brass coffee measurers, hand grinders, and woodneck drippers with fabric filters. The shelves are also lined with Kinto coffee drippers with metal filter, Kaico Enamel coffee pots designed by Makoto Koizunki, and colorful enamel kettles by Noda Horo.
For coffee-drinking vessels, Tortoise carries mugs with stone and wooden handles, Hasami porcelain mugs, and several small ceramic cups. The gift options are inspiring and plentiful. We dare you to stick to your gift list and not pick out something for yourself. Happy early holidays, and happy shopping!
Julie Wolfson is a Sprudge.com desk writer based in Los Angeles. Read more Julie Wolfson on Sprudge.