Verve Coffee Roasters‘ latest cafe, on West 3rd in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Beverly Grove, quietly opened its doors this month with a mandate: to continue the education of thirsty Angelenos on quality coffee, Third Wave sourcing ethics, and how to run one cool business. It’s the latest addition to the growing cadre of Los Angeles cafes from our friends and partners at Verve, joining their spaces in Downtown Los Angeles and Melrose with a shared aesthetic but some pronounced differences. The new cafe features the company’s first “Farmlevel Bar”, a bright interior, ample seating, and that rarest and most precious of Los Angeles commodities: parking!
Situated between Los Angeles shopping landmarks—the Beverly Center and the Grove Los Angeles—Verve’s location may engender perceptions of trendy tourists carrying designer bags. It’s not so! (at least so far), says Verve Coffee co-founder Colby Barr, who tells me the store’s early crew of regulars are predominantly local residents lured by the cafe’s proximity to Belcampo Meat Company (delicious) and sweetgreen (nutritious). “Most people coming in have never heard of us,” Barr says, which is something he clearly enjoys. “Our real, core self is just the neighborhood vibe.” This might be hard to fathom if your conception of LA’s West Side comes from tacky reality TV shows, but I assure you: this is a city of little neighborhoods, full of its own rhythms and regulars, like any other market in so many ways. Just one block behind the traffic of 3rd Street is a dense residential community supplying a flow of low-key patrons.
The defining feature here is what Verve calls a “Farmlevel Bar”. This is a new feature, and marks the concept’s first appearance at any of Verve’s cafes in California. Manned by Kristen Kovaletz, a ringer brought down the coast from Verve’s hometown of Santa Cruz, the Farmlevel Bar is detached from the front register; the idea being, to reduce the immediacy and pressure from regular bar interactions, enabling in-depth conversations to develop from whatever customers are most interested in. Kovaletz is prepared to edify adventurous inquisitors on the subtleties between black and red honey-processed coffee, how water at coffee farms impacts local villages, and how certain coffee producing co-ops have evolved over time. The space is an opportunity for “opt-in” education: think of it as as sort of delicious, beautiful coffee infodesk. Anyone is free to discuss coffee as much or as little as they choose, removed from the rush of the service line.
Customers at the Farmlevel Bar will be able to purchase any of Verve’s coffee offerings by the ounce, hand scooped from the very same jars used at the opening of the 41st Avenue location in Santa Cruz. Barr hopes that people will feel comfortable buying a few ounces of each to get a feel for all the offerings. “So far no one has ordered just one ounce,” he says. (You could be the first!)
Architectural partner Commune Design has created an interior with high ceilings, I-beam posts, and exposed rafter joists evoking the feeling of a farmhouse (no easy trick for a cafe in West LA). All the furniture, leather table tops, plywood walls, and brass counters are intended to wear with the shop like a favorite pair of raw denim, and the facade windows and multiple skylights allow natural light to reach almost every corner of the space. The centerpiece is the horseshoe bar, with a four-group Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machine imported from Holland. Paired with the machine is a trio of Nuova Simonelli Mythos One grinders. At the Farmlevel Bar a trio of Modbar pour-over modules work with a Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder.
Verve is preparing a new partnership in the coming weeks with Hiro Clark, in the form of a very limited run of 36 t-shirts featuring Verve images. Each shirt will be packed in its own Stanley thermos for your next trip to the beach. Bitter Root Pottery has created one-of-a-kind ceramics and pastries are stocked by Short Cake bakery; the lemon poppy seed cake is a must try.
I think the best way to think about this new shop is in its dualities. From the outside, Verve 3rd Street looks like a comfortable neighborhood place to enjoy a latte, and it is that. But for those looking deeper, the team at Verve 3rd Street are making education accessible to the consumer and are advancing discussions on “ethics and excellence” in coffee from behind their Farmlevel Bar. You can use the cafe as a passerby, a casual fling, or you can choose to look for something deeper—Verve is happy to facilitate both types of use. This style of direct to consumer education, in the form of a dedicated employee interaction space, has the potential to create some meaningful experiences for coffee newbies, curious regulars, or those seeking knowledge on their own coffee quest. Verve’s new cafe is a nexus for awareness, and everyone is welcome.
Mackenzie Champlin is a freelance journalist based in Los Angeles. Read more Mackenzie Champlin on Sprudge.