Tag Archives: roasters

Cafe Hounding: Intelligentsia Coffee – Venice

Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea – Venice Coffeebar

1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice, CA 90291

Entrance on Abbot Kinney

Entrance on Abbot Kinney

Last month West LA welcomed a new coffeebar as the famous Intelligentsia Coffee opened its second cafe in LA area in Venice. Since learning this news, I have been looking forward to checking this newbie out and finally had a chance today. As mentioned in another post that I first got into gourmet coffee thanks to Intelligentsia, it is natural that my first cafe hounding is indeed on this newest Intelligentsia baby.

Entrance hallway with seating on the side

Entrance hallway with seating on the side

Although all of intelligentsia coffee bars maintain the same high standard on their coffee drinks, each is quite unique. The Venice cafe speaks out loud the LA-style of living. The decoration is very hip, modern, and industrial. The service is very personal. Upon arrival at the cafe on Abbot Kinney, you will walk pass a metal gate and enter the hallway to the main atrium. You are greeted by a staff who then accompanies you to one of the four coffee stations located in the middle of the atrium. You order your drink, pay, watch your beverage prepared while enjoying a conversation with the barista. Finally, you can take your drink to seating areas around the atrium or back at the entrance hallway. They also have a limited selection of pastries provided.

From hallway to atrium

From hallway to atrium

I visited the cafe in an early evening on Wednesday and was taken care by Laura. I ordered a small latte ($3.75). Like baristas at other Intelligentsia coffeebars, Laura  did a great job on my latte. She used their signature Black Cat Blend for my latte, which tasted and smelt quite strong. The latte art was beautiful. I got what I expected. No complain about the drink. Laura was also very friendly and obviously knew about coffee and how to make it good.


I chose the seat in the hallway. Seating was ample when I was there although I doubted if it could accommodate customers during busy hours. The place, however, is not ideal if you would like to work with your laptop. The seating in the hallway is built in steps like those in sport stadium, with few small tables. It is fine for socializing, but less than ideal for studying. The atrium has enough light for readling, however. It also has limited space with desks and access to electrical outlets. I did not bring my laptop with me, but free wifi seemed to work on my iPhone (unless I stole the signal from the neighbor!).


Atrium with coffee stations

The big problem that might make me think twice before revisiting this location is parking. I was very lucky to get a spot right in front of the cafe. But from my past experience frequenting Abbot Kinney’s restaurant row, the probability of being that fortunate could be less than one percent. Well, at least it will remind me of similar experience I had back in Chicago when I visited the Broadway store. How could I complain!?!

— Kris Hound

New Scents in DC: Calling Suggestions!

I’m looking for places with extraordinary coffee in the Northern Virginia/DC/Maryland vicinity.

A recent arrival from Southern California, I’ve been spolied by the tremendous fruits of the labor of the wonderful ladies at Elan Organic as well as a generally robust artisian roaster specialty coffee scene.  Shout out to Arnie Holt at Cafe Calabria (introduced me to cupping), Karen Cebrero at Elan Organic (introduced me to … well her business, and the best samples of coffee I’ve had the pleasure of tasting on the house), Chuck Patton at Bird Rock (read: cool ass dude), the Ryan Brothers (who are cool, though not great coffee), and anyone else I’m leaving out that gave me a hand back in Day-go.

So far, here in DC/VA I’ve managed to locate the following places to check out:

Chinatown Coffee Co.
Juan Valdez
Peregrine Espresso
Counter Culture?
(they have a training center here… I guess?)
Caribou Coffee
(I know it’s a chain but they’ve got great whole bean coffee and over half the White House staff take their coffee breaks here!!!)

Taken from Peregrine Espresso’s blog:

WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! Give us hints and suggestions so that we can start spreading the word about where coffee hounds like us must go.

Buzz: Murky Coffee Has Murky FinancesBuzz

On Capitol Hill, Back Taxes Lead to Caffeine Deprivation

By Elissa Silverman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 21, 2008; B01

For many who live on Capitol Hill, Murky Coffee seemed to be the type of conscientious, mom-and-pop-owned business that helps build community. Owner Nicholas Cho purchases socially responsible, fair-trade beans, offers a teacher discount and gives away coffee grounds for use as organic fertilizer.

But on Feb. 26, agents from the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue placed bright red “seized” signs in Murky’s windows and padlocked the door. The closure provoked shock and outrage in the neighborhood.

One patron posted an online petition titled, “Tell D.C. Govt. to Stop Hurting Small Business/Re-open Murky Coffee,” complete with a printed copy posted on the door of the coffee shop, which is steps from Eastern Market.

Another neighbor wrote this reply: “Idiot! Nick is a tax cheat!!”

Murky Coffee, according to the tax office, owes more than $427,000 in sales and franchise taxes. A lien filed against the business shows that Cho paid sales tax to the government in only three of the 24 months from November 2004 to October 2006. Officials with the tax office said Cho missed payments in 2007 and 2008 as well.

The tax, which is 10 percent for takeout foods such as coffee, is due on the 20th of every month and is based on the previous month’s revenue. The store, which has been open on Capitol Hill since fall 2003, generally owed $4,000 to $5,000 a month.

Although tax officials said numerous warning letters had been sent to Cho, the news came as a surprise to his devoted customers as well as his dozen employees. In his four years in business, Cho, 34, had become the D.C. coffee connoisseur and a favorite among local foodies, a caffeinated equivalent to Cakelove’s Warren Brown.

Many patrons consider Cho, who also owns a Murky Coffee in Arlington, as a David going up against coffee goliaths Dunkin’ Donuts, Starbucks and Cos¿.

While conceding that he has been irresponsible, Cho chalked up the tax bill to “poor cash flow management.” He disputes the tax office’s assessment of what he owes, estimating it at about $200,000. And he said he also owes Virginia about $20,000 for sales tax at his Clarendon shop.

“In a nutshell, we’ve gained a pretty good reputation for our coffee quality. That’s the side of the business I’ve done pretty well at,” Cho said. “The financial management side I haven’t.”

Cho, who initially called his tax problems a “hiccup” in operations, said he never tried to evade authorities and always intended to make the payments.

“It’s not that I went and bought a sports car or a horse. It’s just general financial mismanagement,” he said.

More than three weeks later, the neighbors are missing their coffee.

“I was thinking, the ripple effects of this will be felt all across the city, because cranky people will show up at work without their coffee,” said Jamal Kadri, a Capitol Hill resident who said he patronized the business every day on his way to his office at the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Either way, it’s sad that an independent coffee store is being shut down,” said Joy Bridy, a Capitol Hill potter who regularly brought her handmade mugs to get filled.

Bill Day, a 10th-grade math teacher at Cesar Chavez Charter School who enjoyed $1 teacher coffees, called the closing of Murky Coffee “a terrible thing,” adding, “The coffee was good, and you feel better about buying it here than at Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.”

But Murky Coffee of Capitol Hill won’t be reopening. In addition to the back taxes, there’s the matter of the eviction notice on the door.

Cho said that the tax office is unwilling to negotiate a payment plan and that he is unable to make the large payment necessary to reopen.

And then there’s the rent.

According to court records, Cho has been sued several times for nonpayment of rent. Morris Battino, a lawyer representing Cho’s landlord, said Murky Coffee is behind on payments.

“I like the coffee business, because it brought people together and it was a community-building tool,” Cho said in a phone interview this week.

“I thought coffee would be up my alley, because I’m a people person.”

But now he’s also alone. His haphazard approach to finances has cost him his marriage, he said.

Buzz: Coffee obsession becomes business