Hello America! Hello Los Angeles, you vast, flat, wheezing metropolis. It’s early, I’ve come a long way and I want a coffee. What I don’t want is a gallon of bitter, brown water with ersatz non-fat ‘milk’ and extra-ersatz ‘sweetener’. In Sydney I guzzle lattes at Bourke Street Bakery in Surry Hills, or Campos in Alexandria – surely no one in America, birthplace of stultifying Starbucks, can match that? Until there was you G&B Coffee, until there was you. On a stretch of road that looks so much like every other stretch of road in LA that I squeal, “I’ve been here! I’ve been here! Wait, what? Oh, no I haven’t,” G&B is a cog in the earnestly ethical, long-extraction-espresso wheel currently cruising these Groundhog Day streets. The shoebox-sized shop is owned and operated by Kyle Glanville and Charles Babinski, graduates of benchmark coffee emporium, Intelligentsia. In both its Venice and Silver Lake locations, Intelligentsia is awash with the hallmarks of hipsterdom: moustaches, vintage specs, quiffs and nonchalant outfits. Four-shot iced lattes are de rigour. As appalling (and intimidating) as that sounds, there’s something about Americans, something about their sincerity, their openness, which stops me throwing up in my mouth. Something that lets me delight in a congregation of hot people drinking hot (and cold) coffee in this hot city; it’s kinda hot. As are Glanville, Babinski and their namesake enterprise; the former is 2008 US Barista champion, Babinski 2012 runner-up (robbed!) and both are proudly and geekily obsessed with the preparation and service of the humble cup of Joe. They’re as sweet and endearing as the recycled glass jam jars their to-go coffee is served in: each jar wearing a bandana that performs double-duty as a burn-barrier for the drinker and dapper accessory for the vessel. Their coffee is exactly how you want it – delicious, smooth and guzzle-able, while the boys are exactly how you want your local baristas – chatty, handsome and knowledgeable. If G&B were in Sydney, I would be slavishly propping up the bar. But what’s a kaffeeklatsch without a little something for snack? Enter, Sqirl. Cosying up in a corner of the shoebox, this canteen, with Jessica Koslow at the helm, would be worth the trip even without G&B. The porridge I order is creamy; real, whole oats* cooked long and low, with love, until their starchy stickiness is released. Not sugary, but mellow with the faint and comforting bovine sweetness of full-cream milk. The crowning glory on this bowl of childhood familiarity is a sprinkling of crunchy, oily hazelnuts and the thick, blood-clot-glob of Koslow’s sublime homemade blueberry jam. Each mouthful incites a sigh of pleasure, on repeat until my spoon scrapes ceramic, digging for one more sigh. Walk back out into the sprawling city with a well-dressed coffee in one hand and the other fistful of fingers jammed messily in a jar of sticky preserve, then make Sqirl / G&B a frequent search in your Navman – ‘cause they’re perfection. And if you’re not from around here, you may never find them again. You may never find them again. You may never find them again…
*DER: The porridge is made with brown rice, not oats.
G&B has moved to:
Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles 90013
Sqirl still serve coffee at:
720 North Virgil Ave #4, Los Angeles 90029