Equator Books may prove to be more influential in its absence. The Abbot Kinney bookstore and cafe, which brewed Blue Bottle coffee and appeared often enough on “Californication” to warrant credit on the show, closed in early 2010. After that, the resident coffee professionals scattered. Manager Kelly Donahey partnered with baristas Jessica Carr and Sara Haynes on a roving Drip Bar, but Sophie McLaughlin stayed in the foot-friendly neighborhood. Last month, after retrofitting a hot dog cart, she debuted Coffee in the Alley behind the Big Red Sun environmental design firm, utilizing a pourover bar to brew single-origin Stumptown beans sourced from nearby Venice Grind.
McLaughlin grew up in St. Louis and moved to L.A. seven years ago to attend FIDM, but decided “Food is a little more substantial than fashion, and the relationships you form are a little deeper.”
She’s grinding and brewing the beans to order, so the coffee stays as fresh as possible. McLaughlin explained her reason for pourover, which is “keeping it really simple. It goes back to the old way of making coffee, so it takes out the acidity.” She’s sourcing a different single-origin coffee from Stumptown each week. During my initial visit, she was brewing Indonesia Sulawesi Toarco.
Iced coffee is cold-brewed overnight with coconut shavings, and the result is redolent of coconut. She’s working on a spiced coffee for summer, which might involve cayenne. Soon, she plans to launch bean delivery by bike, either on a weekly or monthly basis. McLaughlin is also offering a quartet of loose-leaf teas.
Cup Cup, available at Coffee in the Alley and by direct order, come courtesy of a woman named “V” who packs breakfast into “edible toast ramekins” to produce “a handful of heaven.” She’s supplying a French toast cup with whipped cream, maple syrup and strawberries; a version with pancetta, basil, mushroom, tomato, egg and Gruyere; one with sausage, onion, potato, tomato and cheddar; and one with spinach, garlic, tomato and goat’s cheese. On weekends, McLaughlin will soon host Sprout, the electric golf cart spinoff from the Green Truck. Colorful mismatched seating is available in the Big Red Sun garden.