People around America won’t want to hear this, but the Polar Vortex has avoided Los Angeles entirely. Hell, the Polar Vortex will probably never touch down in Southern California, which is why a lot of people live here. Still, on a rare day when the daytime temperature dips below 70 degrees, people race to coffeehouses and cafes to warm up. Considering all the different cultures represented in L.A., there are plenty of choices, and you don’t necessarily have to resort to coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Here are 12 of the city’s top hot drinks.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
1. Amalia’s Atol de Platano ($3) [CLOSED: Visit New Location]
Dona Amalia was born in Saltan, Baja Verapaz, Guatemala. She immigrated to Los Angeles in 1985, and her daughter now runs a welcoming restaurant that bares her name just south of Silver Lake in Virgil Village. Traditional Guatemalan cuisine is on the menu, including Atol De Platano, a classic hot drink made with sweet plantains, water, and sugar that’s thick, viscous, and a great way to end a meal.
2. Café Gratitude Immortal ($5): Matthew and Terces Englehart continue to spread their life-affirming message across California with Cafe Gratitude, a 100% vegan, organic chain that’s captured the imagination of Angelenos. Immortal ($5) is an “immune system enhancing, consciousness expanding, ancient tonifying elixir” made from reishi, shilajit, and ormus, which could be character names on “Game of Thrones.” The hot, tan beverage combines with coconut milk, cinnamon and raw honey. Cinnamon floats up top, and dark brown residue rings the base of the mug, delivering a gritty, slightly bitter finish. Will I now live forever thanks to this drink? Only time will tell.
3. Caffe Luxxe Caffe Nico ($4.50): This specialty beverage was on the opening menu in 2006 at Caffe Luxxe, the refined Italianate coffeehouse that Mark Wain and Gary Chau debuted in Santa Monica and subsequently expanded to Brentwood. Caffe Nico is a frothy espresso drink featuring a double shot of espresso, half & half, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and a nice citrus jolt from candied orange syrup. (Photo courtesy of Gary Chau)
4. Coffee Commissary Cubano ($3.75): Traditionally, this Cuban-inspired espresso drink comes sweetened with Demerara sugar. The sweetness helps to balance what is almost always acrid, dark roast coffee. At the new, multi-faceted branch of Coffee Commissary, which showcases a sleek steel and wood design across the street from NBC and Clear Channel in Burbank, the Cubano might not be recognizable to Cubans, and that’s probably a good thing. To start, Coffee Commissary’s Cubano benefits from premium coffee. During my visit, that meant chocolatey Kochere coffee, grown in Chalalacktu, Ethiopia, and fresh-roasted at Coava Coffee Roasters in Portland. The beverage, which has the same proportions as a cappuccino, also contains house-made cinnamon sugar syrup, which mirrors some of the warmth of unrefined Demerara sugar and supports silky Straus Family Creamery barista milk.