Caffe Luxxe co-owner Gary Chau at the store’s Montana Avenue location.
Coffee takes on a whole new meaning at the European-inspired Caffe Luxxe.
Long gone are your grandfather’s Folgers. The secret to great coffee, says co-owner of Caffe Luxxe Gary Chau, begins with great beans sourced from a narrow band of latitude and a particular altitude all around the world.
At Caffe Luxxe, Chau and business partner Mark Wain import 60,000 pounds of coffee beans per year distributed among three coffee shops on the Westside and a reasonably sized whole sale business to other coffee shops and restaurants. Their beans come from micro-lots throughout the world, relying on a broker to facilitate the import and verify where exactly they were grown, though they sometimes travel themselves.
“Our beans from Ethiopa, for instance, come from this one farm that we know has a pronounced blueberry flavor naturally,” Chau said. “If you blend it, it mutes the subtle nuances of that specific farm.”
Equally important is the roast, a skill for which Wain has become expert. Caffe Luxxe opened its own roasting facility, Il Laboratorio, a little over a year ago. A bag of Caffe Luxxe beans are stamped with a roast date, from which they are best brewed between a week and two weeks afterward. A few tablespoons in a French press make the grounds bubble and fizz, activating the natural sugars so that most drinks do not require sweetener.
Chau describes a cup of black coffee from beans grown in Guatemala as if it was a fine wine. “You should notice a bit of a citrus finish,” he said. “What Mark has done based on his roasting profile and recipe is he wanted to coax a little bit of dark chocolate out of it in the beginning before moving into a tangerine, citrus zest. It has a fun textural sensation.”
Though he’s clearly enamored by the drink, Chau said it’s also about the sense of community they’ve created. At Caffe Luxxe there is no internet Wi-Fi in an effort to get people to disconnect from their devices and reconnect with one another.
“We’re actually trying to slow things down and be tactile,” Chau said. “We want the barista to actually hand craft all the drinks.”
All the equipment at Cafe Luxxe is manual, and just in case you’re wondering, to work behind the counter requires an apprenticeship of at least six months.
“We realized in order to find a professional barista at the level we required, we would have to go to Italy,” Chau joked. “That skill just didn’t exist in LA. We more or less brought this type of coffee to Los Angeles.”
Caffe Luxxe has consistently been recognized by coffee critics since its founding in 2006, most notably by Luis Vuitton City Guide for Los Angeles that calls it the Best Espresso in the West. They also receive consistently high ratings from Coffee Review, a non-biased panel of coffee experts that has become one of the most respected opinions in the industry.