A few years ago, Rabih Sater was working in the energy industry. A few years ago, the country was mired in a Great Recession, and the energy industry, like most other industries then (and now), slowed down considerably. Rather than holding out to become, say, an oil baron à la Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, Sater decided to focus on an entirely different type of black gold: coffee. His "coffee boutique," Dripp, opens in The Shoppes at Chino Hills this week and brings Intelligentsia beans and Turkish coffee to the Inland Empire.
While his path may have been a little indirect, it's not a total surprise that Sater is opening one of the first specialty coffee shops in his area. "I always wanted to do something in food, in hospitality," he says. He was first inspired during a visit to New York's boutique Gramercy Park Hotel, where he was impressed by its design and marked emphasis on hospitality. Inspiration struck again when he visited Intelligentsia's Venice outpost; there, he was "awed by the coffee, the service, the equipment, the methods - just the entire experience." He envisioned a "coffee boutique" that would marry the posh environment of a boutique hotel with the steampunk coffee bar vibe of Intelligentsia. And thus, Dripp was born.
Sater, who grew up, and now lives, in Chino Hills, notes that though Los Angeles proper is seeing an influx of specialty coffee shops, "there isn't much great coffee in Orange County or the Inland Empire. But there's no reason why you can't open something like an L.A.-type coffee shop here." Given that Chino Hills is basically the Four Corners of Southern California -- located at the edge of San Bernarndino County, the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside all are immediate neighbors -- surely there are more than enough caffeine-starved commuters who would like something other than the Starbucks version of coffee.
Accordingly, Dripp will offer Intelligentsia for most of its coffee drinks. Filtered coffee will be brewed exclusively at a custom-built bar that holds almost a dozen Hario V60 pourover cones. A large Strada machine at the "Steam Bar" will take care of the espressos.
In addition, Dripp is one of the few shops in Southern California to have a Japanese-style dripper for cold-brewed coffee. "The Oji drippers extract the coffee over an 8 to 10 hour period, so that the oils are extracted slowly," Sater explains. "This process removes all the acidity and bitterness in the coffee." The result is a "dark, almost maple syrupy, very concentrated coffee" that can be sweetened and served. Because of the lengthy process, there will be only limited batches on hand every day.
Unique to Dripp will be its Turkish coffee, which will be made using a blend of Espresso Republic beans created specifically for Dripp. "Usually, the only place you can find Turkish coffee is at Middle Eastern restaurants," Sater says. But, because "Turkish coffee can be something that is unique and elegant," he thought the drink would fit in with Dripp's boutique take on coffee, and went looking for just the right blend.
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Turkish coffee traditionally is made over the stove using an ibrik; the beans are ground particularly fine; finer, even, than your typical espresso grind. To this, Sater adds cardamom, "which brings out all the flavor in the coffee, and gives you a completely different perspective when you drink it." Coffees from different countries were roasted and sampled before Sater finally decided that Ethiopian beans, with its earthy flavors of chocolate and raspberry, nicely complemented the cardamom. Then came the hunt for just the right roaster and the right ratio of spice to coffee. In all, it took a little over six months, and countless tweaks, to work out the final recipe. "The worst part was having to actually drink all that caffeine!"
Along with the coffee, Dripp will have a selection of teas and a "Cream Bar" with fresh baked cookies and premium ice-cream all based on original recipes. This translates to ice-cream sandwiches and affogatos; on the latter, Sater is particularly excited at the idea of pairing Turkish coffee with Dripp's ice-cream.
If all goes well, Sater looks eagerly towards opening similar coffee boutiques in the future. "This is just my flagship location," Sater says. Indeed, the shop's website already is soliciting opinions on where the next Dripp should be located. And so, three years from now, we might find Sater just about to open up another outpost of Dripp, maybe at a boutique hotel. There probably (hopefully) will not be blood, but maybe there will be Turkish coffee-infused milkshakes? We would drink that milkshake. We would drink it up.
Dripp: 13855 City Center Drive #3015, Chino Hills.