Bicycle Coffee's founders began making organic, locally roasted fair-trade coffee in 2009 in Oakland, delivering the beans by bicycle to grocery stores, including Whole Foods, across the Bay Area. The concept developed a following online, and the idea spread. There's now a Bicycle Coffee in Tokyo.
Andy and Kellen Ellis, the husband-and-wife founders of Bicycle Coffee's year-old L.A. chapter, were living in London (Andy's the founder of Fixed Magazine, a bike rag with its own following) when they decided in 2013 to leap the Atlantic, learn the trade from the Oakland founders and bring Bicycle Coffee to L.A. Their weekly Friday gatherings at their East Hollywood space include free coffee with a side of community.
Every Friday, Bicycle Coffee offers a free pour-over or cold brew to any soul who walks in the door. “Yesterday, we had our first line! There was, like, five people,” Andy explains, sounding amazed.
Since their soft opening last August, the couple has been roasting coffee on the weekends, allowing people to hang out, sip coffee and watch skating videos on their laptops in the clean, industrial storefront. (When asked whether the burlap sacks of coffee beans were decoration, Andy replied, “Nothing is decoration in here.”) So far, they've also organized community rides Saturday mornings and started a monthly First Friday party, where they serve up free veggie tacos, music and booze while also displaying local art.
Currently, the beans are biked over to a few venues in Los Feliz and Echo Park, including Lassen's Natural Foods & Vitamins and Stories Books & Café. At $10 a bag plus a free coffee (if bought directly from the store), it's a good deal considering the fair-trade beans are roasted and bagged on-site.
Bicycle Coffee's cart, which makes appearances at the Hollywood Farmers Market every Sunday and recently had its maiden voyage on Abbot Kinney, faced a lot of competition, but after tasting the $6 cold brews elsewhere, Andy and Kellen were confident about their $3 offering.
Andy says the company could be making a lot more money if it were to distribute by car instead of by bike, and that the bigger space it was able to score in East Hollywood location is a tradeoff — “It's so scary to ride bikes here,” Kellen says. She and Andy also say they're grateful for the support they get from cyclists (and skaters) in Silver Lake.
“[It was] just an idea and a dream we chased,” Andy says. “And we made it happen.”
Bicycle Coffee, 5427 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, bicyclecoffeeco.com