With Healing Coffee Roasters, Miran Oh has added hyper-locally roasted specialty coffee to the menu of java options, caffeinating the edges of the Mid-Wilshire area that sees two Starbucks locations within miles of each other.
Open since May 1, the shop is still somewhat new and relatively unknown to the neighborhood, unassumingly sandwiched amidst a retail hodgepodge on Pico, just a little over a block west of La Brea. You can tell as much if you stop by for a brew, at which point you'll catch a first-time customer inquiring when the café was opened or a nearby resident enthusing about having it in the neighborhood.
More than a café, Healing Coffee Roasters is Oh's headquarters, one part roaster and one part class studio. Oh oversees a teaching staff of three who cover a small instructional spectrum on professional coffee-making — from pulling espresso shots to grading coffee — often done in the decidedly smaller loft above the main floor.
Oh didn't plan to have a career in specialty coffee. She came out to Los Angeles in 2003 for her MBA, worked a year plus for Coldwell Commercial Bank and then got married. After a few years as a stay-at-home mother of two, she needed a change of pace. "I wanted to do something more exciting," she recalls. "I asked myself what can I do with my life."
Then Oh read The Devil's Cup: A History of the World According to Coffee, in which author Stewart Lee Allen maps the cultural development of coffee through multiple points of his travel worldwide. She finished the book in two days and realized she'd found a professional calling.
Alongside running a business, Oh has built a farm-to-mug understanding of the brew through a mix of self-directed study and tutelage under industry mentors like Ted Lingle, a founding director of the Coffee Quality Institute. In 2010, she earned her license in Q-grading (assessing the quality of Arabica coffee) from CQI. She followed that with an R-grading (Robusta coffee) license in 2012 and instructor licenses to teach both forms of grading in 2013.
Oh now travels six months out of the year. She's taught Q-grading in Yemen and visited farms in Ethiopia as a volunteer researcher. Oh has a particular appreciation for Ethiopia, which she says has some of the best green beans in the world. She sources three varieties, including Guji, Yirgacheffe and Sidamo, from the country alone.
At Healing Coffee, you can have your coffee prepared in one of eight methods — whether it’s via French press or one of two pour-over techniques — made from your choice of single origin beans roasted onsite. If you waffle just a little at the iPad register, you’ll be invited to take a whiff of any one of the glass vials filled with freshly ground beans (from Brazil, Indonesia or Ethiopia), sitting close to fresh pastries from La Mousse. (You can also buy beans to grind and brew at home.)
There's a more elaborate option, not immediately apparent until you head towards the seating area in the back where Oh has set up a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony service. The cultural ritual, available by reservation only, involves layers like a hands-on demonstration of coffee roasting. After a multi-process preparation, you’re given three servings with the last round signifying a blessing for the drinker. "I want to introduce customers to the birthplace of coffee," she says.
Oh places a premium on the potential feel-good properties of great coffee, percolating in her approach as a café owner. She named Healing Coffee Roasters with an eye on setting at ease both her staff and visitors to the space. When she opened its doors in May, Oh didn't introduce it to the area with a reception. She figured that she'd give the neighborhood a chance to discover the roaster-café at its own pace.