For most people, coffee is a given: a comestible lingua franca that cuts across cultural divisions, a predilection (and in many cases, full-blown addiction) that adult Americans are expected to share. The coffee shop is a social hub and, in an increasingly gig’ed economy, often serves as an office; these days, you’re just as likely to have a local for your morning brew as the boozier ones you seek out after work.
But what about the late afternoons, when you know another cup will have you staring at the ceiling late into the night, or mornings when you’re too keyed up for caffeine? There’s always tea, but the standard rotation at most spots — black and green, which are both caffeinated, plus an herbal option that usually runs sweetly floral — isn’t all that interesting, especially when you’re surrounded by single-origin beans being custom-roasted, and prepared with the finest of soy and nut milks.
Some specialty coffee shops around Los Angeles have taken on the challenge of offering up non-coffee options as interesting and delicious as the stuff they’ve staked their names on. A selection of some of our favorites are below.
Go Get Em Tiger
The homemade almond-macadamia milk at Go Get Em Tiger had The New York Times asking if the two-location shop served the best iced latte in America — but you don’t have to be in the mood for a jolt of java to taste it. Instead, try the turmeric almond macadamia “latte,” which balances the sweet smoothness of the milk with the bite of ginger and black pepper, plus turmeric’s signature mellow flavor and the signature orange stain it will leave on your tongue.
Multiple locations, gandb.coffee/gget.
The Silver Lake storefront always has a rotating menu of seasonal sodas and experimental drinks on offer, but a winter staple is the ginger tonic, a steaming mug of sweet-bitter-spicy (courtesy of the lemon and honey that accompany the ginger), which doubles as a cold-buster, perfect for days when you’re afraid that today’s drink will be the last thing you taste for a while.
4334 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake. dinosaurcoffee.com.
Amara Chocolate & Coffee
Speaking of chocolate! This Pasadena cafe focuses on highlighting the best of its owners’ native Venezeula, from (vegan) churros to (gluten-free) arepas, plus coffee roasted in-house, and a variety of drinking chocolates spiked with everything from Nutella and condensed milk to ginger and chile pasilla.
55 S Raymond Ave., Pasadena. (626) 744-1765, amarachocolate.com.
If you’re looking for something a little heartier, Demitasse has you covered with its lavender hot chocolate. (There are sometimes other seasonal flavor infusions, such as lemongrass, as well.) The hot chocolate is already a marvel — a blend of E. Guittard Cocoa Rouge cocoa powder and Tahitian vanilla — so adding a drop of lavender oil might seem like gilding the lily, but in fact it offers a heady floral note that only deepens the drink’s sensuality. And Demitasse has locations all over the city, from Little Tokyo to West Hollywood to Santa Monica, so if this becomes a craving, at least it will always be an easily satiated one.
Multiple locations, cafedemitasse.com.
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American Tea Room
This may seem like cheating, since "tea" is actually in the name of the establishment. But the Beverly Hills flagship offers coffee from a rotating set of premium providers, so there are caffeine-heavy options available alongside unbelievably bright, unlike-any-other matcha lattes — and a chocolate rooibos tea that doesn’t have caffeine or calories but still manages to taste sort of shockingly like the real thing.
401 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills. (310) 271-7922, americantearoom.com.
Moby’s Coffee & Tea
And as long as we’re talking tea, this North Hollywood hole-in-the-wall has an incredible variety, too. Order a custom blend from the 20-plus on offer or talk to the baristas about what you’re into, and they just might mix you up your own.
5668 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. (818) 579-4761, mobyscoffeeandtea.com.