Less than two years after joining Demitasse Coffee Roasters as in Los Angeles as an intern, Annie Choi has opened her own charming multiroaster cafe in the Eagle Rock neighborhood.
Found Coffee officially launched last month with a range of Demitasse coffees and teas from San Francisco-based T-We Tea, while pastries affogatos and specialty macaroons are likely to be forthcoming. It has been a rapid ascension for Choi, who climbed the Demitasse rungs to general manager of the roastery’s second retail location, in Santa Monica, before striking out on her own.
We recently caught up with Choi via email to talk about the Found Coffee experience and new business creation:
How did you get into coffee and how would you characterize your experience with Demitasse?
I loved working with Demitasse. The owner, Bobby Roshan, is open to training people who are new to coffee and who love coffee. I’ve loved coffee all my life and wanted to own a coffee shop for a long time, but Bobby and his team trained me to work in coffee. My previous career was in post-production in the television industry, so working in a coffee shop was a 180 degree shift.
Demitasse baristas are self-professed coffee geeks, and I loved learning from them and with them. I plunged right into running Demitasse’s second location in Santa Monica soon after I made the transition into the coffee world. Because I’ve had managerial experience in the past, I was comfortable supervising a team, but the whole flow of a coffee shop takes getting used to. You have to get your hands dirty, and Demitasse gave me the opportunity to run my own operation without paying the bills.
What kind of space did you have to work with for the shop?
My shop is 1,108 square feet, but because of construction necessities, the usable space is just under 1,000 sqare feet. The space is a long rectangle and the storefront is all windows from floor to ceiling. It is in a newly renovated development — only one wall remains from the previous auto body shop, and the original building was built in the 1920s. Because I got a “vanilla shell” of a space, the buildout wasn’t terribly complicated.
What kind of feel did you want to create and how is that communicated through the design?
The feel of the shop is vintage plus modern. I love finding lovely, unique objects. Plates will be mismatched yet cohesive. The hanging light pendants are mismatched yet cohesive. I’m hoping to put in some high-back chairs later on.
The shop has high exposed wood ceilings, and it’s quite spacious while feeling cozy. The materials and colors that I chose for the walls and counters are white and light gray so there’s a neutral base, while the shelving and tables are a mix of medium woods. The rest of my smallwares and main fixtures are pops of color. I have a beautiful dahlia yellow La Marzocco Semi-Automatic GB5. I have peacock green metal chairs. Most of the decorations are found objects, going along with my name and theme. The majority of my dishes are from thrift stores and my vases are from garage sales.
Can you tell us about the immediate neighborhood and what potential you see there?
Eagle Rock is one of the “up and coming” neighborhoods of L.A. It’s not so hipster that it’s overrun with coffee shops, and there is a nice mix of small businesses along Colorado Blvd. There are families that have lived here for years and years, and then there are younger professionals moving in because housing prices are lower than other ultra popular neighborhoods.
What does the drink menu look like?
Like other specialty coffee shops: espresso, macchiato, cortado, cappuccino, latte, mocha. I will be using espresso and single-origin coffees from Demitasse.
I’m serving and selling an artisanal tea line from T-We in San Francisco. They will be blended teas — I’m trying to bring delicious blended teas back! — and they have awesome tea names like Grumpy Dinosaur (herbal) and Smoggy Morning Brekkie (an Irish Breakfast-inspired tea for the L.A. crowd).