A common refrain among some of the most successful barista trainers and retail managers is that coffee service should fundamentally be unpretentious and approachable, no matter how complex and and miraculous the liquid in the cup may be.
A Los Angeles couple with deep roots in the specialty coffee scene has adapted that retail concept for a new roasting business called Be Bright, which seeks to simplify the language and marketing of coffee to better reflect the preferences of consumers.
Offering an online subscription model with wholesale capacity from a shared roasting facility with a Loring S35 Kestrel in downtown Los Angeles, Be Bright was the creation of Los Angeles coffee veteran Frank La and scientist-turned-actress Michelle La, the star of the 2018 movie “Searching.”
For the subscription service, customers take a proprietary survey that attempts to identify existing coffee preferences, then caters to those with coffees from one of four different categories: Dark & Bold; Rich & Smooth; Bright & Lively; and Unique & Surprising.
While such terms may not hold much utility among coffee quality professionals, they are explicitly chosen to reflect the coffee vernacular of everyday coffee drinkers.
“As someone who works in specialty coffee, I’ve noticed that we who work in specialty coffee take a lot of things for granted. For example, knowing or caring about details like elevation, origin, processing that make it easy for us to know what kind of coffee we like,” Frank La told DCN. “These details are important because of our industry’s demand and expectation for transparency about where our coffee comes from, but they are too confusing for the average coffee drinker.”
Within each of the four coffee categories, Be Bright offers single-origin coffees and blends using carefully sourced, specialty-grade coffees. Information about each of the coffees is available on the company’s website, but it is intentionally omitted from the bags delivered to Be Bright customers.
“The idea of coffee being made simple was a goal I had in mind for my coffee-drinking, non-industry friends and consumers,” La said. “Most coffee drinkers actually aren’t in the industry. They are teachers, scientists, mailmen, business women, zookeepers… I expanded on the notion of wanting to lower the barrier to starting their day by giving them a way to get the coffee they want, mailed to their door, so that they could excel in their own careers and pursuits.”
A former barista competitor, trainer and quality specialist, Frank La has worked for numerous high-end specialty coffee companies in Los Angeles, including Cafe Dulce, Lamill (styled as LAMILL) and Copa Vida, where he most recently served as director of quality and innovation.
He and Michelle La were initially planning to launch a coffee shop of their own last year, but then the pandemic hit and the retail plans were dashed. Coming from the retail side of coffee, the Las formed a vision for what a new kind of coffee-buying experience might look like in the digital age.
“With that pivot, I really worked to translate the cafe experience I’ve helped design over the years to our online store shopping experience and unboxing and packaging experience — all based on the premise that coffee should be easy,” Frank La said. “So far this is evident by all the posting of our un-boxings that our subscribers and customers have been sharing, much like one would normally do with a latte at a cafe.”