There’s something nice about having a place you can frequent, almost as though it’s your own hang-out spot. Some people go to bars. They have their favorite bartender to whom they pour out their woes and blabber about their day.
For me that is Cafe Demitasse in Little Tokyo.
Despite the seeming prevalence of alcohol on my blog these days, I really do not drink that much, I swear! My limit is about a glass (or two) every two weeks to a month (Holiday seasons don’t count).
I do, however, drink a lot of coffee. It’s sad, but it’s one of the things that I really look forward to when I get up from bed. Sometimes I just want to lay in bed and hibernate all day, but I eventually have to get up because I desperately crave a cup of sweet and bitter joe.
I think coffee beans is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. How gorgeous is this fruit called coffee and the miraculous seeds it bears? Oh, the natural aromas. Oh, the deep roasted flavors. Oh, the strange powers it possesses!
First things first: I am not a coffee snob. I know enough about coffee because I did some research, but I enjoy 7-Eleven’s flavored coffees and creamers as much as I appreciate a meticulously dripped coffee brewed from artisan, organic coffee beans. The only coffee I refuse to drink is that instant imitation coffee granules my dad loves. That stuff is nasty.
Anyway. I’ve never frequented a particular coffee place before. Starbucks doesn’t count because it has infested every street corner in a city. But there is something about Cafe Demitasse…
It’s small. There’s nothing flashy or ostentatious about it. It’s tucked at the corner end of a little island on San Pedro St. and Astronaut E.S. Onizuka St., encased by tall windows.
You peek in and see people sipping coffee calmly, silently typing away at their laptops amidst warm glows of suspended lights. It just seems so peaceful, giving an illusion of a caffeine-loaded oasis amidst the city’s bustling hum.
Since my summer internship was in the same neighborhood, I had noticed Cafe Demi’s construction from the start, awaiting its opening. I visited it a few days after its launch.
The moment you open the door and venture in, you’ll be staring into a showcase of these two funky-looking contraptions:
Look at those long tubes and glass balls and what-nots. These things look like they belong to an 18th century alchemist lab or something. They are, in fact, Kyoto coffee drippers—Japanese mechanisms that slow-drip coffee for 18 whole hours to release this cool, bittersweet, chocolatey nectar.
And then your eyes will travel right to the dessert case:
Cafe Demitasse actually doesn’t make their own desserts; they stock sweet goods from local bakeries like Farmshop, Jin Patisserie and Batch from Scratch.
They’re all good stuff, but don’t come to Cafe Demitasse just for the baked goods. After all, Cafe Demitasse’s motto is “Good coffee, seriously.” They are very serious about their coffee, but somehow it never gives off a snobbish air that some cafes do.
But dang, Cafe Demi sure is cool. My favorite spot is the Aroma Bar. It’s this little ledge overlooking the barista’s workspace, almost like a real bar. Except instead of draft beers, your “bartenders” serve you hot caffeinated beverages.
If you do slide into the Aroma Bar, you’ll have to order a siphon coffee because then your barista will make some coffee magic right before your eyes. Check this out:
See those little ball thingies with the golden handle thingies? That’s called Siphon coffee makers. It’s an old brewing technique that has only recently gained popularity again. Apparently it was first invented in France and Germany about 160 years ago. Cool stuff.
When I ordered a Tanzania Peaberry Kanyovu in a Siphon, our barista—Cruz—said, “You wanna see something cool?” and he seated us at the Aroma Bar.
And then he dimmed the lights a bit, and lit up the halogen light bulbs underneath the Siphon coffee makers.
And then Cruz fit a long Siphon tube over the pot. He poured water into the pot, while ladling fresh-ground coffee into the tube. Those nifty halogen bulbs? They actually serve a practical purpose too of heating the water in the pots. As the water boils, it evaporates and pushes upward into the tube and then mixes with the coffee grounds.
I’ve forgotten all the laboratory terminologies for those gadgets, so bear with me here. Once all the water had traveled up and become saturated with the coffee grounds, Cruz turns off the heat source.
Without the heat to keep the water suspended, the liquid then drips back down. The ball-shaped vacpot becomes filled with fresh-brewed coffee due to gravity.
Nice, huh? A perfect, beautiful cup of coffee brewed by the sciences of expanding and contracting gases. Never have I loved science more.
The cool thing about Cafe Demitasse is not just the purity of its coffee and the science behind brewing it, but also the elegant presentation. For the Siphon coffees, Cafe Demi just serves it straight from the vacpot like this:
With a little tube-like glass for drinking.
Yea, I totally dig it!!!
Another cool thing about Cafe Demi is that they will suggest certain chocolate truffles to go along with certain coffees. For my Tanzania Peaberry, for example, they suggested a Jasmine tea truffle.
All their truffles are supplied by Compartes Chocolatier. I recognized this brand immediately as the beautiful kick-ass chocolate company I had the pleasure of meeting at Artisanal LA.
My foodie buddy Marilyn has been accompanying me to Cafe Demi on most occasions. On this particular trip she ordered a El Salvador Finca El Salaverria coffee brewed in a Clever.
A Clever is the stupidest yet smartest little device for coffee brewing. It’s basically just a filtercone. There’s no painstaking dripping involved; just dump coffee grounds and pour over water.
Our dear barista Cruz showed us the method step-by-step. Line a Clever with a filter.
Spoon in ground coffee. Pour hot water over. Mix gently.
Shut with lid, which is important in keeping the mixture hot to ensure full extraction.
Clever is amazing for coffee brewing because it gives you total control. Unlike the French press, you control the heat and prevent nasty sediments. And unlike the filter drip, you control steeping and infusion time. Thus you get the best of both brewing methods: a fully immersed, temperature-controlled, sediment-free cup of clean, full-bodied coffee.
Bonus to Cafe Demi for choosing a super adorable cup. It’s like a fat little dumpling.
For Marilyn’s Clever coffee, she was recommended a Cardamom Pear truffle. But I think she got some other kind of truffle. Vanilla, perhaps? Always the rebel.
Cafe Demi cool factor #548: the seasonal menus and rotating coffee roasters. A curious coffee shop doesn’t just stay content with one type of coffee beans. Cafe Demi really wants you to enjoy coffee, and it knows that every individual has different tastes.
While they have their primary roaster, Equator Coffees, it also features monthly guest roasters, which means I can expect a fresh taste to surprise me each month.
They also have “special” menus featuring interesting creations like iced mint Cubano for hot summers and pumpkin affogatto and date lattes for fall-inspired flavors. But no Frapps, at least not yet.
I’ve tried their lattes, and it’s absolutely lovely. There’s a perfect creamy layer of foam on top of a really delicious, perfectly rationed milky coffee. It’s naturally sweet and needs no extra sweetener.
Other than coffees, Cafe Demi also has a fine selection of teas. They have little pots of different tea leaves that you can sniff at before you choose your tea. I particularly like this Thousand Days Red Jasmine one:
It comes in a whole bud…
…that unfurls into a floral, aromatic tea in hot water. Cafe Demi actually provides a timer for you so that you know when your tea has finished steeping.
If you ever do visit, you also just have to order their special lavender hot chocolate. Preferably with one of their lemon lavender cookies:
Or a whole tray of cookies and macarons if you so desire, of course.
Those above are chocolate chip cookies by Batch from Scratch and a yuzu macaron.
Back to the hot chocolate.
It is absolutely divine. It’s this intense, thick syrup of chocolate that’s bitterly flavorful with a healthy dose of lavender extract and just enough steamed milk to bring out the best qualities of cocoa.
With your hot chocolate comes a fat cube of homemade marshmallow, which the barista toasts in front of you with a torch. Like this:
Uh, hell yes. Just look at how well the chocolate coats the marshmallow! Isn’t it just gorgeous?
But the best thing about Cafe Demitasse is its crew. Say hi to the owner, Boback (Bobby) Roshan:
He’s a USC alumnus and a former lawyer who realized he had a better time with coffee than blood-sucking lawyers. Uh, just kidding about the lawyers, of course, heh heh. Bobby’s a really chill guy; he actually listened to Marilyn’s woes on guy problems and gave her solid guy advice. Not to mention that he has Patrick Dempsey’s hair.
And these awesome guys below?
They are not part of the Cafe Demitasse crew. They are customers whom I befriended because I instantly recognized their Singaporean accents. “You’re Singaporeans!” I accused them excitedly. They replied that they are Malaysians, but no matter—I was freaking happy to meet them!
See, that’s the beautiful thing about Cafe Demitasse. It’s like a little home for coffee lovers; there’s a comfortable village buzz. You can either seclude yourself into a peaceful corner, or chat up your neighbor about everything from favorite movies to Persian restaurants to your bastard boyfriend.
I’m a bit scared though. I have been introducing this cafe to practically everyone I know. I’ve introduced it to my brother and my friends. I’ve introduced it to my internship bosses. I’ve introduced it to my professor.
Right now it’s still a sweet little spot, but I wonder how it will change once it gains the crazy fan base like that of Intelligentsia.
So. Shh. Cafe Demitasse will be our little secret, okay? Say hi to the crew for me if you happen to pop by.
Question of the Day: What kind of coffee drinker are you? That can really mean anything, depending on the way you interpret it.