Red benches sit vacant in Chinatown’s sun-soaked Central Plaza. Coin-operated kiddie rides haven’t seen any action for weeks beneath Gin Ling Way’s iconic red lanterns. It’s noon, but most storefronts are dark and locked. One door remains open behind a metal gate, belonging to the stationary store Paper Please, where two baristas still craft coffee and tea drinks at a back counter to help fuel frontline medical workers.
Generosity and gratitude have been welcome silver linings during the pandemic. Thank You Coffee debuted in March, just as the COVID-19 crisis hit, and the pop-up that business partners Jonathan Yang, Matt Chung, and Cody Wang operate out of a similarly cordial business has been true to its name.
It’s possible for anybody to order pick-up drinks on Mondays and Wednesdays and delivery on Tuesdays and Thursdays. More often, Thank You Coffee drops off bottled beverages to healthcare heroes at larger facilities like L.A. County and USC Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center through Donate PPE and for friends and acquaintances in the medical world. McCormick Ambulance Service, Southland Care Center, Herald Christian Health Center, Cal Veterans Home of California Pharmacy, and Los Alamitos Medical Center have all benefited from Thank You Coffee drop-offs.
The business is making the most of its limited space, utilizing a La Marzocco Linea Mini espresso machine and Hario V60 coffee drippers to brew beverages like sweet lattes, hojicha lattes, and a signature You’re Welcome Latte that combines espresso, chicory pecan bitters, oat milk, and lapsang souchong syrup made with smoked black tea from Fujian, China. Cold brew is also popular. They favor creamy, shelf-stable, more sustainable oat milk over cow’s milk and nut milks for all their drinks. Beverages arrive in plastic 12-ounce bottles ($6) and 64-ounce jugs ($25) that sport handwritten labels and smiles.
Yang is an L.A. native who worked in coffee for Bird Rock Roasters, LAMILL, and Café Dulce, and who also attended seminary school. During seminary, he helped start Steeple House Coffee at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley before cofounding Thank You Coffee. Chung worked at Hideout Coffee in Rowland Heights, and Wang handles the business’s finances. Yang’s wife Julia is a graphic designer and focuses on aesthetics.
Thank You Coffee connected through Instagram with Paper Please’s owners, who wanted to give them a platform to serve coffee while searching for brick-and-mortar locations. Chinatown was a great fit and may work for them long-term, because of their connection to the culture and neighborhood. Jonathan and Julia Yang’s grandparents both lived in Chinatown and they would spend time exploring the streets and plazas as kids. Jonathan Yang says, “It seemed special to be a second generation Cantonese-American operating in Chinatown.”
As of last month, Thank You Coffee had donated over 650 bottles to frontline workers, twice the number they’d sold. “We wanted to start off characterized by generosity,” Jonathan Yang says. “We’re hoping that’s the kind of environment we can create for our staff and guests.”
Thank You Coffee, 441 Gin Ling Way, Chinatown, 562-265-8359.