Lavender and rose aren’t just tasting notes at three local coffeehouses; they’re also ingredients in drinks and may even be for sale by the bar. Instead of jumping on some kind of Instagram trend, these business’ owners are all approaching this seemingly disparate combo organically, and the result is flavorful, fragrant, and very photogenic.
Growing up, Sean Knibb’s grandmother ran a flower shop in his native Montego Bay called Knibb’s Flowers, making him the “flowerboy.” Those memories inspired him to pursue landscaping and garden design, and eventually home, hotel, and restaurant design. Locally, he’s probably best known for designing the LINE Hotel in Koreatown. In Venice, Knibb opened the coffee shop/flower shop Flowerboy Project next to his design studio, and also runs a second location inside downtown L.A.’s Freehand hotel (minus coffee).
Knibb signs his emails with “head gardener” and considers coffee and flowers natural partners. “Why not take something that you do on an everyday basis, and take something special that you only experience on occasions, and combine them to make every day special?” Flowerboy Project Venice utilizes wood and steel ladders to create clever shelving units and hanging on the wall there’s a modified California Highway 1 road sign that features a boy holding flowers. Behind the counter, they’re making coffee with a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and Counter Culture beans.
“Since coffee is a plant with a beautiful flower, what better medium than to infuse coffee with other types of flowers and plants,” Knibb says. Lavender Boy is a latte (hot or cold) that co-stars lavender-infused honey syrup, a double shot of espresso, whole milk, and lavender seed garnish. Rose Girl is not caffeinated, but does incorporate enticing rose syrup, rose essence, whole milk, and rose petals. Add espresso to Rose Girl if you’d like an extra jolt. Flowerboy also serves toast slathered in lavender peanut butter.
In Mid-Wilshire, Carolina Martinez handles the coffee and tea while her grandmother, Shirley Carroll, sells plants and floral arrangements at Clove Coffee Garden. Their space features wall-to-wall art, a high ceiling with exposed rafters, and a curved bar. Martinez brews Recreational Coffee on a two-group La Marzocco espresso machine and Kyoto-style cold brew tower. Yes, lavender and rose lattes are on the menu.
In the past decade as a coffee roaster and coffee bar manager, Martinez has found “lovely energy and balance” in coffee and flowers. She considers coffee making to be “very meditative and the ritual itself is so vital especially with city living.” She views flowers in much the same vein. “Plants and flowers have always been very soothing and therapeutic for me,” she says. “Surrounding oneself with plants really makes a big impact on one’s psyche in a very positive way.” She hopes Clove can also help to soothe customers.
In Koreatown, Silbia Lee partnered with Moses Choi on Bia Coffee. She previously worked as a florist in Korea and a barista in Seattle, so combining the two was seamless. Bia uses Klatch coffee beans in their Nuova Simonelli two-group espresso machine and in their cold brew. Most customers visit for “flower coffee,” tantalizing lattes (hot or iced) starring house-made lavender and rose syrups.
Their iced lavender latte, for instance, stacks eye-catching layers of lavender syrup, whole milk, and fresh-pulled espresso, with lavender floret and açaí powder garnishes. Balancing floral elements with espresso was not easy. Lee says, “Some people think that floral is way too strong and sometimes smells like perfume.” She struck the right balance. Lavender and rose also factors into the fluffy cakes that a former Paris Baguette baker delivers on Tuesdays and Fridays. Made-to-order cream cascades over each slice. Rose cake is showered with açaí powder and rose petals; the lavender cake gets a similar flourish. Bia, Clove, and Flowerboy invite customers to stop and smell their truly floral coffee.
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