Counter Culture Coffee, Los Angeles

A new training center with a colorful modernist design

Coffee bars of every size and shape are opening around the globe at breakneck speed, many of which emphasize novelty elements like 3D animals crafted in cappuccinos. Counter Culture Coffee, however, has taken a different approach in the face of its expansion westward. In the 20 years that this Durham, NC-based coffee company has been in business, they have never opened a café—only roasteries and training centers. Their newest location in Silver Lake joins the thriving Los Angeles coffee community.

The team at Counter Culture Coffee knows how to brew coffee and pull espresso shots extremely well. Their baristas have won competitions, including Katie Carguilo winning the 2012 US Barista Champion and Lemuel Butler being the current US Barista Champion. That’s a pretty stellar track record for a company that doesn’t make cortados for commuters. What Counter Culture does do is foster relationships with coffee-growers, source and roast coffee, and offer their coffees wholesale. They sell coffee retail to customers on their website, and they open training centers to offer access to their products and coffee education programs.

To create their new playful modernist space, Counter Culture teamed up with Rebecca Rudolph and Catherine Johnson of Design, Bitches. Capturing the essence Los Angeles—and Silver Lake, specifically—became a primary goal for the project. “By flooding it with light, creating a sense of adventure and warmth through a unique use of everyday materials,” says Rudolph. The exterior is painted a bright California blue by Benjamin Moore (charmingly named Un-Teal We Meet Again).

“The existing bones of the space had great character that we wanted to preserve, specifically the Art Deco exterior detailing, bright color scheme, and the orientation of the front door and porch,” says Rudolph. “We wanted to create an indoor/outdoor classroom and garden between the building and its neighbor on Sunset Boulevard. Removing most of the interior walls and opening up the south side of the building to the new covered deck created a double axis of both spatial orientation and circulation that allows for flexible possibilities.”

Counter Culture also opened a roastery and training center in the San Francisco Bay Area last spring. Carguilo’s responsibilities on the West Coast now include education and quality control. “The training centers exist to be a space for people to deeply engage with coffee,” she says. “There is a want for the complexities of coffee to be demystified and the retail space really isn’t the most appropriate place to do that.” Along with wholesale customer training, each location also opens their doors to the public every Friday morning for their Tastings at Ten.

“Personally, I’ve always thought our training centers are at their best when they foster community. In the way that a coffee shop is a nucleus for gathering a neighborhood, a Counter Culture training center is a place for the coffee community to come together and exchange ideas,” says Carguilo. “To learn from each other, and grow. LA is a city with no shortage of engaged coffee professionals.” Now with the new training center open, Counter Culture will focus their attention on developing those relationships throughout California.

Counter Culture coffees are also available to the public in their online store.

Images by Laure Joliet