Places to Drink Coffee in Los Angeles: Starbucks Reserve (Yes, Starbucks)

Several years go, I had the idea for a “better” version of Starbucks. Think of a kind of Lexus version of an everyday Starbucks – still good and steady like a Toyota – but more luxurious and better designed. At the time, I was pretty happy with the coffee Starbucks Toyota was serving, and so my idea was that these Starbucks Lexus stores would be exactly like a Starbucks Toyota…just with better pastries. 🙂 I know, very innovative. I thought Starbucks could call these stores Starbucks Gold. I even emailed them at one point to share this great idea so they would have the best chance of becoming a strong international brand.

I am very sorry to report this, but a few weeks ago, I came to find out Starbucks had stolen my idea, had cleverly repackaged it as Starbucks Reserve (so as not to get sued by me), and was now serving up third wave coffee in a fancy space on La Brea in Los Angeles.

That is why I believe Starbucks should pay me a royalty fee for every cup of coffee purchased at any Starbucks Reserve location – in perpetuity. Unfortunately, since they are still not serving better pastries at these Starbucks Gold stores, and that was a key part of my proposal, I basically have no case. Pfffff. Whatever.

Obviously I am joking, but either way I had to see for myself if these Reserve stores were really all that. Last week I checked out the Los Angeles Reserve store on La Brea, and it was actually pretty damn nice. It’s sleek and contemporary and has Mid-century modern chairs and stools and wood counters; it looks good – real good. I would describe it like if a Design Within Reach store and a Starbucks Toyota store had a baby together.

These are the things that makes these Starbucks Reserve stores good:

    • In addition to the regular Starbucks Toyota brew, there is a selection of “special reserve” beans available to purchase by the bag or to have brewed to drink at the store (very fancy – see pic below).
    • If you get one of these special reserve coffees “to go,” Starbucks will put it in sleek black insulated paper Starbucks cup. This matters because, if you’re paying $5-$12 for a cup of black coffee, a fancy paper cup will broadcast to the rest of the world that your coffee is not just “regular Starbucks.” Please be advised: if you order the regular Starbucks brew, you are gonna get that in a regular Starbucks cup, which is what you deserve for ordering regular brew coffee at a Reserve store. #thisisjustafact
    • The Reserve stores offer several hipster third wave methods of brewing these reserve coffees including siphon, pour over, Chemex and Clover.
    • Sun-dried nitro cold brew is on tap. I have no idea if you can get sun-dried nitro cold brew at the Starbucks Toyotas because I can’t stand cold brew coffee, and I don’t “do” regular Starbucks stores.
    • Lastly, if you are having your coffee at the store (which you totally should), the Starbucks people will bring your coffee to you on a uber hip wooden tray with an elegant little container of cream, sugar and a pretty card explaining the important characteristics of the coffee you will be drinking. It’s very sophisticated and intellectual, which is important when drinking third wave coffee.

Most importantly, and this is really hard for me to admit, the Starbucks special reserve coffee is actually very good… I had the Black Honey Costa Rica Las Lajas brewed with Chemex, and it was definitely several big (very big) steps up from what you would get at Starbucks Toyota. I guess Starbucks finally figured out that, if they want to be taken seriously by serious coffee people, they need to up their game.

Now if only they could get the pastries right…

photo of the menu of coffee drinks at Starbucks Reserve on La Brea in Los Angeles
The menu of coffee drinks at Starbucks Reserve on La Brea in Los Angeles.


photo of Starbucks Reserve coffee beans available at Starbucks Reserve stores
The current line-up of special reserve beans available at Starbucks Reserve stores.


photo of Coffee Service at Starbucks Reserve stores
When you order a special reserve coffee to drink at the store, this is how it arrives at your hip, wood Mid-century style table.


photo of Mid-century style wood stools at Starbucks Reserve on La Brea in Los Angeles
Starbuck Reserve’s sleek modern wood stools and wood counter.

Starbucks Reserve
359 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone:(323) 525-0164
Hours: 6AM–10PM everyday

About The Author

Anne Stericker

City-dweller, designer, writer and lifestyle consultant practicing the art of living well in the 21st Century. Fixated with good coffee, great design, and any little thing that makes life better.

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