Taste, technique and Instagram-worthiness add a new dimension to South Bay coffee culture

Love a latte.

  • Category
    Eat & Drink
  • Produced, Written & Photographed by
    Kara Mickelson

From delicate swans to fluffy 3-D cream cats, jiggly foam pig toppers, logos and Van Gogh, the craft coffee game has never looked better. Even those perfectly composed hearts resting on top of velvety, micro-foamed milk have been aptly coined “a hug in a mug.”

The trend of latte art has tapped into something bigger … an understanding that the grab-and-go coffee experience may not fully feed our soul. And while so much focus is on a product that keeps us awake and potentially productive, the underlying sentiment of designer coffee is conversely to slow down, to sip and to savor.

Beautifully adorned, artfully crafted lattes provide pleasure and pause before indulging—a reminder to stop and smell the roses, or in the case of latte art, a fern leaf or perhaps a tulip. From artist hubs to swanky communal spaces with a laid-back vibe, these new-wave, indie-style coffee shops are carving out their own signature style to level up the local buzzworthy offerings.

Here are some local favorites:

Blue Butterfly Coffee Co.

Owner Dale is a licensed Q grader. They roast their own coffee and have created a signature blend under the name Smoky Hollow Roasters.

Signature offerings

Butterfly tea latte with a rose, and the Purple Palmer, which uses their blue butterfly pea tea and lemonade for a wonderful floral version of an Arnold Palmer.

Two Guns Espresso

A consistent roast, two-bean espresso, Strauss organic milk or high-quality plant milks, and a robust barista training program make this both a Manhattan Beach and El Segundo favorite. Their cafes have a signature New Zealand style and appeal, which the owners, two Kiwis, refer to as great food, great coffee and great conversation.

Signature offerings

They were the first to offer the flat white in the South Bay and believe that small, high-quality drinks are better for you.

Klatch Coffee

Their award-winning coffees come from a carefully developed, roast-to-order, farm-to-cup, direct trade-buying model. Coffee education program and monthly community offerings focus on brewing and palette development.

Signature offerings

They make most any coffee drink you can think of, plus a tasty crème brûlée and seasonal offerings.

The Boy & The Bear

Their simple and straightforward focus on product quality and customer experience makes this Redondo spot shine. Of their Colombian coffees, 70% are direct trade, and 30% of their direct traded coffees are “air freight”—meaning from the Colombian farm to your cup in 10 days.

Signature offerings

Exotic Colombian coffee and a wonderful oat milk latte.

Hi-Fi Espresso

This Hermosa hub offers a variety of roast levels and flavor profiles from around the world, including beans from Kenya, Costa Rica, Burundi, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

Signature offerings

Bee’s Knees, a spicy mocha made with Mike’s Hot Honey, vegan chocolate and oat milk, and a French Toast Latte made with organic cinnamon, maple syrup, vanilla syrup and your choice of milk.