COFFEE DATES WITH DOREE
By Doree Seay
The shop name was illuminated in neon pink cursive font above 5 blue letter balloons spelling out “FLOYD,” an obvious homage to the late Mr. George Floyd.
“Dope-ass name,” I thought, walking up to stand in line for entry.
To me it was a strong, near-oxymoron for a quaint Black-owned coffee joint in Echo Park, CA nestled between an unassuming parking lot and a closed LGBTQ+ friendly pink boutique shop that made sure to express their support of BLM.
Having worked as a canvasser in that area who spoke to visitors and city residents alike, I will say I was absolutely shocked to see a Black-owned shop on this block; definitely needed, but pleasantly surprised it was there and doing well. Upon entering the little shop, it became abundantly clear why people chose to stand patiently in line in the sun with covid face-coverings to order.
The menu was modest but listed a nice variety of coffee and tea options. The featured coffee beans were beautifully described on a sweet chalkboard wall near the register for the customer’s education. Bright abstract art hung from the walls, and Black Lives Matter flower arrangements decorated the areas where you could tell were once occupied by tables and chairs. This was all simple and nice, but it really was the baristas (both bubbly and genuine) made my trip worth-while.
“Sorry and thank you for waiting! We’ve been really busy since we’ve opened back up and we’ve been trying to work out our communication since we usually work alone,” one of the baristas explained about their team’s service.
Although an explanation wasn’t necessary, I was immediately drawn to the warmth and authentic nature of this barista and felt completely at ease while my friend and I placed our orders. I asked for an iced vanilla latte with almond milk (I’d normally go for oat-milk, but they’d been so busy that they’d already run out of it and matcha!) and received it cleanly with an adorable paper straw with pineapples on it.
The latte was probably a size medium with an appropriate amount of ice. The drink itself was perfectly sweetened and had a nice balance of flavor between the coffee and vanilla. My friend decided on a hot Vanilla Bomb (smaller and stronger than a vanilla latte) and an iced latte, both of which he also praised.
On our way out, my friend noticed a tiny plant hanging upside down from a display shelf that was reminiscent of an octopus. The barista at the register excitedly told us she’d bought it herself from a store down the road.
I found that final comment to be particularly sweet. The thought that a place could mean something some kind of special to a person that they felt they could contribute to it with their own money and idea for decor...it made a clear impression on me. I wondered briefly if she’d been the shop owner or manager...
Although I’d only heard of this coffee shop because a friend of mine on Instagram was promoting Black businesses, Vanilla Black has obviously created a space for itself on Sunset Boulevard. Its presence is noted and appreciated especially during times like these when recognizing community and raising our unique voices is paramount.
Admittedly this was a long-winded review to simply say I can’t wait to return. Please make it a point to visit the shop sooner rather than later to support quality service, quality coffee and Black business.
UNORTHODX Recommendations: Iced Vanilla latte & Hot Vanilla Bomb
Location: Echo Park, California
Review by: Dorèe Seay (IG: @unorthodx.coffee)