Coffee Colab

I love the vibe at Coffee Colab. A downtown Los Angeles based coffee shop that truly exemplifies the DIY spirit. Owners, Leon Li and William Miyazaki AKA “Franky The Milkman Sword” have created a space that has allowed them to retain their own identity all while pursuing their craft of coffee.

Although their shop is still under a year old, these dudes have been in the game for a while now. Both have worked at and helped start numerous coffee programs, independently and togther over the past seven years before opening Coffee Colab on May 8th of 2014.

While having lunch one day at the neighboring sushi shop, William noticed the adjacent, empty storefront. He immediately called Leon and 32 days later they opened their doors. They did most of the build out themselves, along with the help of William’s wife. That’s what Im talking about.

You only need to spend few moments in their shop to know that these guys are legit. And I love that when I asked William how long he had been in coffee his reply was:

It’s been my main study for about 15 years now

As someone who has been pursuing the craft of photography for almost 18 years, so I love that he still considers this his ‘study.’ Because the minute you begin acting like you’ve mastered whatever it is you’re pursuing and there’s nothing left to learn, you’re done. But that’s not their story.

And beyond their downtown location both Leon and William are busy with their own projects as well.

William owns Suits and Knives. A coffee roasting company that Coffee Colab serves exclusively.

Leon recently spent two months in China where he opened up their first global location called, Kicks Coffee. He is also one of the founders of The Humble Cup. A single serve pour over packet.

Here’s a crazy story about The Humble Cup. My wife gave birth to our daughter, Paloma, last August. Knowing that we would be staying for a few days after her birth, and having no desire to drink crappy hospital coffee, I purchased a five pack from their shop. Thankfully, we have a healthy daughter that came into this world to the sight of her dad rocking the pour over and the smells of good coffee. So yeah, she’s know’s what up.

They both have a reputation of being a bit outspoken or as William puts it, ‘high risk.’ And I love that about these dudes. They’re not trying to be someone their not and they’re proving that you can retain you identity in the world of speciality coffee that I love, yet at times can feel a bit buttoned up.  Leon explained it,

People follow the trends, and I understand, but to a certain point you have to put your own twist, otherwise everyone has a mustache a tow tie and you know, the same shit.

Coffee Colab is unlike most speciality shops that pride themselves on offering only a limited menu without any additional milk or sugar options. I see both sides as I’ve been to tasting rooms where they are purely wanting you to taste the espresso but I also see and agree with…well, let’s just let Leon give you his feelings on that since it speaks for itself in the best of ways.

Lots of people walk into a coffee shop and they want their coffee with milk and sugar. And the barista refuses to serve them. I would ask the barista, do you go to a Mexican Restaurant or an Asian Restaurant? Yeah they do. Do you ask for soy sauce, do you ask for salsa? Yet you don’t want people to put milk and sugar in their coffee! What’s the difference? You’re basically doing the same s**t. If you want to drink your coffee black then drink it black. You want sugar, drink it with sugar. This is not about coffee. This is about attitude. If you have a stupid attitude then you stop moving. You stop growing. You stay the same with your f**king bow tie with your f**king this and that forever. Coffee is just a beverage. They can choose anything but when they choose coffee they give you the opportunity to pay you f**king rent.

Kian of Compelling & Rich had once told me that I had to ask William about how he’ll ‘listen’ to an espresso shot. I had to ask, seeing as I’ve never heard something like that before. 

The difference between amateur hour, the professional and the elite: Ameteur will taste it, sip it, wash – rinse – repeat. A professional doesn’t need to rinse or wash their palate. They can take a smell and a sip and set it down. And the elite don’t even drink. You just pick the cup up and put it to your ear, listen to it. You can tell it’s freshness and date. Look at the coloration, swirl it to see the texture. After doing this for so long, if you know your TDS well enough and the solids that pass through, you should be able to look at something. Each coffee is different, but the thing that’s not different is the extraction. Everyone of them is extracted the same way: through espresso. It’s plain and simple.

Dang! He’s dropping knowledge there. Leaned through years of seeing his profession as his craft that deserves to be learned and respected.