Saturday, March 19, 2011

Espresso Profeta

According to Husret Hoja of Erzurum,* “Coffeehouses are places where pleasure-seekers and wealthy gadabouts sit knee-to-knee, involving themselves in all sorts of vulgar behavior. . . Do the poor have enough money to drink coffee? Men frequent these places, become besotted with coffee and lose control of their mental faculties to the point that they actually listen to and believe what dogs and mongrels have to say.” While this may be an accurate portrayal of the scene at the Intelligentsia over on Sunset Boulevard, the Hoja would have overlooked Espresso Profeta. He simply never would have found it. I struggled to find it, concealed as it is in a jewel of a old brick building on a quiet stretch of Glendon Avenue, closer to Westwood’s office towers than to the UCLA campus.

Espresso Profeta is a beacon of quality and independence among all the Starbucks and Coffee Beans in Westwood Village where there is an alarming scarcity of charming collegiate cafés serving our local branch of the University of California, that is, unless Boba Loca draws your fancy. Drawing a crowd of actual intelligentsia -- graduate students and professors, and even a few undergrads -- Profeta is all UCLA has. Profeta offers a serene courtyard with plenty of seats for reading and quiet discourse. Whoever designed Profeta’s sunny interior understood that an appropriate amount of table space is required to read the newspaper and enjoy a coffee.

The Hoja might remonstrate that Profeta’s espresso is of such superior quality that men are sure to become besotted with coffee. Profeta’s baristas draw short, thick espresso shots using the dolce beans from Espresso Vivace, the Seattle institution dating to the Queen City’s halcyon flannel-and-grunge era. (Pace Longfellow, there is nothing queenlike about Cincinnati or Catawba wine.) The Vivace beans, as interpreted by Profeta’s baristas. have their own style: they are darker than most and taste on the chocolatey side with no residual bitterness or saccharine fruitiness.

It may be a shame that UCLA undergrads lack a proper coffeehouse with the requisite clunky brown mugs, racks of local weeklies, and late hours, but my guess is that Bruins do not care. After all, the UCLA campus is graced by a branch of a certain restaurant famed for its cheeseburgers and crossed palm trees which happens to be open very late. If their coffee sucks, who cares?

*Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red, p. 12 (Translated by Erdag Goknar.)

Espresso Profeta

1129 Glendon Avenue


(310) 208-3375