Coffee Corner #1: Vietnamese Iced Coffee | Groundwork Coffee Co.

Welcome to the first post in a series I’ll call Coffee Corner because alliteration is euphonic. Here I will share a few of the eponymous coffee house adventures through coffee and cafe reviews. I haven’t decided on a format for these posts quite yet so this will likely change over time. I’ll also flip flop between old adventures and current ones in Vienna and Europe.

Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert. I just like drinking coffee and am learning more about it by visiting lots of shops!

The Breakdown

  • Place: Groundwork Coffee Co. in Downtown Arts District
    • Size: spacious with two levels of seating, upper level overlooks entire shop
    • Seating: lots of two-person tables, long counter on upper level, long tables, a few four-person tables
    • Decor: natural light wood furniture, red brick wall, industrial lights, tea jars line the back of counter
    • Non-Coffee Items for Sale:
      • sandwiches
      • breakfast burritos, toast, scrambles, eggs
      • other breakfast/brunch/lunch dishes for just under $10
      • coffee beans, juices, loose tea
      • cups, mugs, teapots
    • Notable Notes:
      • organic ingredients
      • dairy, almond, hemp, soy, and home-made cashew milks
      • free wifi
      • outlets available
  • Drink: Vietnamese Iced Coffee (Ca Phe Sua Da)
    • Price: $4 but I was charged $3.60
    • Quick Critique: not as dark as Au Coer de Paris nor as sweet but still good, very smooth, gave me that dry mouth feeling I like, dark and rich
    • Rating: 4/5

In the Moment

I’ve got a headache from sleep deprivation and Lyft. I’m not sure if this is helping. This is my second cup of coffee. Help.”

The beginning of an idea and growing obsession

Like I’ve mentioned in And So The Love Affair Begins, Groundwork Coffee is the coffee shop where m.o.c.h.a. originated. At the time it was only a nugget of an idea, a wistful “what if” that floated through my mind as I Google Mapped the places I had to visit all over LA that afternoon and evening.

I was meeting with a local health food startup on Melrose Avenue to discuss an internship opportunity after my classes then going to a design workshop hosted by General Assembly in the Arts District, two locations very, very far from each other. It was March by now, meaning I was just starting to get hooked on coffee shops, so I looked up cool cafes in the Arts District and lo and behold, I found Groundwork. After two rounds of headache inducing Lyft rides, a strong coffee was sorely needed.

In my favorite salmon blazer and new black Oxfords, I jaywalked across Traction Avenue and entered the building sporting fire engine red amidst the grey and brown all around it. I was greeted by warm red brick walls, tan wood furnishings, industrial lights illuminating the already brightly lit shop, glass jars lining the counters, and a chalkboard inspired menu board. I was in hipster heaven. All the things I scoffed at and reproached for being unnecessarily expensive and decorative but secretly loved in one place.

To be honest, Groundwork isn’t even that hipster, but it was the first coffee shop I went to that tried to provide that quintessential coffee house experience.

Buzzing with energy, good vibes, broke artistic types, innovators, lazy dazes, yuppie hub, intoxicating aromas, sweater weather, warm cups cradled in callused palms, milk foam hearts and flowers, dustings of cinnamon and chocolate, keyboard keys click clacking, foot taps on dark wooden floors, light bulbs glowing with a soft orange glow, red brick walls cold to the touch but still cozy with its rustic visage, et cetera, et cetera.

It was all too exciting. For that, I will always love Groundwork even though I’ve only been there once. When I saw Vietnamese iced coffee on the menu, I had to order it.

Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê sữa đá) is very dear to me because of my ethnic and cultural roots and its absolutely heavenly flavor—when done right. I’ll do a more extensive post on this drink later but for now read this article on Salon! The nostalgia of a good brew of coarsely ground dark roast mixed with sweetened condensed milk and poured over heaps of ice is pure magic. It’s my dad’s favorite drink, so of course it’s mine as well. Whenever I take a sip and feel the syrupy sweet and bitter liquid wash over my tongue, leaving my mouth wonderfully parched with delicious aftertaste, my eyes widen in alertness and blink closed again in utter bliss. The perfect Vietnamese iced coffee is so hard to come by, especially in non-Vietnamese cafes. This was pretty close, but not quite.

Of course I’ll be back to try more drinks and food, maybe even get some studying done too. I am in dire need of a better photo of one of their drinks anyway. Until then, I’ll just keep scrolling through their amazing Instagram feed @groundworkcoffee.


P.S. I just noticed that the book in my photo is called Traction, the street Groundwork is on.  😀


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