Tuesday, October 29, 2013

New Shop for Old Town: Copa Vida

We had slept for approximately 1 hour, if that. The cries of our bundle of joy, Liam, had kept my wife and I from the one thing that we have been in much deprivation of since day one of his arrival...sleep. Sleep schedules, routines; nothing seems to work on this kid. Finally today, I decided that the only solution for this was a nice long trip up to Pasadena, CA to visit a coffee shop I've been hearing my cousin rave about for the past couple months: Copa Vida.

Copa Vida: 
Making the drive from Orange County to Pasadena made for an unconventionally relaxing ride for our little monster. That is until we were about 5 minutes away from the historic Old Town Pasadena area; which then made for a very long 5 minute of locating the nearest parking structure so we could get this kid out of the car. At that point, it didn't matter how much the structure parking was; we just needed to get that kid out of the car. That being said, parking structures are probably going to be your best bet when stopping by at Copa Vida. Unlike the wealthy geniuses that own the parking structures in Downtown LA and charge $3 for every 10 minutes, the 90 minute free parking and a couple dollars for every additional half hour definitely didn't break the bank, which says a lot coming from a guy whose bank is almost always broken. Alright let's talk about Copa Vida.

Taking a stroll through the Old Town Pasadena to arrive at Copa Vida definitely gave me that small-town downtown feel; very Hill Valley circa November 5, 1955. As I walked in, I was greeted by the barista and cashier with smiles all around. The store definitely has a very clean and organized feel to it. One of the features I most enjoyed of this shop was first how large the space was and how well the space was used. It wasn't big in an awkward and out of place kind of way. Everything fits just right. Speaking of layout, as you walk into the main doorway, you'll notice the barista counter curves around in a horse shoe shaped fashion to the other side of the wall in which you'll find additional seats at the coffee bar and additional tables with more seating options. Like I said, it's a nice, big layout.

The Coffee:
Okay, here's where I get really excited. Copa Vida scores big points with me, personally, by carrying some of my favorite coffee roasters around. This place is proudly serving up Verve Coffee Roasters, Ritual Coffee Roasters, and one of my new favorites Forty Ninth Parallel. Copa Vida also prides themselves in carrying specialty teas as well for you tea drinkers out there. After asking for a suggestion from the friendly barista, I was treated to an off the menu one and one (shot of espresso in one cup and a single shot machiatto in another). With perfectly steamed Straus Milk and a carefully pulled shot of single origin espresso, you can't go wrong. The pairing made for a great sampler of both their unaltered single origin offering and it's creamy counterpart, both highlighting the naturally fruity espresso in their own unique ways. Their single origin espresso (Forty Ninth's Ethiopia Yirgocheffe Espresso at the time)was definitely a treat. I was also able to try out their freddo, which they've defined as an iced double shot of espresso with simple syrup to sweeten it up. This place knows their specialty coffee and they obviously know how to make their coffees.

The Verdict:
As always, I feel that when you have great coffee, skilled baristas, and ambiance to match it all, everything latches on to one last thing: customer service. That dreaded feeling of pretentiousness always looms over specialty coffee shops, so much that the arrogant title of "coffee snob" has been associated with any person who cares about the natural flavors of the coffee. Yes, I realize it's a two way street and that baristas with poor interpersonal communication skills can often give the appearance of know-it-allism so much that you want to slap their face and purposefully taint their perfectly brewed black coffee with tons of unnatural sweetener, purely out of spite. That all being said, you won't find that kind of barista at this shop. In fact when I struck up a conversation with the barista on bar and explained to him that I had come from Orange County to Los Angeles County to visit the shop, he seemed to brighten up even more than he had already, expressing how grateful he was that I made the trip over (not that OC and LA are that far off, but, an hour drive's an hour drive). 

Bottom line: a trip over to Copa Vida is a no brainer. Great coffee, skilled baristas with great customer service always makes for a great coffee shop experience. Get there people. 

Just came back from Copa Vida again and not only did they have the awesome coffee but also had amazing live jazz. Not showing any bias because it was my awesomely talented cousin Fabian playing, but it really did add to the whole coffee shop experience. 

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