We had the good fortune of connecting with Leif An and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leif, we’d love for you to start things off by telling us something about your industry that we and others not in the industry might be unaware of?
“It’s just coffee”. I am sure we all think that when we go to a local specialty coffee shop and baristas seem to take a long time making our pour over or a latte. When I first started my career as a barista, my perception of coffee was similar to that of everyone else’s. I applied for my first barista position at a local coffee shop back in high school thinking that it would be a quick and easy summer job. 2 weeks into my new job, I had bags under eyes from lack of sleep due to caffeine over-dose. What I realized about this industry was that it required more than pressing a button or two to make a cup of specialty coffee. “Normal” daily procedures as a barista included calibrating and tasting all espressos and brewed coffees daily and hourly because quality of the coffee was heavily affected by the surrounding atmosphere and time. Humidity and temperature of the cafe was checked throughout the day and adjusted accordingly. As if that wasn’t enough, we had to “cup”(systematic way of tasting coffee) samples we will use the week after. The amount of samples ranged anywhere from 8-20 and we had to grade 11 different criteria such as flavor, aftertaste, mouthfeel, etc. To a high school student who thought hazelnut coffee was a real thing, differentiating between “fragrance” and “aroma” was like differentiating between gunshots and fireworks in Los Angeles. Since then, I dedicated 15 years trying to find ways to help baristas bypass these miserable daily routines, but I have yet to find a way around it. The term specialty coffee speaks for itself. Our goal as baristas is to highlight what is special about each coffee we represent and do whatever it takes to make sure our customers can appreciate the quality. It is not an easy task but seeing our regulars switch their “The Usual” from extra pump vanilla latte to a single origin washed Kenya from Nyeri region is what forces us to take that extra sip of coffee knowing we can’t sleep tonight.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Stereoscope was founded in 2013 with the clear mission to make highest quality coffee easily accessible, and the vision of serving, improving, and partnering with our communities. We are a wholesale roasting company with retail locations in Los Angeles and Orange County. We are unique in that we take a more personal approach when in comes to partnerships. We offer free consultations, trainings, and quality control with the knowledge we have gained from operating our own retail business. It is a lot of work and finding the right people to do the job is crucial because even our delivery driver must be a qualified barista who can help solve issues on the spot. Lesson we learned along the way was that it takes a long period of time to fully understand the industry and immerse into the career so having good baristas grow with the company is very important. It meant we have to treat them with respect, help them achieve their career goal, and make sure they find financial stability. Over time, our company was known for high standard in quality service and a place where baristas can find career in coffee.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA is known for diversity and food. For a week long trip, I would plan the itinerary starting from the beach side and slowly work my way in to the East LA. Because most of the restaurants worth checking out are book way ahead of time, I would make reservations as early as possible. I recommend starting at Santa Monica Pier and shopping at the 3rd street promenade. After that, take a stroll on Venice Beach and check out Abbot Kinney Dr. Dinner at Felix is a must and bars around the town are awesome. Next few days you can check out Brentwood and grab lunch at Jon & Vinnys because the Fairfax location is impossible to order from. If brunch is your thing, Dialog at WeHo is also a must try. Save a morning to do a coffee tour at Silverlake and Echo Park because there are many well known coffee shops on Sunset Blvd. If you haven’t had enough coffee, head to Highland Park and Eagle Rock where my favorite coffee shop Found Coffee is located. Arts District is where I usually hang out on weekend. There are many breweries to go to and if you are planning to visit after the pandemics, bar hopping all the way to Chinatown will be a night to remember.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I dedicate my shout out to everyone in the hospitality industry, including my staff, for risking their health to make sure our customers have a sense of normalcy.
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