Friday, October 28, 2016

"Jolly Joseph" and LA's First Coffee Shop

For the next few minutes, try to imagine getting a bad coffee craving in LA's early days.

There was no Intelligentsia, no Stumptown, no Coffee Commissary, no Cognoscenti, no Demitasse - hell, there wouldn't even be any Peet's or Starbucks for well over a century!

LA needed coffee. The young city's large French community especially needed coffee (God only knows how much the French have loved coffee since the early 1600s...).

In 1869, it appeared LA's prayers for caffeine had been answered. Newly-arrived French expat Joseph Joly, a cheerful fellow who quickly earned the nickname "Jolly Joseph", opened the Chartres Coffee Factory on Main Street, opposite the Plaza, in 1869.

Chartres Coffee Factory was a combination wholesale and retail coffee shop. Grocers could buy coffee, but so could the public. It was Southern California's first-ever coffee shop (which probably makes Joly LA's first barista).


It didn't take long for Joly to disappear one day, leaving behind a stack of unpaid bills (and, presumably, the strong scent of French-roasted coffee beans). LA's first coffee shop owner was also one of its earliest con artists.

(Hey, I could omit the unsavory stories. But I don't believe in hiding the truth from my readers.)

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