Do people really care about the taste of coffee at their local hipster coffee shop, or do they want instagrammable aesthetics? Well, Café de Leche located in Altadena is definitely only worthy for your instagram posts.
Entering the coffee shop the overpowering smell of their jalapeño cheese bagel consumed my nose, and I’m not quite sure how I liked that. I resumed to observe the small space, appreciating the tranquil blue walls and lounge area; you’ll feel as if you’ve walked into a friend’s living room. The coffee shop, although small, does have a kid corner where there’s dinosaur toys, books and coloring activities, which I thought made it family friendly.
Ordering your coffee is not complicated because there are only three categories, such as Classicas, Especiales, and Cold Brew. Their pastries included on the menu at the time of my visit were the jalapeño cheese bagel, cinnamon raisin bagel and the butter croissant. There was only one barista taking orders and making the drinks so there was a slight crowd of 5 waiting in the lounge area for their drinks and 4 in line.
Café de Leche is raved about because of its Horchata con Espresso ($4.25/$4.75). As a customer you have the option to order your drink cold or hot, and I decided to order both makings of the drink followed by an order of their jalapeño cheese bagel ($2.50) and their butter croissant ($3.75) giving me a total of a $15.00 order.
After placing my order I was asked if I would like my pastries warm, which I said yes for the bagel and no for the croissant. Thinking the pastries displayed in their showcase counter were just food models, I was shocked when my barista took out the stale looking bagel to warm it up in the oven behind her. Surprisingly it did not take long to warm up, and it was given to me in under 2 minutes with a side of vegan cream cheese.
I was initially going to wait to try both pastries after I received both of my drinks, but the wait was taking quite long and my hunger won over the battle and I took a bite out of my croissant. The flakiness of this light as air croissant made the bite totally worth it because it melts in your mouth, you could taste the slight butter which I like because it does not overpower to make it salty. But it’s nothing out of this world, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone to spend $4 on a baked good that is not unique and the same applies for the jalapeño cheese bagel. It was cheesy and delicious but with a very usual taste and the vegan cream cheese tasted exactly like cream cheese so I’ll give them props for that.
It took 17 minutes for both of my drinks to be ready, which is quite a big wait. Good thing I was not in a hurry that Friday morning. If you do visit this coffee shop do not expect for the barista to call out your order or make eye contact with you when your drinks are ready. This added five more minutes to my wait time, and it wasn’t until I asked if those were my drinks that I was finally able to obtain their “glorious” Horchata con Espresso.
The coffee shop has the lounge sofa and kid corner in the lobby, and two outside sitting areas one being at the side of the front entrance and the other being the backside of the shop.
I decided to sit in the back patio section, which really made it feel like a backyard. There are three large picnic tables that easily fit up to 12 people and there’s also yellow single chairs available. You do not have to worry about that California sun because all of the benches are under shades. Since I visited the coffee shop in the morning, I was not around to appreciate the fairy lights turn on and illuminate the hipster ambiance, but I was able to take advantage of the cornhole tossing game and the ring toss that are available for all the customers to enjoy.
Taking one sip from the cold Horchata con Espresso made me realize I had wasted $4.25 on a drink that tasted exactly like the Starbucks frappuccino vanilla chilled coffee (13.7 oz) which is only $2.50.
It did not taste anything like horchata but I did see cinnamon particles at the bottom of my cup which gave it that similar vanilla taste that the Starbucks frappuccinos have. So once again I was not impressed because it was not a unique taste and for a small drink it was expensive.
The hot version of the Horchata con Espresso also disappointed, although it was sweet and did not need any extra add ons; once again there was no hint of horchata just the taste of coffee and sweet milk.
It is a bit pricey but it has nice and quiet ambiance, especially the back patio, to work on school work. There is free wifi and because the back patio is closed off for customers only, it creates this home like vibe. Parking might be tough since the parking lot area is tiny, so I would suggest to park around the block where there are nice local shops and free street parking.
Overall I rate my experience and my order to be a C.