Review: Maru Coffee is a minimal oasis within the Arts District

The Arts District is temporarily abuzz with construction and trucks, but a moment of seclusion amid the chaos can be found in a new cafe, Maru Coffee. The new location, situated on Santa Fe Street, is their second location, with the chain’s first being in Los Feliz.

Photo from Yelp.

The long, cherrywood-topped counter offers up bags of Maru’s own brand of coffee and other beans. Their pastries, baked fresh each morning, include all different kinds of croissants. The plain one is $4, and chocolate or ham and cheese come at an additional cost of $0.50. The chocolate croissant is flaky, and the chocolate, though ample, is not overly sweet. It pairs well with a mocha, as Maru does not overpower its espresso with sweet chocolate, opting instead for a stronger, deeper flavor.

While a cup of joe is already generally quite pricey in Los Angeles, Maru is on the more expensive side of the spectrum. A latte or a cup of cold brew is $4.50 and a mocha or matcha latte is $5.25. This is more expensive than their other location, where a latte is $4.50, a mocha is $5. This is in part because of the cost of operating in downtown Los Angeles; though there are more caffeine-seekers than in suburban areas, the cost of the space is indelibly more expensive. Other coffee shops in the area are on the same price scale — Maru is just a few blocks south from Blue Bottle Coffee, where a latte is $4.75 and a mocha is $5.25.

Maru brews Ippodo matcha, an authentic and heavily sought after brand of matcha. Their special signature coffees include a spiced cold brew sprinkled with pepper and topped off with a sweet cream. They also serve an espresso tonic, consisting of two shots of espresso poured into a cup of Fever Tree tonic, resulting in a bitter combination that is definitely an acquired taste. Served in a thick ceramic mug, their house drip coffee is a medium full-bodied roast, a strong start to any morning.

The space is white and open, a total revamp of the original warehouse. The side wall is lined with tall windows, filling the room with natural light. The floor maintains its original gridded concrete, but the walls are coated in a glossy eggshell white, which can be a bit too aggressive on the eye in broad daylight. The darker wooden ceiling has two small skylights, and a few spotlight style lamps. Part of the space is enclosed by a windowed wall,  which surrounds a table and a small home office setup, with a printer and an Apple desktop computer. The workspace is unusual in the open space, but not terribly out of place. Maru’s playlist features jazz artists McCoy Tyner and Cannonball Adderley, mixing the sounds of saxophone with the buzz of the espresso machine and whizz of passing cars.

Along the walls are light wooden benches, with slightly raised partitions that act as short wooden tables. There is also one large communal table in the center of the open space, accompanied by wooden seats. The table is a bit low, and patrons have a tendency to hunch over the table while doing work, which can get uncomfortable when sitting for over an hour. There are a few decorative plants, but they are sparse and long-leaved, so that the greenery provides contrast but does not take over the white and pale wood look.

Amid the hustle and bustle of the Arts District, Maru is a beautifully minimalist space, perfect for sipping espresso and clearing one’s head. Their coffee and tea are well executed, not watered down or smothered by sugar. Maru Coffee’s Arts District location is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.