Rockpaper Coffee proves to be lackluster

Nestled among an eclectic, colorful mix of restaurants and storefronts on famed Sunset Boulevard, a new coffee joint has bravely opened its doors in Hollywood.

Caffeine buzz · Rockpaper Coffee satisfies the hungry customer with its tasty grilled chicken, turkey bacon, egg white and cheese breakfast wrap among other snacks. The coffee, however, is mostly just average. - Jasmine Ako | Daily Trojan

Rockpaper Coffee is easy to pass by because of its small, unassuming storefront. But once customers make their way inside, they’ll encounter a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop aiming to bring an independent, music-infused appeal to the Hollywood community.

An exposed brick wall jumps out as a unique feature of the coffee shop’s interior. A diverse mix of artwork adds character throughout the shop, with album art and music posters hanging alongside playful character portraits of Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes and Buzz Lightyear of Toy Story.

A music playlist of enjoyable — albeit mainstream — soft rock and acoustic tunes sets the mood for guests — with hits such as Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist” providing a soothing backdrop.

Rockpaper Coffee’s biggest strength is its broad and affordable array of coffee types to choose from. With a menu that includes espressos, freshly grounded options, iced and blended coffee and freezes, there’s something for even the most selective coffee guzzler. For the non-coffee lovers, the shop offers an assortment of iced tea and all natural fruit and protein smoothies.

So how is the coffee itself? When it boils down to taste and quality, Rockpaper Coffee’s brews unfortunately offer nothing spectacular. One of their specialties, the Spanish latte with condensed milk, is pleasantly frothy and not too sweet. The coffee’s flavor, however, is average and indistinguishable from a cup you could get anywhere else.

For customers seeking a sweet fix, the vanilla cupcake coffee — smoothly undertoned with vanilla — is decent but not revelatory.

Perhaps most disappointing is the shop’s highly touted organic pour-over drip coffee. Though smooth, it lacks flavor and acidity, a quintessential element in an enjoyable cup of coffee. Dangerously akin to instant coffee, it tastes like it wasn’t brewed at a high enough temperature.

But not everything is a miss. The ice-blended caramel latte differentiates itself from similar offerings at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Seattle’s Best Coffee by avoiding overt sweetness. A wise choice for tired patrons, the drink gives a caffeinated kick with its strong coffee flavor.

Though the coffee may be underwhelming, Rockpaper Coffee offers a diverse menu of breakfast sandwiches, lunch subs, healthy wraps, salads and assorted snacks for the hungry customer.

One highlight is the chocolate brownie, a delicious cakey square with gooey bits of chocolate chips inside. And, the grilled chicken, turkey bacon, egg white and cheese breakfast wrap is simple and tasty, although it could use an extra kick of flavor.

The shop is also tech-friendly. Customers can conveniently place orders via Twitter, tweet at the servers for a free cup as well (@RPCoffee) or make a phone call through the shop’s iPad checkout and curbside service.

Despite these modern advertising tactics and a pleasant atmosphere, the bottom line is that a coffee joint should have good — if not excellent — coffee in order to stand out. Rockpaper Coffee offers nothing groundbreaking, and it’s doubtful whether USC students will want to venture so far from campus for an average cup of joe and decent grub.

Rockpaper Coffee might be especially worth a stop once its concert and entertainment schedule kicks off, though.

The cafe plans to host nightly shows, stand-up comedy performances and monthly live model drawing classes. If it can transform itself into a lively community hub and amp up its coffee offerings, the shop might just spread its wings.

With its diverse menu and prime location, Rockpaper Coffee is off to a promising start. But if it wants to stand out against the multitude of other coffee offerings, it needs to kick things up a notch.

8 replies
  1. Maggie Q.
    Maggie Q. says:

    I just had to comment because I saw this on my Facebook wall and saw how Michael, the owner I think? wrote a personal attack.

    That’s extremely unprofessional for you to assume that the writer would be biased – even in my experience going, I remember asking what type of coffee was good and I was given just a blank stare before I was recommended a drip coffee. God was it awful, I actually sent it back and tried it for the Guatemalan, which was just overly bitter. I’d take a Starbucks Arabica over your coffee any day. It’s also way overpriced. I had a cup cost around $4 for a medium.

    I want everyone to know that even thinking about driving to RockPaperCoffee is a waste of time. Stick with your Seattle’s Best for a quick fix or just go to Urth Cafe and get coffee for about the same price and infinitely better.

  2. Joseph L.
    Joseph L. says:

    When I went to RockPaperCoffee, I had asked for what was the “Best thing on the menu that was bold and had some sort of acidic base” – I was then told that the Kenyan brew would best emphasize the taste of your coffee beans. Low and behold, it did not. I’ve had Kenyan brew before at Demitasse in Japan Town and my oh my is it a night and day difference.

    My friend also ordered a Spanish coffee and that unfortunately, for such a rich beans, showed no tones and lacked that true creaminess that should come with every spanish coffee.

    I’m also disappointed that you would attack the author’s credibility because you’re trying to save yourself. Let’s be honest, I was already disappointed when my cup of coffee was not HOT – it was lukewarm at best. What type of coffee shop if any, serves lukewarm coffee? Not one that should be in business, let alone one that thinks it could generate thousands of dollars off it. It also doesn’t help that it took me three passes before I could find your location – don’t come running at me saying I’m blind because my GPS told me it was on the right and I literally couldn’t find it.

    I would highly recommend you stay away from this place. I would have given this place another chance, but Michael seems like the type of guy who’s just way too over himself for me to even consider another try.

    • Concerned Customer
      Concerned Customer says:

      Now Demitasse, that’s what I call great customer service & eager baristas that want to teach.

      • Joseph L.
        Joseph L. says:

        Oh you go there too? it’s a great place for some nice coffee and I love the guys behind the counter. really cool dudes.

        • Concerned Customer
          Concerned Customer says:

          Jack’s signature drink, the one with the thai team creme on glace? DELICIOUS. & when i’m on a time crunch but in the area, the minty cubano is definitely my go-to drink. Yeah definitely, the service is great.

  3. Concerned Customer
    Concerned Customer says:

    I would have loved it if i had known ALL of this when I was at your coffee shop. Usually when I go to great coffee shops, the baristas there are eager to teach and express some of the best products that they have in store without customers having to do much pushing and shoving. We were thrown one menu where all of us crowded around. When it started taking a while for all of us to make a decision, a barista could have let us know the specials there.

    The truth of the matter was the store was understaffed and underdeveloped in customer service in many ways. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, so I didn’t care as much that service was slow. But if you expect “thousands of dollars in potential business” and your coffee shop to hit success, Sunday afternoons are going to be your prime.

  4. Michael
    Michael says:

    This is an unfair review. You’re judging all of our coffee based on one bean which wasn’t even our organic! At any time we are brewing 3 different beans one light and 2 dark roasts. You had our Costa Rican bean which is known for it’s sweetness and LOW ACIDITY. Had you tried our Kenyan or Organic Guatemalan then you could at least make a fair judgment. We are the only cafe within a 2 mile radius that does pour over brew correctly.

    Before you cost a new business thousands of dollars in potential business right at it’s launch perhaps you could do a professional review. I invite any of you to come in again to give us a real rating.

    An additional note. Our live shows have been going for 3 weeks already.

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