Photos by Asia Morris.
Having just opened in October, Cabinet, a new coffee shop and contemporary hole-in-the-wall in downtown Long Beach just across the street from the public library, is working on making a distinct impression within the city’s coffee scene. With its small space, minimal, yet bold, interior look and caffeinated offerings, its owner Kei Kim has carved out a tiny space for the ultimate pick-me-up.
The name Cabinet was inspired by European salon culture in the 17th and 18th centuries, said Kim. He was searching for a word that had a similar meaning, one that would acknowledge the debates and intellectual exchanges of the period. Through a little research he discovered that cabinet was also a french term for a room in a mansion meant for arts and entertainment, and of course, drinking tea and coffee.
“[People can] come here, socialize with other customers and have fun and just debate or talk about something,” Kim said. “This is just a platform where people can just gather around, so that’s why we’re going to have a lot of paintings and pictures and art.”
Cabinet's indoor mural was painted by artist @steavkim.
Kim is originally from Korea, but went to high school and college in the U.S. before moving back home again to enter the fashion industry. Bouncing between Korea, Japan and even Sweden to work with different brands, Kim officially moved to the U.S. roughly three years ago to start his own label. When his endeavors didn’t quite go as planned, he saw an opportunity to express a different kind of creativity within the specialty coffee industry.
Kim has brought Kyoto-style cold brew to downtown Long Beach, a process which takes anywhere from 12 to 20 hours depending on how much flavor the barista chooses to extract. The slow-drip, towering glass contraption, enables the team at Cabinet to experiment with the nuances of highly concentrated coffee. Just this week they introduced cold brew shots, or CBS, to customers, to be downed in one go or slowly sipped on in utter enjoyment of the taste.
“Espresso drinkers, they like to sip or down their espresso, but the only way to get it cold in most cases is to ice it and that changes the flavor to a different tone and waters it down, so we decided to make a cold brew shooter to get the same idea, but iced,” said Raleigh Wilson, the manager at Cabinet. “We’re working on the perfect blend for that, but right now it’s really good.”
The team uses coffee beans from Newport Beach-based Common Room Roasters, whose Brunswick Blend recently won second place for America’s Best Espresso and Los Angeles-based Take Flight, which in December was listed by Thrillist as one of the 21 Best Coffee Roasters in the Country, among other specialty ingredients such as oatmilk from Swedish company OATLY!
Take Flight offers “a solid, kind of earthy, not as acidic blend” that “goes really well with black mochas and sweetened drinks of any kind,” Wilson said.
Cabinet owner Kei Kim.
Also in the works are syrups made in house, inspired by recipes Wilson concocted in his own home and a desire to move away from premium syrups for the sake of offering higher quality options. Popular drinks include their Honey Oat Latte, Iced Blackberry Mocha and Lemonade, which Wilson says will soon be made with a house-made lemon syrup.
“I’m a very picky person, when I go around to restaurants and coffee shops [...] I just want to see how people put their effort into it,” Kim said. “I don’t want to be the best, I don’t want to be recognized as the best, I just want to be one of a kind, extraordinary. I think that’s how I grew up, too. I was kind of the black sheep in the family. I was always kind of different.”
If Kim finds success with this first shop in downtown—he chose this location because of Long Beach’s friendly and supportive community and its big-city vibe—he plans on opening two more shops in Southern California, and then hopes to bring the brand to Asia.
As far as what Cabinet brings to the downtown and greater Long Beach coffee scene at the moment, alongside independentely-owned shops like Recreational and Rose Park Roasters, Kim humbly stated, “I don’t think we have added anything yet. I’m pretty sure that we will.”
Learn more about Cabinet through the Facebook page here and Instagram @cafecabinetroom.
Cabinet is located at 250 West Ocean Boulevard.