Mandarin Coffee Stand Brings New Flavors to Pasadena | lunch

Sherry Gao has the problems that all small business owners wish they had. His espresso machine has been out of whack due to the sheer volume of coffee going through it since he opened the Mandarin Coffee Stand in the Burlington Arcade on South Lake Avenue in Pasadena in October.

Pastries often sell out by noon after the morning rush, especially after TikTok. Gao isn’t a TikTok user, but he was trying to keep up with the demand, and after talking to customers, he found out why. Gao was surprised. “Are they saying nice things about us on TikTok?” Suffice it to say, the reviews are raving.

But the latte art-adorned and frothy drinks aren’t the only things that keep customers coming back day after day. Some might call Gao a “coffee sommelier.”

He has been working in the Los Angeles coffee industry for six years at Cafe Dulce, a specialty coffee shop in Little Tokyo, whose baristas would also go on to open Be Bright Coffee and Copa Vida. From there, Gao moved to Intelligentsia Coffee and stayed as a barista for three years until the pandemic when he opened Mandarin Coffee Stand.

Even before working in the coffee industry, while studying hospitality management at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Gao always dreamed of opening a coffee shop; … When I was a barista, I paid attention and asked questions. I wanted to learn as much as I could.”

The LA coffee scene is small, connected and supportive.

“Business has been great, much better than I expected, and I’m very thankful,” Gao said. “I’ve made a lot of connections with the Los Angeles coffee people and I’ve had a lot of support from the intelligentsia.

“We got a lot of support from the coffee industry in general. a lot of coffee shop owners and OG LA coffee people visited, and then somehow we were trending on social media, so we targeted that group of people as well.”

Mandarin Coffee Stand has seven part-time baristas, most of them brought in from the intelligentsia. At the helm of the operation, Gao sources the ingredients and formulates the menu. Almost everything is made in-house, from syrups to jams used in specialty drinks.

The drinks are as aesthetically pleasing as they are rich and complex, which makes for good business and leads to a diverse clientele. “We get all kinds of people, coffee-focused people and social media people,” Gao explains.

It was important to Gao to create a deep menu full of flavors that most people had never heard of or tried. Popular drinks include the osmanthus flower latte cardamom bitter and a seasonal winter drink called the toasty (a combination of rooibos tea and espresso with house-made brown sugar, inspired by the Hong Kong drink, Yuenyeung).

Other bestsellers are the Pineapple Espresso Tonic, made with house-made pineapple jam, Chinese rock sugar and shaken over lime juice and tonic water, and the Vienna Latte, which features house-made sweetened whipped cream, a double espresso. and cold milk; Gao described it as “like a coffee dessert. it’s like drinking ice cream.”

To kick off the opening, the cafe hosted a latte dropdown where 30 baristas from the Los Angeles area competed in creating latte art. In the future, Gao would like to host pour-over and latte art classes so customers can drink their coffee at home.

Also in development is a coffee cup, basically a coffee tasting where coffee beans are ground, steeped and sipped for those who want to learn more about coffee flavor profiles. Coarsely ground beans allow for a concentrated brew, showing exactly how the coffee will taste and perform.

In the coming months, Mandarin Coffee Stand will be rolling out roasts from Yunnan, China, along with a tasting menu. Gao explained the unique taste of Chinese coffee. “Chinese coffee is very tropical, with hints of pineapple and papaya. It is very sweet and often has notes of tea. ”

Most people have never heard, let alone tried, about Chinese coffee.

“It’s amazing to have the opportunity to give Chinese coffee to more people here in Los Angeles. As a Chinese, I am very proud and grateful to be able to do something like this,” Gao said.

“One thing we want to do is specialty Asian coffee. I think it also puts us on the map, and I believe we’re the only coffee shop in Los Angeles that serves Chinese coffee. We wanted to highlight Asian coffees and Asian flavors in general.”

Mandarin coffee stand

Burlington Arcade

380 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 111, Pasadena

Instagram: @mandarincoffeestand

Every day from 8:00 to 16:30