First look: LAMILL Coffee, Baltimore

The other day (11/14, to be exact), I cleared my morning and headed downtown to check out the grand opening of the new Four Seasons hotel, the main selling point of which for me is the shiny new LAMILL coffee shop on its first floor. For some reason I assumed I’d simply roll up at the time their site says they open and get my coffee on. Silly me! I’d forgotten about the hotel’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by the mayor and other Baltimore movers and shakers. In case you’re wondering how many people it takes to cut this sort of ribbon, the picture below should help you come up with a ballpark estimate.

Once I’d managed to enter the lobby and snake around past the bar to LAMILL, I was impressed with what I found. But I’ll get to the eye candy in a bit.

First, the coffee: unsurprisingly, LAMILL only serves its own beans, roasted in Alhambra, CA. My iPhone did a less than stellar job of capturing the menu, so I’ll include a link to the higher-res. version of it and just summarize the offerings. You'll notice a pretty standard division of single-origin coffees and blends, with the former commanding a marginally higher price. Beans of either class can be ordered brewed in 4 ways: hand drip (Hario V60), siphon, Eva Solo, and iced hand drip (Hario V60 Fretta). Speaking of prices, I consider LAMILL's borderline high—with the cheapest brewed option being an 8-oz. hand drip of any blend at $3 and the most expensive options, a 20-oz. siphon brew or an 18-oz. iced brew of any single-origin, tied at $11 each. Location has something to do with this, I’m sure, as does the higher-than-usual 2.5 g./oz. brew ratio that trainer Jonathen Liu told me is applied almost across the board (except with the V60 Fretta). Pricing for espresso drinks, all made using LAMILL’s Bliss, is more standard.

I should mention in passing that teas appear to be well-represented on LAMILL's menu, too, along with select food items, including gourmet takes on Pop-Tarts (called "Pop Pies"), griddled breakfast breads, and hand-cut beignets. The influences of chef Michael Mina, who joined forces with LAMILL in opening their only location outside of L.A., and Mina Group corporate pastry chef Lincoln Carson are unmistakable.

Gearwise, LAMILL rocks 6 custom-painted Mazzer Robur Automatics, a Mahlkönig Guatemala, and a La Marzocco Strada. Sweet, right? And the baristas, two of whom I know personally, take full advantage of the resources available.

I had the honor of being LAMILL Baltimore’s first official customer and ordered a macchiato. Of course, the register didn’t recognize this choice (oops!), so I looked around, chatted a few people up, and enjoyed a sweet, very well-balanced shot of espresso on the house while things got sorted out. In the end, I pivoted and ordered an Eva Solo of LAMILL’s Kenya Gethumbwini instead. Not long afterward, the carafe was brought to my table overlooking the Inner Harbor, and I settled into a full-bodied cup redolent with stewed tomato and currant notes. It felt just like home in a way since I own and love the small Eva Solo that LAMILL has chosen over a more traditional press--except that my home isn’t furnished this nicely. There’s a certain warmth to the space itself that nicely complements the clean, open, modern look and invites one to linger; I could get used to drinking coffee here.

Last but not least, take a look at LAMILL’s “boutique,” a big display of coffee and tea parephernalia available for purchase to the left of the food prep. area. Hario products feature prominently, but brand names like Baratza, Rancilio, Technivorm, and Bodum also catch the eye.

In short, LAMILL is more than worth a visit. Their presence here can only add to Baltimore’s coffee mojo. I’m looking forward to a return trip soon (and I’ll be bringing a coupon good through 12/31/11).

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