Last week 85°C Bakery Cafe opened on Wilshire Blvd., to an enthusiastic crowd of locals, business people and some tourists. As I approached the new bakery cafe, I noticed a line of fans winding around the corner. There are almost 1000 worldwide.
The idea of 85°C Bakery Cafe began as Taiwanese businessman Wu Cheng-Hsueh was having coffee with his wife. He wanted to open a bakery cafe that offered a variety of coffee and teas, plus sweet and savory breads for a low price.
When he opened his first shop Taipei in 2004, he named it 85 °C, which is 185 °F, the optimal temperature to serve and drink coffee. It became a hit and he started opening more cafes throughout Asia.
Since Taiwanese are known for sprinkling salt on their fruit to enhance the sweetness, Wu decided to try this with coffee. It became an overnight sensation to perk-up coffee with sea salt and whipped cream. 85°C has surpassed Starbucks to become the biggest coffee chain in Taiwan, with 325 stores in Taiwan and expanding into China, Australia and the U.S. Wu persuaded a Guatemalan supplier to sell him virtually all its coffee beans. He hired three Taiwanese master chefs Henry Cheng, Chili Yin and Li Che Chen to create recipes to prepare, bake and decorate beautiful pastries and cakes for his guests.
The first store to open in the United States was in Irvine, CA in 2009. The iconic sea salt coffee beverages sealed with a clear plastic lid was a huge hit. Since then over 30 other cafes have opened in the United States.
Recently, I was invited to the new Koreatown cafe. At the entrance I noticed a stack of white plastic trays, and perfectly cut pieces of paper to place on top of your tray. Guests pick up white plastic tongs, and explore the glass cases and center islands filled with 60 types of Asian and European pastries, beautifully decorated cakes and baked goods.
While filling my tray, I admired marble taro bread, blueberry cream cheese sweet bread, chocolate buns, walnut raisin bread, strawberry cream cakes, fresh fruit tarts, and the pretty mango crème brulee. Looking at the prices, I selected a few extra items, because it’s a better value than other bakeries in town. I liked when a staff member walked out of the kitchen shouting,”Fresh Bread.” Everyone flocked over to see what is fresh and warm.
Taking my tray up to the register counter, it’s time to order a beverage from the coffee and tea bar before paying. I knew I had to try one of the iced sea salt coffees, so I ordered that and an unsweetened Jasmine green tea. My iced sea salt coffee arrived in a colorful layer of ice, dark brown coffee, and a foamy sweet cream rising to the top that was dazzled with sea salt. “The cream is full fat, because health experts say full fat is easier for your body to digest and it offers such a wonderful creaminess.” There is sugar sprinkled on top, but you can omit that. Guests shake the colorful sweet and slightly salty layers to be blended together before sticking a thick straw into the tall plastic cup. The pleasing and smooth rich taste offers a delightful zing with a hint of salt.
Soon 85°C Bakery Café will open it’s 1000 eatery in Texas. The bakery also has an extensive array of pre-made and made-to-order layer and roll cakes for birthdays or other special occasion. Most are under $30 a cake.
The Koreatown location is open Monday -Thursday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 3377 Wilshire Blvd, Unit 101, 102A, 102B, Los Angeles, CA 90010 (213)388-8585.