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85ºC Bakery & Cafe

October 31, 2011

A few months ago, there was an article in Westways Magazine, which is produced by AAA, highlighting some of the great Asian restaurant/eatery imports that have made their way to California and turned into a huge hit.  One of these eateries was 85º C Cafe & Bakery.  My husband had actually seen the article in the magazine and had brought it home to show me.  He thought I’d be interested because I had only recently discovered 85ºC the bakery myself.

A friend of my parents, one day after having had a meal together at Taiko (see blog post on Taiko (the restaurant, not the drums!)), suggested that my parents drive down the road a few blocks and try 85ºC.  He gave my parents some basic directions as to where the bakery was, but left them with the following message: when you see the line outside, you’ll know you’re there.  My parents had no clue what he was talking about; after all, it was a Monday afternoon at 2 pm, how could there possible be a line at a bakery?  Sure enough, when my parents arrived, there was a line.  There were a bit off put by the line, because could the bakery possibly be that good that it’s worth waiting in line for?  But they bought some goodies to go and when they got home and tried their bakery goods, they were blown away by it.  So much so, my mom had to tell me about it right away.

Shortly thereafter, my mom took me to the bakery on a Saturday afternoon, and sure enough, there was a line, about 20 minutes long just to get into the store.  A few weeks later, when my husband decided he wanted to take some baked goods to work, we went to 85ºC on a Sunday afternoon, and this time we waited in line for close to am hour before we got into the store.  But my husband’s co-workers loved the baked goodies.

So, what is 85ºC Bakery & Cafe?  It’s an import from Taiwan.  It’s a bakery and cafe that specializes in coffees, cakes and breads.  The bakery first opened its doors in 2004 and quickly became very well known for its terrific coffee.  By 2006 it had more ban 230 stores open in Taiwan, making it the largest coffee franchise in the country.  Today, 85ºC operates in Taiwan, China, Australia, and as of earlier this year in the United States.  Their first US location opened in Irvine, CA and their second location recently opened in Hacienda Heights, CA.

Open 7 days away, and almost 15 hours each day, the bakery has a line f0r its tasty goods morning, noon and night.  Multiple varieties of sweet and savory baked goods and breads are baked on the premises throughout the day.  Once you’ve patiently waited in line just to get inside the store, you’ll be rewarded with 15-20 different varities of fresh baked goods.  As you make your way down the line surveying the goods, you’ll see that there’s a constant stream of employees bringing out newly baked goods, hot out of the oven, every 5-10 minutes!

The concept of the store is pretty simple.  If you’re look for fresh baked goods and breads, you stand in line and wait to enter the store.  The employees only let in a handful of people at a time as their serving center is a bit small and they don’t want it to be too crowded.  Once you make your way into the store, grab and empty tray and a pair of thongs, and wander through their display case of baked goods.  As you see items that you want, you use your thongs to grab them and put them on to your tray.  When you’re done making your selections, you take your tray full of goodies and stand in a second line waiting to pay for what you’ve selected.

Mind you, that’s just the line for their fresh baked goods and bread.  85ºC Baker & Cafe has more than just baked goods and breads after all.  As its name implies, it’s also a cafe.  And it’s coffee may be more famous than its baked goods.  The cafe uses only premium Guatemalan coffe beans and fresh brews each individual cup of coffee.  In fact, their most famous concoction is their sea salt latte.  The drink is like any other latte drink except that at 85ºC they mix sea salt into the milk that makes the foam of the drink.  It gives it a salty and sweet taste that’s not too overpowering.  In fact, the bakery’s name comes from the temperature in centigrade at which their coffee is brewed; 85 degrees C.  If you go to the store just wanting a cup of joe, or a smoothie or any number of their incredible cafe drinks, you can skip the bread line and go to the side door and just order what you want.

As for their baked goods options, they have so many to choose from.  Their savory breads include pizza-style bread options, or rolls made with pork sung or red bean paste.  And then there are other goods that appeal strictly to the sweet tooth, such as breads or rolls filled with fresh fruit fillings or creams.  They also make some incredibly beautiful cakes that they display in their cold case near the cash registers.  Those cakes look so good that they are just asking to be eaten!

My favorite baked good there is the half-moon cake, which is essentially a vanilla sponge cake shaped like a half-moon and coated with cream and almond slivers.  This half-moon cake also comes with a strawberry, cream or blueberry filling rather than the almond slivers.  I’m also really partial to their brioche bread.  It isn’t like any other kind of brioche bread I’d ever had.   85ºC’s version is a lot lighter and fluffier, and a lot sweeter, kind of like they put some sort of sweet milk into the batter.  And it’s light as air when you tear into it.  The bread itself also has a light sugary crust as well.  It’s sooo good.  My husband loves the bakery’s taro bread.  I was never really a fan of taro, and I never thought my husband would like it.  But I’ll be darned if the bakery doesn’t do something special to make their taro just that much better than anywhere else.  The bakery says they make their own taro filling and they mix it in with this soft bread that makes the taro light and flaky and fluffy and not too sweet.  Apparently, the marbled taro bread is one of the bakery’s most popular items.

So, the real question is: would I wait in line again for 85ºC Bakery & Cafe?  And I guess that answer is: it depends.  Since the bakery is constantly baking bread, you never know from one time to another what’s going to be offered when you go.  If I knew for sure that there would be brioche bread and taro buns, I’d probably be willing to wait 20-30 minutes in line to get my hands on some bread.  I do think that 1 hour is a bit excessive to wait.  But, if you’ve never experienced 85ºC Bakery & Cafe before, it’s well worth taking some time out of your day and giving the bakery a try.

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