bright blue counter area of Jellyman tea shop
Offerings are etched on tinted mirror at Jellyman.

Experience Boba Bliss at Donald Glover’s Jellyman Tea Shop

Full disclosure: I’ve never had boba, the Taiwanese tapioca-filled beverage seeping into California cool. But Barbara Bestor is a big fan. Of course she is. She’s cool, no doubt. If proof positive were needed, step up to Jellyman, purveyor of such drinks with locally sourced ingredients and located within a 1920’s building in Los Angeles’s hipster haven, Sunset Junction. Though the space is a minute 920 square feet, it is a multi-layered immersive experience, boldly cinematic and, much like a film, credits a stellar cast of collaborators. Along with architect Bestor (known for her work with Trina Turk, Intelligentsia Coffee, Hollywood’s beloved Beachwood Café, headquarters for Beats by Dr. Dre, and renovation of John Lautner’s seminal Silver Top house), come creative partners: multi-hyphenate Donald Glover; graphic and industrial artist Geoff McFetridge; Luke Wood, musician and music executive; and Ludwig Göransson, the Academy Award-winning composer for Oppenheimer, Black Panther, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Creed, among others.

exterior of Jellyman Tea Shop with light blue archways
Bestor’s intervention started at the façade with new arches, signage, and color indicative of the period.

Jellyman, the long, narrow tea shop, derives from the said-named protagonist of a children’s book written and illustrated by Glover and McFettridge, and about to drop. In Bestor’s Silver Lake project, conceived as “a third place,” i.e. neither coffee shop nor bar but a convivial gathering place where folks eschewing alcohol can come and hospitably hang, the character takes form as a larger-than-life statue made of eggshell-finished plaster à la Kaws. It stands watch over customers ordering drinks in a room kaleidoscopic in color and texture: green epoxy flooring, a curvaceous cobalt counter with solid surface topping lacquered cabinetry, walls clad with fleshy pink and navy ceramic tiles form Portugal. A full-height bronzed mirror backs the drinks menu while a run of nautical-inspired woodworking inset with chronometers from a marine supply shop stretches from an ante-room lounge and the entry.

Counter area with Jellyman mascot and lots of beautiful blues
Jellyman, the plaster statue made by a Hollywood scenography shop, surveys the room with ceramic tiles, resin flooring, and a curvaceous drinks counter.

It’s here where Bestor began her intervention, redoing the Sunset Boulevard-facing façade with archways referencing the period and painting it aqua “like the traditional stucco buildings in California from the 1920s to ‘40s.” The ensuing lounge is an old-new mashup. Its brick wall is original, backing up a vintage bench from a train station waiting room. Bestor added custom café tables, large spun aluminum pendants, and rubber-topped stools made in the Netherlands during the 1980s. That overhead rowboat?  Decidedly a quirky addition, it’s part of the story. The child-like creature inside, Jellyman’s pal, “is like a dream character,” she explains.

long hallway to get to Jellyman tea shop with the mascot character at the end
Look up to see the lounge’s standout, a rowboat with child-like creature that’s part of the Jellyman story.
Mirror with all the menu offerings
Vignette showing elements that may become brand standards should additional shops open.

Two intangible components complete the scene. Lighting changes over the course of a day as does the curated sound track. All add up to a compact but “high-concept hospitality venue” the architect goes on to describe as “California meets Asia.” For sure, it’s a destination: “dazzling enough to give people a reason to go there.” 

people lining up along this orange wall to wait for Jellyman Tea Shop
Folks line up against a millwork wall punctuated with vintage maritime chronometers sourced from the Brimfield Antique Flea Market in Massachusetts.
bright blue counter area of Jellyman tea shop
Offerings are etched on tinted mirror.

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