Holy crap. This is one of those rare finds where a small town and a strip mall can produce some outstanding coffee and espresso that competes with the best. Although we were aware of Coffee Cat’s elevated reputation among the Scotts Valley locals when passing through, at first we were guilty of dismissing it relative to its neighbors to the south: Santa Cruz’s Verve Coffee Roasters and the Abbey Coffee, Art & Music Lounge.
Not that we’re hounds for summer farmers’ markets, but we found Coffee Cat when we stumbled across the inaugural Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market this past Saturday. Unlike the chaos of SF’s Alemany Farmers’ Market, Scotts Valley’s could have been called “White Folk on Parade.” Reflecting the locals, of course. But it also reminded me of an old joke I told as a Palo Alto resident many years ago: “In Palo Alto, ‘diversity’ means owning a Macintosh”.
At the Scotts Valley Farmers’ Market, Coffee Cat offered some excellent, flavorful coffee as Chemex and French press. Their Honduras Maracala in a Chemex caught our attention, so a visit to their storefront — just a couple blocks south — became obligatory.
Located in a shopping strip mall next to a Safeway, the signage for the café won’t even be visible if you approach it from Hwy 17 to the east (the signage faces west). But when we stepped in, it exhibited many of the cues for good espresso that we noted in a recent post. In fact, they had all of them besides offering more than one kind of bean for espresso and serving a glass of water on the side.
It’s a deep store with comfy leather chairs towards the back and a number of free Wi-Fi users. But the on-site roasting operation in front with a Diedrich roaster, surrounded by lots of green beans, leaves a major impression. They also date-stamp their roasts for retail sale, and they keep the inventory fresh.
They also emphasize the use of organic foods, but it’s primarily about the coffee here — even offering drinks such as the Spanish cortado. Using a two-group La Marzocco Linea, they pull espresso shots with an encouraging-looking, medium-to-dark-brown crema. While the short cup (itself a classic brown ACF demitasse) doesn’t carry a lot of aroma, the shot comes with a whopping level of brightness, a syrupy flavor and texture, a dense body, and a potent sweetness mixed with herbal pungency and some spice.
This is the classic North American brightness bomb that some espresso purists find a little overwhelming — if not outright off-putting. But it is the sort of thing that’s only achievable with solid quality-awareness throughout the entire delivery chain. This is some of the most potent, flavorful coffee we’ve had in the greater (Monterey?) Bay Area.
Their “classic cappuccino” (a mere $2) is also quite good, with the coffee standing up strongly to the milk. While they do a little latte art here, it is simple if not primitive and minimalist. Their milk frothing is quite good, even if it is not quite to the standards of their coffee. But those are some pretty high standards. This place is definitely worth a special trip.
Read the review of Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley, CA.
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