Nestled away in the new Cruzio/Sentinel building is a gem of a shop just asking to be discovered. While this modest operation is put on through the efforts of Cafe Delmarette and Verve, it can stand on its own as a benchmark in local coffee. Whether it is the quality of the ingredients in use or the superb training of the baristas, the Sentinel Cafe kiosk is putting out some high grade products.
I was originally turned on to this place because a friend of mine told me they used a Synesso, no small purchase or statement in the coffee world. After some digging, I found out my old boss and friend had sold them their 2 group Cyncra, identical to what we use at Companion. Such an amazing piece of espresso tech, I had to see how other stores used their machine. I tried to visit a few times and today it was finally open. My friend and I walked into the old Sentinel building and there was the small kiosk. It almost seemed like an “info desk” window. There on the counter was the Cyncra in all its metallic glory. Though the store itself was quite small, there was a ton of stuff crammed into the tiny space; a whole professional coffee operation no bigger than 50 square feet. The kiosk was not really designed for high volume with only a couple of tables in the half enterance-way/lobby and the single barista manning two windows. Luckily, the atmosphere is very low key and relaxing.
The eager barista greated us warmly. Patrick, the man behind the counter, is quite the coffee aficionado. We chatted with him about the machine, Cafe DelMarette, Verve, coffee methods, techniques, pre-infusion, whatever was on our mind he was happy to talk about. What’s more, Pat really understands what he is talking about. It is clear that he has full range over the operation at every level, which is always reassuring from a customer standpoint. This morning we got to try out the Sermon in a straightshot and a cap, which were both reasonably priced at $2 and $2.75. Chatty, well versed, polite, Patrick gave us the kind of personalized service that is rarely seen at high-volume shops and seldom achieved to the same degree by high-end shops that boast customer service. A bunch of dudes makin’ and appreciating coffee, that’s where it’s at.
Those who have read my other entries know I am not a huge fan of The Sermon. Then again, I am also a fan of wholesale stores that source Verve coffee because they generally do such a good job. This was one of the first times I really enjoyed The Sermon. As a straight espresso, it was vibrant, fruity, and extremely tastey while not being overwhelmingly intense. It was definitely the best straight shot of Verve Coffee I have had in a long time, maybe ever. Then I dove into my cap. The temperature was totally on point, ready to drink right away, it had a good amount of foam though just slightly wet, and the espresso to milk ration was phenomenal. Patrick did a great job portioning the espresso so that I was mostly tasting the heavy flavor of the Sermon without destroying the sweet balance of the milk mixing together, though he and I both admitted we error on the side of caution and pull slightly more espresso on most drinks to ensure people are not just tasting milk. The milk was extremely flavorful and while I usually describe the Sermon as chemically, this cap tasted more berry-like than others I have had that utilize this blend. As the drink cooled, the flavors evolved slightly and brought out more pronounced layers. It was an outstanding, well balanced drink.
My one gripe about this place is the strange location. If I had not been told exactly where to look, I would have missed it. I used to literally passed by this placetoo and from work every day without ever knowing it existed. Its awkward placement at the entrance of the building does not lend itself to a “hang out” atmosphere. It is definitely a kiosk, not a “shop.” Although we spent quite a bit of time hanging out there, it felt a little uncomfortable at points.
Like many other Verve wholesalers, Sentinel Cafe has impressed immensely. It is a “hidden gem” here in Santa Cruz and while it is relatively unknown on the high-end coffee spectrum, that could quickly change if they maintain this level of quality. In fact, in my opinion, they are one of the best spots in town, even when compared to the bigger shops. Great job guys, keep up the amazing work.
- The expert they put behind the counter
- The fact it seems like a “secret” and is not overly traveled
- The solid espresso flavor that evolved as I drank