Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue

A packet of Verve coffee, a Guatemala Pulcal Typica, taken from a public cupping at the store on Pacific Avenue in Santa CruzI visited Verve’s flagship store on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz at the start of 2017, part of my road trip from Phoenix to San Francisco via Los Angeles and the Pacific coast. Santa Cruz, home of Verve Coffee Roasters, which still roasts in the town, was my final stop before the trip ended at San Francisco later that day and, to not visit at least one Verve branch would, have been very remiss of me.

Back then Verve had four branches in Santa Cruz, three in Los Angeles and one in Tokyo. Since then it’s opened its first San Francisco store (which I missed by a few weeks, but visited on my return in 2019) and two more in Japan, where I’m headed in two days’ time. Hence my desire to get this published before I go.

The Pacific Avenue branch is lovely, a large, open, high-ceilinged space with twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines, serving a house-blend, guest and decaf, while three Modbar pour-over systems serve multiple options through the Kalita Wave. Finally, if you’re in a hurry, there’s another option on bulk-brew. All the beans (and more) are available in retail bags, while if you’re hungry, there’s a selection of cake.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On Pacific Avenue, in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz, at No 1540...
  • ... you'll find the flagship store for local roasters, Verve Coffee Roasters.
  • But what's this on the other side, on Front Street? Complete with ramp, no less?
  • It's another door to Verve, directly opposite the one on Pacific Avevnue.
  • Let's go in.
  • A panoramic view from just inisde the Pacific Avenue door. Look at all that space!
  • Here's the view from the front of the store, equidistant between the two doors.
  • Ffinally, this is the view from the other side, just inside the Front Street entrance.
  • The counter occupies much of the back wall. This is the view from Pacific Avenue.
  • There are windows down the right-hand side, with lots of room for seating...
  • ... including two window bars. This is the smaller of the two.
  • The view from the window, including the outside seating area on Pacific Avenue.
  • There's more seating at the front, to the left of the door.
  • The arrangement is mirrored on the left, only there's no seating on the back wall.
  • There are two window-bars on this side too. This is the longer of the two.
  • Each of the doors has a chair tucked in beside it, handy if you want to be on your own.
  • Finally, on the Front Street side, there's a row of stools at the counter.
  • The view of the counter if you enter through the Front Street door.
  • There were a couple of interesting works of art on the wallls, such as this whale...
  • ... and this piece from the back wall on the right.
  • The front wall, other than the table by the Pacific Avenue door, holds retail shelves.
  • There's the usual range of beans for sale...
  • ... as well as a selection of merchandising.
  • Mug anyone?
  • There's more retail over by the counter...
  • ... including some limited edition coffee.
  • The counter is in the middle of the back wall, with plenty of space on all sides.
  • Nice lights.
  • The centrepiece is the pair of Kees van der Westen machines. Although the till looks...
  • ... like it's in the middle, it's actually over there on the right, beyond the grinders.
  • The right-hand of the two Kees van der Westen Spirits. Beautiful machines.
  • Each has three Mythos 1 grinders which are down the sides of the counter.
  • While the till's on the right, the left-hand side has the Modbar pour-over modules.
  • If you sit here, you get a good view of the pour-over and the espresso machines.
  • Nice cake display.
  • While I was there, Verve held a cupping on the pour-over counter.
  • There were six coffees in all, each with a pair of cupping bowls.
  • Everyone was welcome to take part if they wanted to.
  • There was an interesting variety on offer, including an espresso blend...
  • ... and multiple single-origins, including this Kenyan Windrush Estate.
  • There's was one from Costa Rica...
  • ... another from Honduras...
  • ... and then two from Guatemala.
  • The coffee menu is on a pillar to the right of the till...
  • ... while the specific pour-over choices are displayed on the counter.
  • I went for the One & One, essentially a split shot. This came as a macchiato...
  • ... with impressive latte art in such a small cup...
  • ... and a single-shot espresso, which was gorgeous.
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Verve Coffee Roasters occupies a large space in the northern end of downtown Santa Cruz, a block west of the San Lorenzo River. Lying between Pacific Avenue and Front Street and close to their junction, there are doors opening onto each street. These are on the left-hand (Front Street) and right-hand (Pacific Avenue) sides, towards the front of the store. This, by the way, is slightly narrower than the back due to the steady convergence of the streets.

Both sides have a pair of glass double doors, flanked by tall, narrow windows, with a further window running almost the full length of the wall. These are maybe three-quarters high (and the ceilings are very high) giving Verve an immense feeling of light and space, the sense of space helped by a reluctance to cram too much in. The counter occupies the back half of the store, effectively an ‘n’ shape projecting from the back wall with space on either side for seating. Meanwhile, the area in front of the counter is kept clear, with clean lines from both doors.

Entering from Pacific Avenue, where there are benches out on the broad pavement of the semi-pedestrianised street, there’s a two-person window-bar to the right, followed by a much longer window-bar running all the way to the back of the store. Meanwhile, a solitary chair occupies the window to the left of the door, with some padded benches against the front wall, the rest of which is taken up by the retail shelves. The bulk of the seating is off to the right, where a long, communal table sits between the counter and the window-bar. There are also some tables against the back wall.

Entering from Front Street, the layout is similar, but with less seating. There’s another solitary to chair, this time to the right of the door, while to the left, there’s a two-person window-bar, followed by a much longer one. Here the back wall is kept clear, but there is a five-person bar along the left-hand side of the counter, which is where you’ll find three Modbar modules. You get a great view of the baristas making pour-over here, and you also get a great view of the twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines which occupy symmetric positions at the front of the counter. Finally, down the counter’s right-hand side, you’ll find more retail, the cakes and the till, where you order and pay.

I ordered the One & One, effectively a split shot, made with the Street Level blend, and served as an espresso and a macchiato. The latter was excellent, the coffee going well with the milk, producing a very smooth drink, with biscuit notes, the coffee distinct enough to impose its flavour through the milk. However, on its own, it was simply awesome, again very smooth, but with a complex taste. Not quite a liquid kiss, but very, very close.

While I was there, Verve held an open cupping on the left-hand side of the counter, with anyone who wanted free to join in. A total of six coffees were laid out, each with a couple of cupping bowls and we had fun tasting them and comparing notes. I would tell you more, but after 18 months, I have cunningly mislaid my notes…

December 2018: Verve Coffee Roasters, Pacific Avenue has won the 2018 Best Espresso Award.

1540 PACIFIC AVENUE • SANTA CRUZ • CA 95060 • USA +1 831-600-7784
Monday 06:30 – 21:00 Roaster Verve (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:30 – 21:00 Seating Tables, Window Bars
Wednesday 06:30 – 21:00 Food Cake
Thursday 06:30 – 21:00 Service Counter
Friday 06:30 – 21:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 06:30 – 21:00 Wifi Free (with code)
Sunday 06:30 – 21:00 Power No
Chain International Visits 23rd January 2017

You can also see what I made of all the other Verve Coffee Roasters locations that I’ve visited.

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