Verve Coffee Roasters, Palo Alto

Bringing a new meaning to the phrase "well-balanced", it's a one-and-one (split-shot espresso and macchiato) from Verve Coffee Roasters in Palo Alto, with the espresso cup precariously balanced on the edge of the saucer.Verve Coffee Roasters, which began in Santa Cruz, California, has spread out along the Pacific Coast, with locations in nearby San Francisco to the north and Los Angeles to the south. It’s also crossed the ocean to Japan, where it has coffee shops in Tokyo and Kamakura. Although I haven’t been to all the Verves, I decided that I would visit at least one coffee shop in each city, crossing off Kamakura, the last on my list, when visiting Japan last year. Which was where the staff told me about the new Palo Alto coffee shop. I swear they’re doing this deliberately! So, when I was in the Bay Area for work at the start of this month, I popped up to Palo Alto on the Caltrain to tick that one off my list.

Verve occupies a corner spot a block from the station, with a large outdoor seating area right on the corner, backed up by a bright, spacious interior with plenty more seating. The coffee offering will be familiar to anyone who has been to a Verve before, as will the twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines. There’s also food until 2pm and cakes all day.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • In the heart of downtown Palo Alto, on the corner of University Avenue and High Street...
  • ... stands the latest Verve Coffee Roasters coffee shop, complete with its large, outdoor...
  • ... seating area which stands on the corner of High Street.
  • A view of the outdoor seating, as seen from University Avenue.
  • And here's the view looking away from Verve and towards High Street.
  • With apologies for the low light level: my visits were after dark (I was working in the day).
  • There's a wide range of seating out here, including classic, square tables...
  • ... small, round tables and lots of long, thin bars. Some, like this one, are along the edges..
  • ... while others, like this one, are in the middle.
  • The view looking at the side of Verve, where there's a door, leading directly to the counter.
  • There's more seating by the window next to the door...
  • ... and then we reach the corner of Verve and the front, facing onto University Avenue...
  • ... where there's another door. Let's go in, shall we?
  • The front door leads to a broad corridor between two sets of retail shelves...
  • ... at the end of which is the counter, at an angle to the front of the store.
  • An L-shaped affair, it carries on around to the right, extending towards the back.
  • The seating, meanwhile is on the right, starting with this bay at the front.
  • The L-shaped bench has four tables in all, including this oval one in the corner.
  • Meanwhile, on the right-hand side, in the window, is a five-person window-bar.
  • Next comes the door to the outside seating, level with the counter...
  • ... and beyond that, the remaining seating, whch runs all the way to the back.
  • It starts with another window-bar...
  • ... while right at the back are two eight-person tables, one low and the other high.
  • One of the neat features in Verve is seen high up, nearly at the ceiling, where a row...
  • ... of plants runs from the front to the back of the coffee shop on the right-hand side.
  • When you enter, you are greeted by rows of retail shelves, with bags of coffee...
  • ... and pour-over equipment and supplies on the left...
  • ... while on the right, there's merchandising and more substantial pieces of kit...
  • ... including kettles, grinders and automatic brewers.
  • To business and the counter, where you order on entering.
  • The menus are on three large boards hanging on the wall behind the counter.
  • There's a concise coffee menu on the left...
  • ... tea in the middle, along with other drinks such as kombucha...
  • ... and food on the right.
  • A more detailed menu, including the current single-origin filter choices, is on the counter.
  • Food is only served until 2pm, but there are cakes from Manresa Bread available all day.
  • Pour-over, meanwhile, takes place on the right, where you'll find the Modbar system.
  • The remainder of the counter is given over to espresso, where the twin...
  •  ... Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines take pride of place.
  • Each has three grinders: Streetlevel blend, single-origin & decaf, with recipies marked on.
  • Mind you, if you linger at the front of the counter, you get a good view of the action!
  • On my first visit, it was late in the evening, so I selected the Vancouver decaf...
  • ... which I had in a one-and-one, a split-shot espresso and macchiato.
  • The way Verve presents a one-and-one brings a new meaning to 'well-balanced coffee'.
  • On my return, I tried the single-origin, an Ethiopian Gugu Abalulesa...
  • ... which I again had as a one-and-one. For those made queasy by the balancing act...
  • ... here's my espresso on its own...
  • ... while I'll leave you with this lovely latte art, which, remember is in an espresso cup!
Slider Script by v4.6

Verve Coffee Roasters is on University Avenue, Palo Alto’s central artery, on the corner with High Street. A block from the Caltrain station, it’s easy to access by public transport. The coffee shop is rectangular, the short side facing University Avenue. About twice as deep as it is wide, it’s almost as high, which results in a wonderful sense of space, helped by the all-white décor, the light wood flooring/furniture and the generous windows, which run floor-to-ceiling on both sides, although the right-hand windows (which face southwest) often have their blinds down to prevent it being blindingly bright.

To the right, on the corner with High Street, is a large outside seating area, an eclectic mix of wooden benches, square, four-person tables and smaller, round tables, plus several long, thin bars. About one third of the way down Verve’s right-hand side, a pair of tall glass doors gives direct access to the counter, where you approach from the side. These are matched by a similar pair of doors at the front. On the left-hand side, these lead you past retail shelves to the front of the L-shaped counter, which is offset at an angle of about 20° to the rest of Verve.

You’ll find the till, cakes and menu here, while the right-hand side is the domain of the twin Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines, each with three Mahlkönig Peak grinders (Streetlevel blend, single-origin and decaf). You need to come down here to collect your coffee from between a pair of standing bars (one for each espresso machine), which you then take to your table.

The seating is arranged along the right-hand side of Verve, split into two distinct areas. At the front, there’s a small bay, separated from the door by a wall and a set of open shelves, stacked with merchandising. An L-shaped bench runs along this wall and the window at the front, lined with four, round tables. There’s also a low, five-person window-bar along the right-hand side. Next are the doors to the outdoor seating, followed by a tall, four-person window-bar. Finally, there are two communal tables at right-angles to the windows. The first is a low, eight-person table, while the second is twice the height and also seats eight.

Anyone familiar with Verve will not be surprised by the coffee offering. The Streetlevel house-blend is ever-present on espresso, where it’s joined by the Vancouver decaf and (typically) a single-origin. This was the Ethiopian Gugu Abalelesa during my visit, which had just replaced Verve’s seasonal holiday blend, one of the few times Verve has a blend on the second grinder.

There are also three options on pour-over, which change monthly. While I was there, they were from Costa Rica, Kenya and Panama, but they will have changed by the time you read this. The pour-overs are made using Kalita Wave filters on the Modbar automated system. If you can’t wait, then there’s also a batch brew option.

I visited on two consecutive evenings, having a one-and-one (split shot espresso and macchiato) both times. On my first visit, I had the Vancouver decaf, which was very good as an espresso, nicely balanced, with good body and a pleasing smoothness. In milk, it was just as good, the two going very well together, resulting in a smooth, sweet drink. On my return, I had the Ethiopian Gugu Abalelesa. The espresso was pulled even shorter, with a lovely, satisfying sharpness to it. The milk in the macchiato toned things down a bit, its sweetness taking the edge off of the espresso, resulting in a very smooth drink.

162 UNIVERSITY AVENUE • PALO ALTO • CA 94301 • USA +1 650-847-1743
Monday 06:00 – 20:00 Roaster Verve (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 06:00 – 20:00 Seating Tables, Bars; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 06:00 – 20:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cake
Thursday 06:00 – 20:00 Service Counter
Friday 06:00 – 20:00 Payment Cards + Cash
Saturday 06:00 – 20:00 Wifi Free (with login)
Sunday 06:00 – 20:00 Power No
Chain International Visits 8th, 9th January 2020

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

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4 thoughts on “Verve Coffee Roasters, Palo Alto

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