The first coffee shop of Palo Alto is Coupa Cafe. It’s so busy you can’t find a seat. The girl working the till is very specific about where she feels people waiting need to stand and starts yelling. It causes confusion and I’m a bit taken aback.
A moment later, as I walk to a newly vacated seat in the back, a man pushes me out of the way and throws himself on the only empty chair… seems empty spots are a valued commodity in this town. I thank him for his manners and move outside where no one else wants to sit. Apparently 10C it’s too cold for the people inside… but I’m Canadian… and it’s a beautiful sunny day.
My soy latte is rather terrible. It has a pretty leaf on the top, which is deceiving. They either haven’t discovered that good quality soy milk like Pacific tastes like milk… or they’ve overheated it. I think it’s the second issue because the espresso is also burnt.
This is when one of my co-workers appears. He tells me that the coffee situation in Palo Alto is quite miserable and apparently there aren’t a lot of coffee shops in Palo Alto (only 2 by his estimation). I want to give Coupa a second chance because I learned my lesson with Revolver in Vancouver.
For my second visit, the coffee shop is empty! It’s the same shop, the same time of the day… but the effect is different. It seems very peaceful. I start sharing my previous experience with the owner and he tells me, Tour buses come frequently and are filled with people from other countries who are pushy and rude. This is not the Californian way. The hotel next door is also a source of groups.
I trust his assessment and order another soy latte. This one is fantastic… it’s creamy and has a unique taste that I wasn’t expecting. I also like the current nerdy but not the busy/pushy crowd in the cafe. However, I’m not entirely sure that I believe that Palo Alto, a university and tech town, has only two coffee shops (Coupa and Philz)… so I make it my mission to map the coffee landscape.