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November 22, 2011

Barefoot Coffee in Los Gatos (Downing Center, Union & Los Gatos-Almaden Road)Barefoot Coffee, located at the site of the former Cafe Florian in the Downing Center of Los Gatos (at Union Avenue and Los Gatos-Almaden Road), is part of a small chain of local coffee shops in Silicon Valley. Today I had the chance to give it a try as I met with a real estate colleague over a cafe latte.

I did like the old Cafe Florian and was sorry to see it (and its ecclectic art) go away, but was open to the new shop, especially since my friend told me that it was a big improvement.

The decor certainly was – the place seemed tidier overall, the artwork more consistent.

When it came to the coffee, though, I wasn’t so convinced.  Normally, my favorite drink at a coffee house – whether a Starbucks, Peets, Los Gatos Coffee Roasting or Great Bear – is a Cafe Latte with sugar free hazelnut or vanilla.  So, of course, that’s what I ordered (they didn’t offer the sugar free hazelnut but said that they could do sugar free vanilla). 

Oddly, it came in a large cappuccino cup (not a cafe latte mug).  But odder still was the way it tasted – not a bit of sweet to be found!  I returned to the barista and said “sorry to bother you, but I am not finding any sugar free vanilla in my drink”. I was told that they put in vanilla extract – but no syrup. No wonder it wasn’t sweet!  Why they didn’t tell me this when I ordered it?  I sure don’t know that were going to serve me a drink with only vanilla extract, not vanilla syrup (sugar free or otherwise).  I added some sweetener but really – it wasn’t the same at all, not nearly so good. Bad communication, bad drink. (In fairness, though, it looked very nice; it was quite artistic, even. But without the flavor you want, what good is presenation?)

When you go to Whole Foods, you know a downside is that they are not going to sell you a Diet Coke or Diet Lemonade to go with it. Fine – I’ll take mine home and get my sugar free soda there.  But at a coffee house I really do not expect to be surprised that a cafe latte with sugar free anything means just the coffee with an extract – but without a sweetener.

Would I go back?  No.  Clearly they aren’t so interested in serving the part of the population that requests sugar free beverages, whether due to health (diabetes, pre-diabetes) or just because for any other reason they want the flavor without the sugar.  Not serving it is one thing, but not informing us when the order is taken is worse still.  On a scale of 1 to 5, it ranks a 2.5 in my book. (Dings are for lack of choice  – no sugarfree syrups – and lack of communication. Plusses are for pleasant service and ambiance.)  That said, if you don’t mind the lack of that menu item, you might just love it. My Realtor colleague does. is the website for the small chain serving Santa Clara County.