C: Ever since I accidentally stumbled onto Never Too Latte and read about their Red Velvet Latte and Pistachio Mocha online, I knew I had to pay the coffee shop a visit with Bernice. Exotic pairings have always been a weak spot of mine, which is why you’ll find me queuing for more than twenty minutes for Ici’s Saffron Rose and Honey Lavender ice-cream in Berkeley.
Never Too Latte is an adorable coffee shop with handwritten chalkboard menus, a mini counter seating area, and a glass display filled an assortment of cheesecakes, tarts, and cupcakes topped with creamy frosting, your hearty share of American desserts. Burlap coffee sacks touting “Arabica Quality Coffee” decorates the cream yellow walls, a rectangular vase shows off a curious arrangement of roasted coffee beans and smooth pebbles, and a loud red-orange sign proudly displays that they serve Mr. Espresso coffee (located in East Bay), roasted exclusively on oak wood.
Choices like YingYang Latte, Hazelnut Addiction, and Marshmallow Latte sang out to me like beautiful sirens, but I firmly stuck to the Pistachio Mocha while Bernice ordered the Red Velvet Latte. I was a bit disappointed when I received the drinks in a paper cup because it wasn’t the most flattering container I could take pictures of, but the barista readily switched to ceramic cups upon request and drew latte flowers on top of the airy foam for us.
I couldn’t taste the pistachios. The coffee was deep and strong, but it was difficult to detect any pistachio notes. Only when I sipped the drink slowly and let the coffee swirl in my mouth before swallowing could I taste the bitter nutty wisp of pistachio, so quiet and demure it faded just as soon as it appeared. My enthusiasm was further deflated when I learned the drink was from a commercial mix, tinkered a bit here and there. While the coffee was still great, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would have gotten the same thing by just ordering a plain latte.
B: The red velvet latte had a light red hue that very much corresponded with the frothy layer of chocolaty foam above. I very much enjoyed the subtlety of chocolate sweetness which blended as well as a shot of chocolate would in a traditional mocha. Cynthia actually preferred my drink over hers because of its pronounced chocolate flavor. As an avid coffee lover, the use of Mr. Espresso organic coffee beans gave the drink extra brownie points.
Jamie, the lovely baker and mastermind behind the shop’s original desserts, introduced us to the Red Velvet Cheesecake, a favorite of many customers who come in just to order the cake whole. I am not particularly fond of cheesecake and often turn it down because I don’t prefer cheese used in desserts, but this was surprisingly tasty. The slice of red cake consisted of a layer of dry velvet crumble on top of sugary frosting and a thick stratum of red velvet cream cheese resting on the softest layer of graham cracker crust. The crust was rich and buttery, and earthy tones of brown sugar made up in sweetness for the cream cheese’s weaker flavor. The softness allowed me to break into the layers cleanly and scoop up a proportionate crust to cake ratio, so that by the time I near finishing the cake, I still have enough of my favorite crust to tide me over.
Contrary to most cheesecakes, the cream cheese layer was not sweet, to which Jamie revealed that she had added no extra sugar after mixing in the chocolate. The cream cheese had the consistency of blended silky tofu and cream and it left a thick starchy aftertaste. Cynthia’s favorite part was the cake crumble and saccharine frosting, whose texture was more of an airy Chantilly cream than thick butter frosting. The soft frosting melted more readily in the mouth and delivered an electric sugary punch worthy of three candy bars.
We left the coffee shop with the afterglow you get after stuffing yourself with wonderfully fattening desserts, though Cynthia couldn’t help but wonder if the hype on Yelp was overrated for the coffees. However, I definitely recommend grabbing the Red Velvet Latte to complement the Red Velvet Cheesecake if you happen to drop by San Bruno. Though of course, any other coffee is delightfully bitter to cut the sweetness of their cakes.
-Bernice & Cynthia
Never Too Latte
486 San Mateo Avenue
San Bruno, CA 94066