Lulu's at the Octagon

Overall Rating: 7.850

Address: 118 Cooper St.
Cross Street(s): Btwn Pacific & Front Sts.
City, State ZIP: Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: 831.429.5858
Hours: M-Su 6am-10pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar (Chain)
Cafe Rating: 8.00
Barista: 8
Savvy: 8
Ambiance: 8
Presentation: 8
Consistency: N/A
Espresso Machine: Espressonistic Works B.V.
Coffee Rating: 7.70
Aroma: 7
Body: 8
Brightness: 7
Crema: 8
Flavor: 8
Taster's Correction: 0.5
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Coffee Cat
Cup Manufacturer: ACF
Price: $0.95
Last Update: 10/11/2009
First Reviewed: 10/11/2009
Notes: Coffee Sales; Coffee Accessory Sales

This unusual café is situated in the 19th century Octagon - the last surviving remnant of the historic Cooper House complex, which was destroyed in the '89 Loma Prieta earthquake. Looking at the aging masonry of the outside façade, you can see a little as to why. Manthri Srinath, owner of the various Lulu's in Santa Cruz plus Scotts Valley's Coffee Cat, opened it in 2008 with a decidedly modern approach inside: opting for a Clover machine and a La Marzocco Mistral - each are which rumored to be the first installations of their kind in all California. Unlike the other Lulu's, the focus here is primarily on espresso. The modern interior is as attractive as the exterior, with a central skylight, the Lulu's touch of black & white international photos on the walls, and a lot of richer wood. There's also a display in back dedicated to coffee merchandising. The barista takes his or her deliberate time here to pull natural double shots, and the price is almost ridiculously low (perhaps a change since there have been complaints). It has a congealed dark and medium brown crema, but it's not very thick and the consistency is a little spotty. There are also larger oil droplets suspended in the crema, indicating high extraction pressures while brewing. Yet the resulting shot has no ashiness. It's not syrupy either, however, with a modest body and a flavor of a lot of dark roasted wood and pepper. And yet it's neither too forward nor too strong. There's a bittersweet dark chocolate to the flavor as well, but more bitter than sweet (think 90% cocoa level). Served in classic brown ACF cups. One of the finest shots in the Santa Cruz area, regardless of the price. Heavy laptop zombie quotient, however. The octagonal, "starship" layout additionally makes a convenient space for people to come together and collectively ignore each other while each consciously being anywhere else but here.