“We’re part of the third wave of independent, specialty coffee shops. We serve sustainably-farmed, exceptional coffees,” says Veronica Ruckman, owner with her parents of Bellano Coffee.
In case you missed it, the first wave was the spread of coffee by Folger’s in the U.S. in the late 1800s, and the second wave was the rise of coffee houses and chains such as Peet’s and Starbucks in the mid-1900s.
Characteristic of third wave brews, a cup of Bellano coffee begins with high-quality beans from local roasters—Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz and Sightglass Coffee in San Francisco—who purchase their beans directly from small farmers in Latin America and Africa.
Bellano baristas make each hand-poured cup of artisan coffee to order, precisely measuring and grinding the fresh beans. The shop uses reverse osmosis to take out chemicals and minerals and reinsert their preferred mineral balance. Water temperature has to be just right, too—hot enough but not boiling.
Skilled at latte art, the baristas add a final, though fleeting, flare by creating designs such as tulips of steamed milk on the latte or hot chocolate, made with Bellano’s homemade chocolate sauce, which is also used in its popular mocha coffees. Don’t worry about lactose intolerance. Bellano Coffee makes its own almond milk and vanilla from scratch.
It has a selection of loose teas, including an aromatic Earl Grey, which is bagged for individual orders. Long-time customer Dilnaz Kain shipped some to a friend in Mississippi.
“This is a great place to work and enjoy the ambiance,” says Kain. Local artists showcase their artwork on the walls. There is free WiFi, a book exchange and outside tables.
“The energy is good,” agrees Kain’s friend Kathy Underwood. “The coffee is great, more flavorful than some of the large chains, and they serve just coffee and pastries, like in Europe.”
Ruckman gets to work about 5 a.m. to bake homemade pastries for the coffee shop’s 7 a.m. daily opening. Blueberry muffins, apple-bacon-cheddar or maple-date scones, brioche and croissants are specialties. Toast is served with homemade seasonal jams such as blackberry vanilla, one of Ruckman’s favorites.
“The only time I can relax is when I come here,” says Stevn De Lozada, who recently discovered Bellano Coffee after the Santana Row shop he frequented closed.
“The people who work here are really nice. They greet you and say goodbye and know their products. It’s a friendly neighborhood atmosphere,” says De Lozada, sitting in the out-of-the-way corner where he likes to park himself in front of his laptop. “The bathroom is clean,” he adds.
“We’re interested in getting to know our customers. Our regulars are like a big family,” says shop manager Seth Wright.
“Service is important to us,” says Ruckman. “Our staff is open to customers and engaging. They are excited about what they are serving.” Earlier in 2014, two Bellano Coffee baristas won second and third place in the Southwest Brewer’s Cup Regional held in Los Angeles.
Bellano Coffee (www.bellanocoffee.com), 3985 Stevens Creek Blvd., opened in Santa Clara in 2006. Because of good online reviews, it was invited, in 2013, to open a second shop in San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market. The shops were awarded second and third place, respectively, in Metro Newspaper’s 2013 listing of Best Silicon Valley independent coffeehouses.
Bellano Coffee is serving free iced coffee at the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority’s Coyote Valley Family Harvest Feast (www.openspaceauthority.org) on Sept. 27.
“We want to be integrated into the community and contribute to it,” says Ruckman.