I met Jared Truby, Chris Baca and Charles Jack—collectively known as Cat & Cloud Coffee—at their new location on the corner of 36th and Portola avenues on a recent sunny morning. The building we stood in was completely gutted, but will eventually hold an open, light-filled community space and the newest specialty coffee roastery in Santa Cruz.
Their energy and enthusiasm was palpable as we looked over blueprints and discussed their vision to bring Santa Cruz the perfect morning buzz. “Coffee beans have magic locked inside of them, and for us it’s always a challenge to get that magic out and deliver it right to the cup,” says Baca. “We’re excited to give the community the very best of what we have to offer,” Truby adds.
Cat & Cloud recently raised $34,423 in 30 days through a fundraising campaign on Kickstarter, exceeding their $30,000 goal. The money will go toward renovating their permanent location, which they hope to open in September. Until then, they will be holding pop-ups at Companion Bakeshop from 7 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Mondays, as a way of introducing the local community to their vivid roasts.
Before taking the leap into coffee entrepreneurship, Truby was a founding pillar at Verve, where he was head of retail for Northern California and store manager for three years. He and Baca met in 2006 at their first United States Regional Barista Championship (yes, that’s a thing). While working at Verve, they met Jack, a “reformed” Wall Street financial adviser who discovered his passion for coffee while working with coffee farmers and nonprofits in East Africa. Now, the three of them are pursuing their own coffee vision, with unique roasts and cutting-edge brewing techniques. Without letting the cat fully out of the bag, they hinted at a hyper-fast by-the-cup brewing technique and a non-coffee coffee beverage brewed with sound waves.
These guys are definitely nerds, but despite the sciency seriousness of their approach, Truby emphasizes, “We want to eschew the snobby baristas and cliquey feel of coffee shops and connect with people. Our goal is to educate people about how to do what we’re doing at home without trying as hard as other companies might make you feel you have to try.”
Cat & Cloud’s roasting philosophy strays from the brighter, more acidic lighter roasts that tend to be favored by the specialty coffee industry to darker roasts, which they view as more approachable for the average coffee drinker.
“There’s a big argument going on in specialty coffee right now. One side of the argument says that in order to maintain the intrinsic qualities of coffee, you have to roast them really, really lightly to the point where they’re almost pretty sour, and if you take them too far and roast them a little bit more to the point where they’re a little more approachable, you lose a lot of the clarity of flavor and the character,” explains Baca. “We don’t agree with that at all. We believe you can have clarity of flavor, nuance and a really nice developed roast that anyone can drink. It just takes a lot of intentionality, and you really have to be paying attention. It’s very hard. You ride a thin line, but that’s what we do and that’s what we’re excited about, for people to drink a full mug of these specialty coffees and want more.”
3600 Portola Ave., Santa Cruz. catandcloud.com.
Burn’s probiotic, three-ingredient hot sauce has taken over my breakfast, and now they’ve added a new product to their growing arsenal of spiciness: probiotic chili powder. In an effort to lower their waste to as close to zero as possible, Burn preserves the seeds and skins that don’t blend fine enough to become sauce and dehydrates them at a super low temperature, which preserves the probiotic qualities from fermentation. With all the flavor and kick of their Thai bird, Serrano and Cayenne chilis, and the umami cheesiness of nutritional yeast, the powder is amazing on popcorn, as a marinade for meat and veggies, or on roasted potatoes. Find it at their booth at the downtown farmers market. $3 for 1.5 ounces. burnhotsauce.com.