Bitter+Sweet: a sweet escape from the average cafe

New coffee and specialty dessert bar on the block

Bitter+Sweet offers a range of coffee and dessert options, from the traditional espresso to the uncommon French Kouignamann pastry. Photo illustration by Sara Yang.

Upon opening the door, the first thing to welcome you into this cafe will be the fragrance of roasted coffee—followed by the greetings of the friendly owners of the restaurant. Bitter+Sweet, the newest coffee and dessert shop on the block, opened on July 23. Tucked away in the old Red Mango froyo location on De Anza Blvd., this small cafe offers welcome alternatives to the worn-out frozen yogurt.

The warm, earthy colors in the Bitter+Sweet cafe set a modern and welcoming environment. Married owners Janice Chua and Ian Chan add to the inviting atmosphere, striking up friendly conversation with customers as they trickle in. Photo by Sara Yang.

The menu is frequently updated to reflect its various new additions. Classic options of espressos and cappuccinos are accompanied by a more unique, artsy array of coffee blends. From the El Salvador to the Blueboon Blend, these are not your average cups of joe.

Owners Janice Chua and Ian Chan liken the coffees to a medium of art, similar to wine. Each cup on the menu features a short description of the tastes that should be detected within, like  “strawberry, pineapple and red papaya” in the Costa Rica. Chua encourages customers to take their coffee black in order to appreciate such flavorful notes. But rest assured, milk and sugar await the not-so-cultured coffee connoisseurs at a side bar.

While the coffee selection caters more towards coffee aficionados than students looking for a run-of-the-mill caffeine fix, the available desserts can please anyone. Unlike other coffee joints who turn to desserts as an afterthought (that means you, Starbucks), Bitter+Sweet chooses their sweet products with care.

Bitter+Sweet cafe partners with distributors like Sight Glass Coffee and Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream in San Francisco, and Satura Cakes in Los Altos to create the menu. Chua and Chan continuously update the menu with new items. Photo by Sara Yang.

The pastries command attention from their white plate thrones in an artistically-lit glass display. The Kouignamann ($2.50) is a flaky, caramelized French pastry. Like a relative of the croissant, it features a slightly crispy outer layer that shines with molten sugar—so sticky that it will catch onto your teeth. A spongy middle balances out the crust and delivers a honeyed, lingering sensation, reminiscent of vanilla or almond cookies. While this Parisian treat runs on the sugary side, those with less of a sweet tooth can order a Crunchy Brioche ($2.25) instead.

Don’t forget to try the eclectic and assorted ice creams, delivered from the Humphry Slocombe company in San Francisco. At $3.25 for a single scoop or $4.50 for a double, customers can indulge in unique flavors like Secret Breakfast (cornflakes and bourbon) or Peach Sake. The Black Sesame could easily be mistaken for a scoop of  heavily-studded vanilla bean, but a strong sesame flavor is infused throughout the cream. Smooth and creamy, it delivers a full, candied experience. Better yet, the ice cream sports a pleasantly gummy consistency and doesn’t melt quickly, so customers can enjoy it to the last bite without having to sip the melted remains.

The modern elements of Bitter+Sweet are not limited to the interior design—customers can view their totals on an iPad at the register and receive electronic receipts via email or text. Photo by Sara Yang.

A word of caution: everything in moderation. One dessert item may be delicious, but the sweetness of the next may take your taste buds too far. Savory options do exist, like the savory pie available in varieties like chicken with cheddar and apple or wild mushroom with gruyere cheese. Yet the simple chicken with tomatoes pie ($6.75) was about as impressive as an elegant turkey taco pocket from the middle school lunch line. Props for the pretty plating and salad on the side, though.

A group of rowdy teenagers might seem out of place in this reasonably serene, cheery environment, but Bitter+Sweet certainly hits the spot for a casual hangout. With unlimited wi-fi and a comfortably modern interior, this cafe encourages customers to sit back and enjoy. A slightly upscale price range means this will probably not be the most frequent student lunch destination, but an occasional dessert would be well-worth the price. The novelty of the Bitter+Sweet menu beats out other tired pick-me-up options, so the trip to this cafe will be less bitter and more sweet.

Bitter+Sweet is located at 20560 Town Center Lane in Cupertino. Open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Mon. to Thurs.), 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Fri. to Sat.) and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sun.) Visit the Bitter+Sweet website at www.bitter+sweet.com.

 

 

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  • Anon

    Great review! I’ve been to bittersweet and the review captured the feel of the place entirely.

  • http://www.humphryslocombe.com Humphry Slocombe

    Really great post!