Given how the craft coffee scene takes latte art seriously enough to have friendly throwdown competitions between baristas, it’s safe to say a meaningful industry focus remains for rosetta, heart and tulip patterns meticulously drawn atop shmancy coffee beverages.
Credit given, there’s skill to pouring steamed milk into a cup knowing just what techniques force the aerated white stuff to rise and ripple into thin lines adorning the dark underlying brew. It takes time to learn — I’ve tried my hand a few times and failed miserably. So when I started seeing photos of The Sacred Bean’s latte art across my social media, it caught my attention as expert-level but also not so purist that they aren’t having fun with natural food colorings. Some will call that sacrilegious child’s play, but I think it’s pretty and cool as shit.
If You Go
Mobile Business in Pueblo, facebook.com/sacredbeanpueblo
Parked regularly from 8 a.m. to noon, Sundays and Tuesdays at Renewed Wholesale and Mondays at The Garage/Lastleaf Printing; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays at Walter’s Brewing
Scroll back to a Jan. 13 post on the Bean’s Facebook page to read a brief but detailed personal backstory on owner and almost-two-decade-experienced barista Vicy Stone and her friendly AF husband Daniel, a former Marine who converted the business’ vintage VW bus into a functional espresso bar for her, and who operates the register and pastry display. When I chat more with them in person after trying the fares, Vicy proudly emphasizes that she taught herself (and later many others at her jobs across Pueblo coffee houses) how to do latte art, asserting that she was the first in the city to do it. I can’t fact-check that (since my time machine is on the fritz these days) but it sounds believable given that era in the Steel City, and she says her dream for this coffee cart started nearly a decade ago, finally coming to fruition in April 2021.
Vicy also makes her own flavored cane-sugar syrups, bakes organic, vegan goodies, mindfully incorporates superfoods across her menu and offers several unsweetened milk alternatives. We’re truly torn when we catch her outside Walter’s Brewery & Taproom (see Dine & Dash, p. 20) and it comes order time, because so many drinks are unique, like a plum mocha and a potica latte based on the Slovenian nut roll. We finally decide on the cardamom-rosebud latte, charcoal mocha and Pueblo chile chai, plus daily specials of a pineapple-sage cake donut and Danish-style strawberry-thyme pastry.
Vicy’s pulling shots of Springs-based Hold Fast Coffee Co.’s Rock Solid Costa Rican/Ethiopian blend this day, a fine base with its own chocolaty vibe to lay foundation for the drinks. The charcoal mocha is the punk rock/goth option appearance-wise, staining the coffee crema black to further contrast our hemp milk choice, but the activated charcoal supplement doesn’t do much for flavor (meaning it’s the chocolate-dominant mocha you desire) and adds a little chalkiness to some sips. The chai indeed highlight’s Pueblo’s beloved chile pepper with a little smolder across the tongue backed by ginger bite amidst the traditional Indian spices; it’s a clever spin we enjoy with oat milk. Our favorite’s the cardamom-rosebud latte, though, huge with floral notes, more sweet, and garnished at our request with a “rainbow” treatment that pops with warm color hues fading into cool ones inside a heart shape.
We appreciate that neither pastry tastes too sweet. Pineapple leads the donut’s flavor with the ground sage incorporated both into the dough and garnishing icing; it’s sophisticatedly subtle, but we could actually go for a little more of the dessert essence. Texture-wise, it’s scone-like and slightly crumbly, great for homemade with alternative ingredients. Again we search for the herb essence initially in the flaky, strawberry-thyme treat, with an ornate cross of sorts patterning the pastry dough with a deep crimson core of the fruit filling. Just when we’re about to say “needs more thyme,” many seconds after we swallow a bite, it appears in a phantom aftertaste that’s like “I’m right here, sucka — chill out.” OK, all is well.
Before we depart, Daniel appears with a gift of an iced rainbow latte from the menu, actually a non-coffee drink Vicy had described to me to articulate her use of healthy ingredients. You would think it would be cotton-candy-level cloying based on looking at it — so crazy bright it looks like a carnival drink, sprinkle garnish included — but surprisingly it’s not too sweet. It’s broken into three layers, each with its own milk and food coloring: blue matcha (butterfly pea flower) with oat milk on the bottom; golden turmeric with ginger in almond milk in the middle; and super pink dragon fruit staining coconut milk on the top. Kudos for something so odd, creative and interesting that mixes so many flavors in a fun way. I wouldn’t make it my wintertime go-to, but I would recommend it to any parent to wow a kid, and I’m glad I tried it to explore moving my straw up and down between layers to create different flavor experiences.
Overall, beyond the whole badass bus rig, the Stones offer a truly stylized approach to coffee. Though the java’s on the level of the hoity-toity third-wave shops, there’s no pretension here, just a clear passion on display with the courage to break traditional forms and have some fun with flavors, colors and lesser-utilized health-food ingredients. The Sacred Bean isn’t coffee as a sacred cow, but instead a revered item that deserves the artful approach.