My impressions of the Ugly Mug Coffee House in Soquel, CA are mixed. While it certainly has an advantage over the big chain stores such as Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee, I was not as impressed with the Ugly Mug Coffee House as many people in Santa Cruz County seem to be. Below is a summary of the pluses and minuses I found at the Ugly Mug, and a summary of my overall impression that you can find in details as you click this link here.
The first observation I have about the Ugly Mug is its semi-desirable location. On the one hand, the Ugly Mug is in a corner building in downtown Soquel, California, which makes for a central location for anyone on the East side of Santa Cruz all the way to Aptos. It is also quite close to Cabrillo College, which makes it an ideal place for students to study or for faculty to prepare for their courses. On the other hand, the parking is atrocious due to the lack of dedicated parking that is reserved for the Ugly Mug. The closes parking is across a busy intersection and is a rather small parking lot. This makes it difficult first of all to find a parking spot and difficult second of all to navigate one’s way to the Ugly Mug even when one has found a parking spot. The pedestrian crossing at the corner of Soquel Drive and Porter is on an exceptionally slow timer, and often it takes nearly six or seven minutes for the pedestrian walk light to turn green. Of course, Santa Cruz is the capital city of jaywalking, so perhaps this is not an issue for some patrons of the Ugly Mug.
The next observation I made was that the Ugly Mug provides free wireless internet service through Cruzio, a local high-speed internet provider in Santa Cruz County. The service was quite fast and reliable, and there were plenty of electrical outlets for the patrons to plug in their laptop computers while enjoying the Ugly Mug’s coffee.
I sampled the Ugly Mug’s regular coffee, which was an organic locally roasted variety. The regular coffee was located at a self-serve station in the back of the shop, which I have mixed opinions about. On the one hand, a self-serve coffee station is great for the busy hours when people are trying to grab their coffee on the go. But on the other hand, it creates a lack of genuine customer service, which I in general found to be lacking at the Ugly Mug. The coffee was quite good, however, so I am happy to report that customers should be quite pleased with the coffee at the Ugly Mug Coffee House.
I also ordered a piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I was drastically unimpressed with this portion of my visit to the Ugly Mug. The pie itself was quite good, but the barista who was preparing my pie disappointed me greatly. I asked for whipped cream on the pumpkin pie, which is served by the Ugly Mug from a canister that makes fresh whipped cream. Unfortunately, the canister dropped a runny mess of not-quite-whipped cream onto my pie. Rather than ask if I would like a different slice without the runny mess, the barista decided to just use a different canister to squirt some firmer whipped cream on top of the runny cream mess. While this didn’t affect the pie’s flavor any, the presentation was severely lacking and it also showed a basic lack of consideration for what the customer would enjoy. So on the whole I was quite unimpressed with the customer service at the Ugly Mug in Soquel.
One unique feature of the Ugly Mug Coffee House, however, is the presence of two large aquariums in the back of the coffee house. As an aquarium buff myself I enjoyed watching the fish swim while I was preparing my coffee at the self-serve coffee station. It added a sense of liveliness to the shop, which many coffee houses lack nowadays due to the sterility of Starbucks and Peet’s model of the coffee house. There were also many varieties of live plants around the border of the shop, which also added to this effect. While many of the plants were in desperate need of some tender loving care, on the whole, the life forms in the shop added to the Ugly Mug’s ambiance and made for an enjoyable visit.
In conclusion, I would not really recommend the Ugly Mug Coffee House in Soquel, California. While the atmosphere was unique and pleasant, the customer service left much to be desired. In addition, Santa Cruz County is the home of several other coffee shops with better customer service and that also offers free wireless internet service. A good example would be the Coffee Cat in Scotts Valley, California, which is on the other end of the county but offers much better customer service and frankly a more relaxing atmosphere. If you like to be surrounded by living things, then the Ugly Mug may be for you. Just don’t order the pumpkin pie with any whipped cream!