Originally published Sept. 14, 2010, in The Daily Sound.
At Twin Cups, simplicity seems to be the running theme. The new coffee and frozen yogurt kiosk, at 5329 Calle Real, just off the Patterson exit, provides what owner Nathan Carey calls “stop and go” service. He aims to keep things simple and efficient for staff and customers, with two main products to choose from, streamlined preparation procedures, and a freeway-adjacent location.
“What turned me on to serving coffee and yogurt was the idea of a healthy snack combined with something on the go for a parent—a quick, easy snack so you can get back on the road,” said Carey, who launched the business with a soft opening on August 27. “Our location is just so ideal; you can get back on the freeway going north or south within four or five minutes of ordering. Our goal is to make it go as quickly as possible.”
To enhance that speed, Twin Cups is taking phone orders as well (805-964-1800). The business is open Monday through Saturday 7 a.m.–4 p.m., and Carey plans to expand to Sundays soon as well. Twin Cups currently employs a staff of four.
Carey, 27, who was born and raised in Santa Barbara, attended Cal Poly, studying construction management. In addition to this new venture, he works for his family business, The Carey Group, a local construction firm. The Twin Cups kiosk sits on the porch of a red barn that’s part of a wine storage facility—another of his family’s businesses. Carey had planned to maximize the space with a coffee kiosk business for some time, but, after talking to several vendors, decided to just go ahead and create a cart-based business himself.
A walk-in cooler in the wine storage facility had to be converted to a kitchen; it was here that Carey’s construction experience was invaluable. When it came to getting advice on obtaining a kiosk, Carey gives credit to the staff at Caribbean Coffee Company and its general manager, Eric Hamor.
“They helped me from the very start,” said Carey.
The cart, which Carey purchased from a Los Angeles-based dealer, has been retrofitted in several ways that Carey did not anticipate from the get-go. First, he had to modify the cart to address height restrictions. But that wasn’t all.
“The health department wanted a Plexiglas case around everything,” he explained. Originally, Carey imagined an open kiosk where staff would be grinding, tamping, and pulling espresso shots. Instead, to fit everything inside the required casing, he’s using a super-automatic espresso machine, which does everything . . . it even cleans itself.
Another wrinkle is that Twin Cups’ health permit doesn’t allow for preparing the diced fruit, which gets blended into the stand’s yogurt, on-site. Instead, Twin Cups purchases fresh-frozen, pre-cubed fruit to mix in with the yogurt. Ultimately, rather than proving a disadvantage, this ended up fitting in with Carey’s philosophy of “simplicity.” Twin Cups pre-weighs and packages the fruit, storing it in green-friendly containers so it’s ready to be custom-blended when a customer orders.
“Part of what separates us from everyone else is that it doesn’t sit in a machine,” says Carey. “Everything’s pre-portioned and pre-weighed out in our kitchen,” said Carey. “You get two ounces of fruit with your yogurt.”
Instead, the probiotic, live-active-culture, non-fat frozen yogurt “pucks” are custom blended with those cups of chopped, frozen fruit. The yogurt comes in vanilla, chocolate, and tart; with many fruit varieties to choose from, the flavor combinations are numerous.
“Parents are so happy that it’s a full, healthy snack,” said Carey, “We don’t offer chocolate toppings, sprinkles, or gummy bears—and if there’s only one size yogurt, you can’t be a glutton. You get the five ounces of yogurt and if you get fruit blended into it, it’s 9 ounces. ”
“You can’t get an extra large; you can’t get a small. The whole idea of Twin Cups is that everything’s simplistic.”
But he’s also clear that the yogurt’s taste is an equally large selling point.
One interesting option affording by Twin Cups’ dual focus: a freshly made coffee shot or espresso shot can be added into the yogurt for blending as well. Caribbean Coffee Company is supplying the four kinds of coffee that Twin Cups serves (two types of regular, one type of decaf, one flavored blend). Twin Cups also keeps it local by serving pastries from Santa Barbara-based Debbie’s Delights.
To help celebrate Twin Cups’ launch, 12-ounce coffee drinks are only $1 during September. Even without the launch special, Twin Cups’ prices are slightly below Starbucks levels, and a yogurt costs between $2.25 and $3.45, depending on whether you get fruit blended in.
In addition to the special pricing, Carey plans to hold an official “grand opening” for Twin Cups within the next several weeks, but is waiting until the operation is “fully dialed out.”
“The challenge right now is learning how to get everything in sync,” Carey said. “Basically, you have a full kitchen on a little cart, with waste tanks, water tanks.” He compares it to a “fish tank times thirty,” saying that it’s amazing how many steps go into just preparing coffee and yogurt.
In the future, Carey envisions taking smaller carts to local schools to provide his brand of yogurt as a healthy snack for kids. In the meantime, he’s more focused on his present challenges, even as he’s grateful for the opportunity.
“There’s no way I could have opened this without the support of my family and a bunch of people that I work with at the Carey Group,” he shared.