The Cup Coffee Shop Brews Up A Concoction of Connections


Charlotte Cao

Portola High alumna and The Cup employee Anika Garg greets local customers with a smile as fellow employee Chan Hee prepares an order of baked goods on Sept. 18. Most of The Cup’s customers are Novel Park residents and regulars, contributing to the familial atmosphere.

With a menu that boasts both hot and cold brews, flavored teas and numerous baked goods, the Cup has cemented itself as a neighborhood icon of Novel Park. Local residents tend to pour into the Cup on their regular morning visits with smiles on their faces, and the shop employs many current and former Portola High students.

The Cup was initially created and is still owned by FivePoint Neighborhoods, with Cristina Maldini serving as the director of the establishment. After its grand opening in October 2019, The Cup was forced to close in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the small business losing both business and profits. Despite the setbacks it encountered, The Cup reopened on May 1, 2021 and began conducting operations with familiar customers.

It’s so much more than giving [the customers] a drink; it’s giving them a piece of their day

— Emily Pham

An average workday at The Cup involves preparing guests’ orders, restocking supplies and closing up shop, according to employee and alumna Anika Garg. 

Employee and senior Emily Pham fondly reminisces on her first day of work. 

“Every morning, there’s a relationship you have with these people,” Pham said. “My first shift, all of the regulars would say, ‘Hey, I don’t know you yet. What’s your name?’ And have a real conversation with me.” 

While the relationships between customers and baristas are a massive part of The Cup, the friendships formed behind the counter are just as impactful on the baristas’ lives.

“The most important thing at The Cup is team chemistry and how we get along,” employee and senior Britney Vuong said. “Communication with one another is kind of our basic system; it’s our building base.” 

The school experience also serves as one of the main talking points among baristas.

“[The coworkers] are all similar in age and relate to one another in some way,” Garg said. “Some of us are Bulldog alumni, and we all have the same sense of humor.”

Ultimately, the relationships fostered at The Cup are more than generic friendships, as are the unique experiences the employees encounter.

“My favorite memory would just be meeting [my coworkers] for the first time and learning in general,” Vuong said. “One day, I’ll look back and think, ‘Oh my god, that was my first day,’ and that’s so important to me.”

Through its unique blend of friendship and positivity, The Cup elevates itself beyond being just a simple coffee shop, showing itself as a source of comfort for customers and employees alike. From the habitual regulars the shop has to the dog-friendly atmosphere, The Cup’s reach is growing by the second.

“It’s so much more than giving [the customers] a drink; it’s giving them a piece of their day,” Pham said.