Saturday, 24 September 2016

Sante Gluten-Free Cafe - in Victoria!

I'm back in Victoria this weekend with Tammy to finish off one of my Provincial Instructor Diploma courses. It just happens to coincide with the royal visit - you know, those fancy people from England.

Well, class ended early one of the days. Tammy and I decided we wanted to grab some gluten-free cake and a coffee, as we've had such troubles with gluten lately. My crohn's has been especially affected, and her gut (undiagnosed, thanks to BC rejecting her 3 times for MSP) has been bothering her as well.

Google and Zomato both pointed to Sante Gluten-Free Cafe, on Quadra Street. With pretty good reviews, and a selection of non-dairy milks for coffee, we decided to take the 30 minute hike from our hotel for some warm, caffeinated goodness.

When we got there, we found a variety of baked goods in the glass cabinet, as well as a freezer full of goodies in the back. There's no shortage of options, that's for sure.

Tammy ordered an almond milk latte, and I ordered a coconut milk Mocha. We also got cupcakes; I got a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting, and Tammy got a carrot cake cupcake with frosting. Keep in mind, all this is gluten-free.

Carrot Cake Cupcake and Chocolate Cupcake (Gluten-Free) @ Sante Gluten-Free Cafe
Victoria, BC
Photo: Brewji

Since this is my birthday weekend, Tammy treated me. However, the total before tip came to just under $18! That's about 2 hours of work if you earn minimum wage. Not only that, but the card machine buttons stopped working when it asked for a tip. That should have been our first clue.

We sat at a table by the window, and started eating our cupcakes while we waited for our drinks to be made. My chocolate cupcake had crunchy bits in it, sort of like rock candy or crystallized sugar chunks. I'm not sure if that's intentional, but I wanted Tammy to taste it to see what she thought.

I went to give Tammy a bite. However, she noticed a problem with the cupcake. It was a bit of a hair-y situation (see picture). It wasn't the only hair in the cupcake. This makes me wonder -- more than one hair means they're not using hair nets, which leads me to believe that they're probably not following FoodSafe protocols. With a gut as sensitive as mine or Tammy's, this doesn't fare well - especially with the price point. (As I type this, my stomach is turning. I'm trying to wash out the taste and calm my stomach with a Tim Horton's steeped tea.)

Bit of a hairy situation (hard to capture with a phone camera)
Photo: Brewji

I'm using my Nexus 5 camera, so it's not the greatest. But click the image and you'll see one of the few hairs that was entwined in my cupcake.

To be frank, they were polite and apologetic, and got another cupcake for me. Hair-free, thankfully. I'm not the type of person to send food back, as I've worked in a restaurant and seen some things I'd rather not. But with multiple hairs in one cupcake, we were both kind of put off. Tammy's cupcake was pretty decent, but nothing special.

Onto their drinks, which were probably in 10oz mugs. Tammy's almond milk latte was okay for the first sip with some almond milk and foam, but the espresso left a bitter and burnt aftertaste. She said the taste was so bad, she's currently washing it down with Tim Horton's coffee as I type this.

For $4.50, you can get a cup of burnt espresso too.
Photo: TotallyTammy

As for my coconut milk mocha...she didn't put anything sweet into it. It was essentially the same burnt-tasting espresso as Tammy's, with a little bit of coconut milk in it. I honestly don't mind the taste of the espresso as much, seeing as my craft beer tastes span to include burnt coffee stouts and such. However, a mocha is definitely supposed to have a sweet characteristic to it. To be blunt, I didn't get what I ordered, and I wasn't about to go up to the counter and ask them to fix this either.

As Tammy said to me "If it's going to be priced higher than Starbucks, it better taste better than Starbucks". Well, first they better make the right drink.

I don't mean to be rude, but if my wife is paying $18 + tip for 2 coffees and 2 cupcakes, I'd expect to get what we ordered, without the added hairs. I get the hair wasn't intentional, but if they intentionally refuse to follow food safety protocols, then it's their fault for sure.

If you have money to blow, and you're celiac or have a gluten intolerance, then by all means take your chances and pray you don't get sick.

In fact, here's my first Pros and Cons list I'm going to make about a place:


  • Gluten-free baked goods variety
  • Non-dairy milk selection for drinks includes Soy, Almond, and Coconut
  • Staff are decently polite
  • "Free" Wi-Fi

  • Baked goods may include natural, hairy additives
  • Drinks may not have all the ingredients you thought
  • Your wallet will hurt
  • Your stomach will probably hurt, too
  • The toilet doesn't flush properly (I have Crohn's! And they're lucky it was just pee!)
  • Credit/Debit card machine doesn't work properly (it won't let you tip, not that you'd want to)
  • The Wi-Fi is password protected, and the password isn't given

Overall, I'd describe my experience here as a bad decision, and a learning experience.

We're washing this away with Tim Hortons. Let that sink in for a minute.

Tammy gives Sante Gluten-Free Cafe a 1.0 / 10 because their carrot cake cupcake wasn't awful.

I give the Sante Gluten-Free Cafe a recommendation-to-use-a-hair-net-and-make-my-drink-right-instead 0.0 / 10 -- never coming back. I'd rather wipe my ass with an owl, thank you very much.

DISCLAIMER: ** I understand this is a small, locally-owned business that works hard to make sure they have local, organic ingredients. However, we work hard for our money, too. We pay the premium for these ingredients and we obviously ran into an unfortunate situation. It doesn't change our opinion, and I want to make sure others are aware of this as well. Hopefully they see this and start wearing hair-nets and enforcing FoodSafe protocols. **

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