When Laura Nelson bought Colorado Mountain Beanery in December 2002, she said the shop had a distinct thrift store quality. Not quite the atmosphere most people would want to linger in. Colorado Mountain Beanery has since morphed into a cozy downtown shop featuring exotic loose leaf tea from a variety of international locales.

“I am the largest loose leaf tea seller in the city,” Nelson said. She carries a diverse selection of teas, including sowmee white tea, Darjeeling tea, Chinese restaurant tea, Pau Mu Tan, pure chamomile tea and cola flavored tea. All loose leaf teas may be purchased in one ounce, quarter pound, half pound and one pound sizes. “A lot of people are leaving coffee and moving to tea,” Nelson said. “I probably sell as much tea as coffee now.”

Tea is not the only specialty at Colorado Mountain Beanery. Nelson also sells whole bean coffees and dried spices. Those who like to stick to the basics will find standard French roast and espresso beans and people who crave the little extras will have an opportunity to buy coffee in flavors such as chocolate almond and pumpkin spice. And there are plenty of decaffeinated coffees for sale at the Beanery. “All of my decafs are Swiss water processed, so there are no chemicals,” Nelson said.

Jars of beans, tea leaves and spices line the walls of the shop. Nelson offers whole rosehips, African bird pepper, dried elderberries and licorice root from Pakistan and Turkey. Nelson’s love of the unique extends to other products as well. She sells caffeinated lollipops, specialty coffee filters and blended iced tea and fruit drinks.

Nelson, who is originally from New York, has lived in Colorado Springs for 22 years. She worked with the United States Olympic Committee before going into business for herself. “I wanted to get away from working for someone else,” Nelson said. “If I succeed here, I succeed on my own.” Her shop is open Monday through Saturday and she likes to golf, fish and sing karaoke in her down time. “I wanted to sing when I was growing up – I still do,” Nelson said. As a teenager, Nelson sang with a country/rock band while her military parents were stationed in Germany.

Nelson’s shop, at 112 ½ East Boulder Street in downtown Colorado Springs, has a little bit of everything, including four varieties of organic shade grown coffee, 100 percent Kona coffee and other hard-to-find items. “If you can’t find a gasket for your espresso maker, I have it. Some larger companies don’t carry little things like that.”

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– Stephanie.Cline@csbj.com