Craft coffee booming in Colorado Springs

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As more specialty coffee shops and micro-roasters saturate the community, it’s clear the city doesn’t lack options for fine coffee.

According to local coffeehouse owners, there will be at about 10 specialty shops in the city once Loyal Coffee café and roastery makes its debut next month at 408 S. Nevada Ave.

More entrepreneurs seem to be giving the industry a shot, said Vinnie Snyder, general manager of Peak Place Coffeehouse. Craft coffee in Colorado Springs is now being served inside former schools, at co-working spaces and even in a tiny house on the edge of Acacia Park.

So why are there so many coffee enthusiasts? Flexibility and creativity in the business, Snyder said.

“I think it has to do a lot with how inventive you can be with craft coffee, and how you can find your own fun expression of it,” he said.

MASTERING THE CRAFT

Although there are differences of opinion about the roast and flavor profile of craft coffee, one thing that’s certain is “it’s farmed, sourced, roasted and brewed with a lot of care and attention,” Snyder said. “I think you have to stay away from associating quality with what coffee ‘should’ taste like or you will alienate a lot of customers, but I don’t think people realize how much of an impact they can have when they purchase coffee from cafés that support the fair treatment of farmers.”

Sean Buckles, owner of Building3 Coffee Roasters, said his passion stems from direct trade. His business helps support roughly 75 families a year by purchasing coffee beans from a farm in El Salvador.

Building3 had its grand opening three weeks ago, inhabiting space at the former Lincoln Elementary School at 2727 N. Cascade Ave.

“I want our coffee to be memorable through the experience of our baristas working here and want to be known for quality through a direct trade relationship,” he said. “I want that sustainable relationship to shine through and the hard work put into producing good coffee.”

Building3 roasts coffee for Wild Goose Meeting House and Rosco’s Coffee House and was sourcing coffee to Peak Place Coffeehouse until it began its own roasting operation last week.

“Craft coffee is roasted well and then served well,” Buckles said. “Even if you’re not doing direct trade, it’s important to be diligent with the fresh crop and not over-roast.”

COLLABORATION, NOT COMPETITION

Mutual support has come with the growth of specialty coffee businesses in Colorado Springs.

The city marked its annual Caffeine Crawl Aug.14-15 where participants were routed to a number of specialty cafés, sampling different brews and learning businesses’ stories.

“We had a lot of visitors from other states and most of the people on our route had never been into Peak Place before,” Snyder said.

Buckles said the pretension around specialty coffee that he’s seen in other cities doesn’t exist in Colorado Springs.

“I feel like we’re all in it for a common effort,” he said. “We’re competitors but supporting the same goal, which is for this city to have great coffee. The more exposure we get and the more people understand what we do and why we do it, the more it’s going to grow and support us. It’s the core of sustainability.”

Local cafés are building a coffee culture together in the city, said Don Niemyer, owner of Story Coffee Co.

“We’re not buried in this city like you might be in Denver or Seattle,” he said. “It’s small enough that you can really feel like you’re making a contribution to the scene overall.”

Snyder said the increase in specialty coffeehouses has been great, but the quality of people opening them has made it even better.

“One of my favorite things about craft coffee here is that all of the specialty shops tell their new customers to visit all the other shops in the city,” he said. “We hear all the time when someone comes in for the first time that they were told to come by a barista from another shop, and we love returning the favor.”

Sean Buckles prepares new batch of coffee at Building3.

BUILDING ON THE PAST

The craft coffee buzz is a culmination of 20 years’ worth of coffee innovations, starting in the late 1990s with coffee pioneers like Counter Culture, Intelligentsia and Stumptown, according to Niemyer.

“The founders of those companies started an approach to coffee back then that set us up for what we’re experiencing today,” he said.

“There is still a massive amount of room for growth, and I think we’ll look back 10 years from now at 2016 and it will seem like far less of a craze than it does today, compared to what will be happening in the future.”

Peak Place Coffeehouse on Montebello Square Drive opened in November 2013 and just last week launched its new roasting company, Hold Fast Coffee Co., adding its own flair to the coffee-roasting scene.

“One of the biggest advantages for Peak Place before we started roasting was developing so many great relationships with other shops and roasters because we served their coffee,” Snyder said.

AND STILL GROWING…

Niemyer said his only complaint is that there aren’t enough cafés in the city.

“If Colorado Springs woke up tomorrow and just 10 percent of the city decided to go get a great cup of coffee, there is no way the shops here could handle that,” he said.

“So we need more shops, grinding out great work day after day, educating customers cup after cup, in order for us to create the culture we want to see here.”

But Buckles said he thinks the local industry is in a good position.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” he said. “I love the growth… It’s hard to do it right. It can be hard differentiating yourself and not being redundant, but things are going well.”

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