Wait - there’s more to do in Denver besides skiing? Absolutely! Denver may just have the biggest craft coffee scene outside of Portland or Seattle. As a student, coffee lover and curious traveler, I have spent a fair amount of time over the years in overseas coffee shops writing many a postcard. The nostalgia comes in heavy waves as I settle into my favorite coffeehouse here in Denver. On your next trip to Colorado, take a day to sample some of the best coffee Denver has to offer. You may just have a bit of nostalgia yourself when you go home and hit up your local coffeehouse.
How big is the Denver coffee scene?
Every year Denver plays host to its own Caffeine Crawl and Grand Coffee Bazaar.
What exactly is a Caffeine Crawl? Similar to other crawls, this one could quite possibly result in a caffeine hangover the next day. Caffeine Crawls are created to be an interactive tour that brings you face to face with local baristas, tea sommeliers and roasters; you hop from coffee shop to coffee shop sharing, learning and partaking in their highly contagious passion.
So, then, what is a Grand Coffee Bazaar? It is a coffee festival highlighting local roasters (12 participated in 2015). Part education, part experience, there are plenty of opportunities to pair your favorite foods with coffees. Between samplings, take some time to chat with the roasters and learn the history and origin of the different beans you are tasting. Later, you’ll feel like a genius as you explain to your friends how processing, roasting, and brewing affects flavor. If you plan to attend the Bazaar, do not buy tickets at the last minute; it’s a crowd pleaser and you will get left out (as I did last year).
Why craft coffee is a step above your local brew
The latest trend in the Mile High City is to roast beans locally, which means coffee shops have almost total control over the product they serve you. There is no national distribution warehouse that ships beans; no, these beans are prepared in-house and these folks are passionate (dare I say, fanatic) about the product they put in your cup. Do not expect bitter; in fact, you will hear adjectives like tangy, brightness, round body, cocoa and nutty sweetness to describe the local Joe. You may never look at coffee the same way again.
Four of My Favorites:
You can pick or choose depending on where you’re staying in Denver. This list in not all-inclusive; there are many, many other options out there and I encourage you to go out and find one you love to add to this list!
Thump: You might assume the image of the pretentious hipster barista is ubiquitous. Don’t be so sure; the stenciling on the walls here serves as a mantra that Thump refuses to take themselves or the scene too seriously. The one thing they do take to heart is the incredible cup of coffee that will leave you wondering what it was you were drinking all these years. Enjoy your writer’s block by taking in the extremely well thought-out interior decorations, down to the coat hangers that were wrenches in a past life to the wood-handled Slayer espresso machine. Long tables serve as a study hall for the laptop warriors or, if you’re looking for a tech-free spot to chat, grab a seat on the couch or lounge chairs where laptops are prohibited.
Copper Door Coffee Roasters: Roaster turned storefront, owner Hannah has been delivering her homemade blend to Colorado stores for years now; the storefront officially opened in 2014. CDCR hosts Valentine’s Day coffee and chocolate pairings, coffee education workshops (What’s the taste difference between a press, a pour-over and an espresso?), and is kid friendly with small benches, toys and a wall of doors where you might just find a secret room if you open the right one.
Huckleberry Roasters: Sitting on the edge of the trendy Sunnyside neighborhood, this former gas station, duplex, and super sketchy bar from a previous life has been given a second chance as the coffee hangout of another roaster turned storefront. Built in the 1920s, owners Mark and Koan have gone to great lengths to preserve the building; look around and you’ll see signs of its past.
Pablo’s: If your 2016 bucket list includes 52 books in 52 weeks, then this is the place for you. No WiFi = no distractions at Pablo’s. A focus on mindfulness and a refreshing take on being productive, expect to see total strangers striking up conversations and local artists sketching.
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