More Than Just Good Coffee: Colorado Springs Coffee Culture
by Teryn O’Brien |
There’s nothing quite like walking into a coffee shop, smelling that flavorful coffee smell, ordering a favorite drink, and settling into the atmosphere of the place to get work done or chat with a friend. There’s no doubt that coffee shops have become a truly vital place for work, community, and good coffee.
And the key is good coffee. While national coffee chains and companies do their best to provide beverages for the masses—often cutting the quality—there is a rising group of customers who are thirsty for high quality coffee. With that desire, specialty coffee shops that take the time to develop relationships with coffee bean farmers across the world, roast their own coffee, and go out of their way to truly know good coffee from bad (so we don’t have to) are on the rise.
That specialty coffee movement has taken off in Colorado Springs, with numerous roasters and cafés popping up over the past 10 years like daisies. Places like Switchback Coffee Roasters at the corner of Boulder and Institute Streets, which is an advocate of fair trade coffee and roasts their own coffee in a neighborhood with a diverse customer base. There’s also Story Coffee Company, a tiny house coffee shop that currently resides in Acacia Park and whose owners moved from Portland to set up shop here.
Peak Place serves the more eastern side of town on Academy Boulevard, offering their own Hold Fast Coffee Company that roasts coffee, as well as a warm and inviting atmosphere. Then there’s Building Three Coffee, which is in the Old North End in the historic Lincoln School Center. Agia Sophia in Old Colorado City brings a beautiful, reverent vibe to their space, using coffee from the excellent Colorado Coffee Merchants—who have their own facility on Fillmore Street.
There are many, many more. But the most amazing thing isn’t the plethora of coffee shops that are opening all over the city. The most amazing thing about Colorado Springs coffee culture is that they all root for each other, care about each other, and want to be there for each other. Just talk to anyone who works in the coffee industry here in the Springs, and you’ll immediately get a sense that everyone is interconnected.
Take Loyal Coffee, for example. They are one of the newest kids on the block, boasting a trendy space downtown that is a hipster’s dream come true. Their six owners each come from backgrounds in different coffee establishments in the area, including The Principal’s Office—an exceptional coffee and cocktails bar; Urban Steam Coffee Roasters, a hip stop for all your espresso, waffle, and whiskey needs; and The Wild Goose, a meeting house offering a variety of local caffeine and spirits. All of these places are notable in and of themselves, but they all stepped up to support Loyal when the idea came to the now owners.
Before Loyal opened, Switchback Coffee hosted a Loyal takeover in their own shop, helping spread the word about the new brand. Switchback even made their roaster available to Loyal when they were having trouble with theirs. Loyal Coffee even has a Disloyalty Card. It’s a card that actually asks customers to go to other places before coming back to get a free coffee from Loyal.
This undying support within the coffee culture shows in the quality of baristas that the Springs is producing. In 2017, 2 of our own baristas made it to United States Barista Championship; that’s 2 of the 3 Coloradans that made it into the competition. They were Tyler Hill from Loyal and Eliza Lovett from Story Coffee. Before the competition, Eliza injured her arm in a roasting accident and wasn’t able to compete. The owner of Story organized a “barista” army to cover Eliza’s shifts while she recovered, with the wages and tips that were earned going directly to Eliza’s recovery.
While tragic, this was just another moment when the community at large could watch and see how special the coffee culture here in the Springs truly is. It’s safe to say that the coffee community here supports each other, believing that when all coffee shops are stronger, then Colorado Springs is stronger, too.