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The coffee scene in COS

2012 November 12
by Ryan

So I’ve noticed a trend here in our fair metropolis. One I can fully get behind.

We are starting to see some SERIOUS coffee bars enter the scene. Yeah, I should be freaking about the additional competition, but I’m not. See, there’s competition and then there’s the drive to better your surroundings. Both can go hand in hand.

If you go to Denver, which is right on the cusp of being another Portland when it comes to the coffee scene, and ask any of the baristas about the coffee in Colorado Springs, you’ll hear an answer like this:

What? There’s good coffee in Colorado Springs?!? No way!

I can say with authority that this sentiment needs to change — now.

Over the last weekend, I had the pleasure of dropping by and welcoming our latest coffee bar to Colorado Springs: Urban Steam Coffee Bar and Cafe. They’re located just south of Downtown and have already created a stir amongst the twitterers that follow us. When talking to Kelly, one thing he said stood out to me: (slightly paraphrased)

You’re not competition. If you’re trying to progress the coffee experience in your store, you’re a partner in building the coffee scene.

And guess what? His coffee backs up this statement. It was a breath of fresh air to see coffee that is treated lovingly from sourcing to roasting to brewing. Sure, I’m quite miffed his pourover bar debuted before my official one (and was compared to Intelligentsia in a recent Independent writeup! Grrrrrr…), but the coffee deserved to be brewed cup by cup.

Urban Steam Coffee Bar. Picture shamefully stolen from their facebook page. 🙂

And then there’s Cafe Velo. Our closest “competitor,” this bike shop/espresso bar uses Ozo Coffee from Boulder. They started off shaky (many a tweet confirms this) but have seriously strengthened their coffee offerings. Added bonus: they hosted Colorado Springs’s first Latte Art Throwdown a couple of months back. (Sad fact: even with advertising at pretty much every coffee bar in the city, only Velo and us represented the Springs. Everyone else came from Denver…) We have to keep an eye on them: they’ve already taken our biking regulars! 🙂

Cafe Velo. Picture also stolen. Hey, at least I admit it!

 

So why, in a pretty competitive landscape that is coffee, do I brag about two other coffee bars? Simple.

They/we are trying to do something Colorado Springs has not seen: move coffee beyond “just a cup.”

While I do believe that Colorado Springs is a long way away from a nationally advertised Coffee Crawl like Boulder had a few weeks ago, I see great potential in the small but growing coffee scene down here. Now to convince those baristas in Denver…….

 

And if you are reading this post and are irritated that your coffee bar or your favorite coffee bar isn’t being talked about, I want you to do something:

Stop. Think. Does your coffee bar try to better the scene daily? Does your coffee bar care about the freshness of their product and can prove it with freshness dating on the coffees? Does your coffee bar care about the quality of the product? (Is the milk from a Front Range dairy or whatever’s on sale at Sams Club?) Does your coffee bar care about sourcing directly (or as directly as they can) from the farmers or do they play the Commodity Market? How many days do the baristas in your coffee bar train before they are allowed to make drinks for the guest? (Ours is one month!) If your coffee bar roasts, how long do you let your green coffee sit? It stales, too, you know! And are you writing the Roasted On date front and center of the bag you’re selling?

Your coffee bar doesn’t need to answer yes to every one of those questions, but they damn well better be answering yes to the majority of them. If not, what is your coffee bar doing to progress the scene? Or are you/they content rolling along at a ho-hum level?

Look, I’m not trying to be an elitist here. But what I am trying to do is convince all the coffee bars in this city that it’s time to step up the game. I want to propose something: I firmly believe that with the right communication and drive, we (as independent coffee bars) can knock Starbucks off of the top of the Gazette’s Best Of list. I don’t care which coffee bar wins, but it shouldn’t be the big green machine.

Who’s with me?

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