Good to the last drop

A look at Boulder County’s love for coffee

Hilary Clark

Coffee; there are hymns sung about it, altars erected to it and shops dedicated to it on every corner of the globe. Coffee madness has engulfed the United States. With a calculation of more than 400 million cups consumed on a daily basis, Americans hold the title of most caffeinated country in the world. Most coffee consumers are particular about their cup o’ joe. With so many roasts available in specialty stores, it’s difficult not to be choosy. It’s no longer a question of light, medium or dark roast but one of region and method used to dry the beans. When did the madness start? When did America become a nation of coffee snobs, and how is Boulder County making their mark in the coffee industry?

The first wave of coffee fanaticism began in 1773 after the taxation of tea. In full-on rebellion, Colonials began drinking coffee, thumbing their nose at Mother England. Fastforward 200 years to Peet’s Coffee. They opened a little shop in Berkeley which still stands today. Peet’s made a small splash before the largest international chain, the one named after a character in Moby Dick, was launched into the coffee stratosphere. Boulder had its own first with a little known store front called Brewing Market.

In 1977, Artine Yapoujian opened the first Brewing Market. Learning the art of coffee roasting from his family in Lebanon, Yapoujian brought his knowledge and passion to the people of Boulder. Today there are five Brewing Markets throughout Boulder County: three in Boulder, two in Longmont and one in Lafayette. Sharon Hudson, general manager of the Longmont Hover Street location, says the company takes great care to make sure the customer gets the best of the best.

“We have a team that visits the farms we get our beans from,” she says. Hudson points to a board with 37 roasts listed. “Enjoy the Rwanda while you can; it’s a seasonal blend.”

But what makes a proper cup of coffee? Don’t all beans taste the same? Actually, when it comes to coffee beans, there is a vast difference between generic and gourmet.

The look of the beans before and after roasting can be a good clue as to whether they will produce a great cup of coffee, but looks are not the only defining factor. Just ask Gary Leary who founded the Unseen Bean in 2003. Blind since birth, Leary didn’t let his lack of sight deter him from learning how to make an amazing cup of coffee. Both smell and taste can be better predictors of a beans quality than how it looks. Leary opened his first storefront in 2007 and has expanded his operation to include a roasting facility in Lafayette.

Kimme Jean Seufert, the Unseen Bean’s manager, says the Miz Susan blend, a combination of African and South American beans, is by far a crowd favorite. Various blends from Africa will be a seasonal delight this winter, including those from Malawi and Sumatra.

When trying to decide between light, medium or dark roast, perhaps the best question is how much caffeine does one prefer? Surprisingly, it’s the lighter roast that carries the highest caffeine content. Darker roasts, such as French or Italian, offer less acidity and a bolder flavor.

Even the craft beer industry is getting in on America’s love of coffee. The brewers at Oskar Blues decided to turn their golden touch onto coffee, with some great results. According to Head Roaster Derek Palmer, the first cans of Hotbox Coffee were offered in October 2014 with fun blends such as Kenya Diggit, Bolivia Newton John and its most popular blend, Frank Sumatra. These can be found in Lucky’s Market both in Boulder and Longmont, Peppercorn Market on Pearl Street and soon will be appearing at Whole Foods stores around the Rocky Mountain region. Palmer went on to say that customers can look forward to a new blend, the French Press of Bel Air. Hotbox Coffee, roasted in Longmont, will also offer a cold brew option in the coming months.

Regional beans vary in taste. Coffee beans grown in Hawaii will taste different than the beans from Ethiopia even when a similar roasting process is used. Beans vary widely due to climate, soil and processing techniques. In certain regions beans are washed: in others they are dried first. Monsoon rains or dry desert heat will no doubt have an influence on the flavor of the raw bean. Shadegrown coffees tend to be slightly sweeter than those raised to bask in the sun. Altitude also seems to affect taste. Ethiopian coffee is grown at a higher elevation (5,000 feet) and tends to be more flavorful than say a coffee blend grown in Hawaii.

Tamas Christman had a vision when he started Dragonfly coffee in 2011: to offer exceptional coffee while fostering economic growth to small coffee farms. Working with 30 different farms, Christman presents Dragonfly Coffee as a “farm-to-table” business. Limited, seasonal offerings include the highly rated Yemin Haraaz coffee (which scored 94 points in Coffee Review) and highly anticipated Dragonfly Lot Bags from the Elida Estate. The estate is run by the Lamastus family, who have been growing coffee in Panama since 1918. Christman alluded to a couple of other holiday surprises and asks patrons to keep an eye on the company website. Dragonfly Coffee blends can be found at Lucky’s Market, Alfalfa’s Market and their website.

Americans are truly a caffeinefueled, coffee-addicted society. One survey found that 55 percent of drinkers polled would rather gain 10 pounds than give up their addiction. However one chooses to drink it — black, with cream and sugar, a twist of lemon, latte or frappachino — as long as the coffee flows freely, America will be a happier, more alert society.