When Megan Bucholz of Local Table Tours in Boulder asked if I wanted to come on her inaugural coffee and pastry tour of Boulder, how could I possibly say no? Coffee and pastry are two of my very favorite things in life, and wandering around downtown Boulder being plied with excellent java and equally delicious pastries sounded like a fine way to spend a Friday morning.
What I didn’t expect was how much I would learn about the humble coffee bean on this walking tour of Boulder’s finest coffee shops.
Our first stop was The Cup on Pearl Street. Owners Wendy and Chris Ball say The Cup will certainly serve a brew to your average Joe (har, har), but “We’re here for the coffee purist.” They serve coffee from local coffee roaster, and Roast Magazine’s 2011 Roaster of the Year, Conscious Coffee. Their beans are fair trade, organic and shade grown—and if you need a little refresher on what any of those terms mean, the staff at The Cup is happy to educate you.
In fact, coffee education is a big part of the mission at The Cup. The photos on the walls aren’t just anonymous art, but portraits of the real farmers and farms that supplied the coffee you’re sipping on any given day. Each photo comes with a story, and each story tells you a little something about the people and places that provide you with your morning jolt. And, on the last Saturday of every month, they invite the owner of Conscious Coffee into the shop for a free “cupping,” a tasting of one or several particular brews and discussion.
It’s enough information to make you seriously reexamine your cup of Folgers at home.
(Seriously though, you’re not drinking Folgers, right?)
The second stop of the day was The Unseen Bean, a coffee shop on Broadway, just off of Pearl, with a unique twist: Owner Gerry Leary is also the master roaster. And he happens to be blind. He buys top-quality beans from around the world and custom roasts them both for his shop and for his best customers. But he had to learn some special skills, as most coffee roasters rely heavily on sight—the color of the beans—when roasting. Leary had to develop his sense of smell and hearing, learning to differentiate the sound of a green bean tumbling in the roaster from the sound of one starting to pop and crack, like popcorn, from reaching the perfect roast.
Finally, we took our over-caffeinated selves to Tee & Cakes on 14th Street. I knew the confectionary was well known for its excellent baked goods, but I had no idea they took their coffee so seriously as well. They serve Novo Coffee, roasted in Denver, and co-owner Brian Wood was happy to wax poetic about their sun-dried beans and brew. A more perfect accompaniment to a perfect cupcake, we can’t imagine.
5 Facts I Did Not Know About Coffee
Coffee beans have a season. Just like everything else grown in the ground, coffee beans from different parts of the world are ready at different times of the year.
Coffee has terroir. Terroir is a wine term referring to the qualities of the soil, the sun and the water used to grow the grapes. And the same factors contribute to the flavors in coffee.
Grinders rule. For the home brewer, a good coffee grinder is
the most important apparatus in
Coffee beans go stale. Beans that have sat around too long or have been stored in the wrong conditions, start to lose flavor.
Brewed coffee goes stale, too. That’s why good coffee shops have timers on their big carafes. Anything that sits for more than an hour has cooked too long.
Local Table Tours offers its Coffee and Pastry tours every Friday. Visit
localtabletours.com for a full schedule of its tour offerings.