Boulder is a small city with lots to offer—including exceptional-quality cafés.
BY J. MARIE CARLAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Featured image by J. Marie Carlan
Caffeine Crawl started out in Kansas City, Mo., as an offshoot of The LAB. Founder Jason Burton has brought Caffeine Crawls all over the USA, with attendees visiting between six and 30 locations per city. Tour guides may be locals or travel from afar. The Caffeine Crawls can vary widely between cities and locations—some shops do presentations, with a menu’s worth of provisions, while some offer a single beverage of choice.
In 2022, Colorado was one of the lucky states chosen for a Caffeine Crawl. “Colorado has so much talent. We are just happy to be a part of it and be able to give people a little taste behind the scenes,” says Jason.
Being new to Colorado, I jumped at the chance to attend the Boulder Caffeine Crawl in early October. With a population of just over 100,000, Boulder is by no means a large city. However, it is a destination for many Coloradans for food, drink, culture, and winter sports. Situated in the Rockies, the view around town is spectacular. The downtown area is immaculate, with plenty of upscale shops, boutiques, restaurants, record stores, and, praised be, coffee shops.
The first stop on the Boulder Caffeine Crawl was Ozo Coffee Roasters. Our gracious host Todd brought out tray after tray of delicious drinks, including a sparkling lemon mint maté with peppermint tea. One notable coffee was a dry process Brazil Irmãs Pereira with notes of peanut butter, chocolate, and strawberry jam. (The claim was that this coffee tasted like a PB&J. Can confirm.) They had multiple coffees and house-made teas on tap, and plenty of single origins available for purchase. Since its origins in 2007, Ozo has worked to obtain ethically produced coffees and invested back into coffee-producing communities.
A brilliant concept has been established here. In addition to a full coffee bar, there is a sandwich/fresh deli counter and a wine shop sharing the downtown space. They still manage to have plenty of comfortable seating without making it feel cramped. Boxcar also offers a coffee subscription service, so you need never run out. The most notable drink we tried here was a Café Amara Soda, made with cascara fruit, soda water, and warming spices like cinnamon and clove.
& (Ampersand) has a good thing going here. Located inside a bike shop, this spacious coffee bar has plenty to offer to cyclists and pedestrians. & owner Kurt offered us three different Toddy-style cold brews. My favorite was a smooth, nutty Bolivian, but the fruit-forward Ethiopia and chocolatey Honduras were also excellent. Kurt also gave the most detailed coffee lecture of the tour (Kurt is a certified Q Grader, and it shows). Ampersand sources all organic and fair-trade beans; seventy percent of them are bought from women-owned farms, actively working toward female empowerment.
Named after Janus, the god of gateways, this shop rotates roasters regularly, and chooses them based on the alignment of their values. On offer in October were beans from Onyx Coffee Lab and Dune Coffee Roasters. Owners John and Kristi are industry veterans and had always dreamed of opening their own coffee shop. They built the swanky interior themselves and gave a thoughtful presentation on their story and ethos, which was both insightful and charming. One standout coffee at January was the Colombia Gabriel Castaño Buendia roasted by Onyx. An extended fermentation process on this Pink Bourbon varietal solidified the complex cherry candy and funky, acidic flavors: just strange enough to be magical.
If you have an opportunity to attend a Caffeine Crawl, I highly recommend it. It’s a great opportunity to explore the coffee spots in your city, discover somewhere new, or find your new favorite brew!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She’s been a barista for over a decade and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, collecting bric-a-brac, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.