What makes a coffee shop are its intangibles—something you can’t necessarily explain but can feel, a quality that a whole shop carries. At Amethyst Coffee in Denver, coffee is held in high esteem, but owner/barista Elle Taylor has taken that crucial next step, creating an atmosphere where people are just as important as the product she serves.
Taylor opened Amethyst Coffee Company, named after her father’s birthstone, in February of this year and worked with TWIG WDWRK to design the clean and minimalist space. “There’s still stuff that needs to be made, and it’s a fun, awkward space to be in,” Taylor tells me humbly, though for a casual visitor (or nosy reporter) the still-young space feels integrated and complete. I wouldn't say awkward; let's say disarming instead.
Taylor opened the shop after hitting a wall in her coffee career, which includes stints at Pavement Coffee, Render Coffee, and Cafe Fixe in Boston, as well as Novo Coffee and Little Owl Coffee in Denver. “I realized I was building something for someone else when I knew that I could build it for myself,” she says. Taylor is a barista competition veteran, and although today she's the boss—”it’s stressful and people are depending on you to pay their bills,” she confides—her title on the Amethyst website states “Owner + Barista”. It's clear that this is a hands-on shop reflective of its proprietor.
Amethyst serves Denver roaster Commonwealth Coffee and features other roasters monthly, including past stints by Parlor Coffee and Ritual Coffee Roasters. Pulling shots on a Mahlkönig EK 43 grinder and a Kees van der Westen Mirage espresso machine, Amethyst uses Chemexes and a FETCO for brewed coffee offerings. On an average visit, between seven to 12 coffees are available, brewed or made as espresso in any combination you like.
It's a quickly growing shop, with five baristas on staff, and for Taylor's part, the communal aspects of her cafe's developing culture are a major source of inspiration. “What gets me excited is my staff’s excitement about coffee. It’s beautiful and brilliant,” she tells me. “We’re building something together, and it’s not just a one-off coffee shop and it’s not just me killing myself to run it all.”
That something they're building together is a deeply embedded philosophy of hospitality. Taylor is adamant that what makes her feel fulfilled as a coffee professional is not hovering over a TDS analyzer all day, but creating an unexpected and pleasurable experience of hospitality for each customer. “It’s a fun puzzle for me,” Taylor explains. “What does this person want? What do they need? It requires a whole different level of awareness and reading people’s needs.”
“The whole philosophy we have stems off of one thing,” she tells me, “and that's to make the guest feel as comfortable and taken care of as possible while still maintaining your sense of self-worth. In the end, people are worth more than coffee beans.”
Haley Littleton is a freelance journalist and coffee professional based in Denver, Colorado. This is Haley Littleton's first feature on Sprudge.
Photos by Anthony Adams.