When you think of Colorado coffee, Denver is undoubtedly the first place to come to mind. With companies like Amethyst, Corvus, Commonwealth, Huckleberry, and Sweet Bloom, all of whom have made names for themselves nationally through competition, community work, and widespread presence in quality coffee bars, it's natural to see the city as Colorado's coffee epicenter. But if you let your mind wander about 70 miles south on I-25 to Colorado Springs, you’ll find another city making an argument.
Growing at a rapid clip, thanks in no small part to Denver’s own exponential expansion, The Springs is experiencing a coffee renaissance. With exciting new cafes recently opened and a homegrown finalist in the 2018 US Barista Championship, Colorado Springs is putting its name on the map. In the middle of all this is Loyal Coffee, a coffee shop and roaster that stays small in focus but grand in execution.
The product of six barista/co-owners—Eric Nicol (CEO), Abigail Baum (General Manager), Christopher Mueller (Operations Director), Bevan Cammell (Head Roaster), Seth Fuller (Head of Education), and Tyler Hill (Director of Guest Experience)—Loyal is one of those rare shops where a thoughtful, composed build-out is matched step-for-step by the quality of everything that comes out of it. Walking into Loyal, blue-grey tiles direct you through a sea of warm wood tones, clean whites, and mid-century-modern-esque gold accents towards the coffee bar—it, too, full of warm wood tones, clean whites, and mid-century-modern-esque gold accents. Lengths of rope stretch wrap decoratively overhead and behind the bar, adding to the natural palette in a way that feels rustic but still somehow very modern.
Atop the bar you'll find a custom-finished white La Marzocco Strada and white Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima Pro grinders anchor the espresso station, serving both their own offerings as well as Madcap, originally Loyal’s roaster before they began roasting their own coffee. “We had always planned on having some other coffee alongside ours even when we knew we'd be roasting and wholesaling coffee,” Loyal’s Tyler Hill says. “To us it gives a great standard to shoot for. By serving Madcap in our cafe, it serves as inspiration and accountability to serve a similar product.”
Moving left, Modbar pour-over modules and a Mahlkönig EK43 make up a slow bar, for guests willing to wait a bit for their brew. Further still, separated from the coffee area, Loyal’s small, open-air kitchen churns out a variety of toasts, porridges, and other breakfast-leaning dishes. Think ingredients like pear and ricotta, soft-boiled eggs, and even Andouille sausage served open-faced on rustic French breads from local bakery La Baguette.
Follow the pathway left again and you'll find all of Loyal’s seating—a mix of wooden tables and booths, concrete, and tree stump chairs—overlooks garage windows, open that day to let in some crisp morning air before Colorado’s dry summer heat takes over.
As is hinted at by that blue-grey line subconsciously guiding customers through the order of operations, everything at Loyal is intended to make the experience feel intuitive and relaxed, to take what could be overwhelming for some and uncomplicate it. This doesn’t mean sacrificing quality for expedience, but finding ways to meet customers where they are. For Loyal, this means being both modern specialty cafe and all-day hang out. It means good coffee quickly, like their incredible washed Mexico Jaltenango on batch brew during my visit that had me questioning my own preconceptions about what coffee from that origin can taste like. It means staying open late and shifting the focus to include cocktails, pre-made and on tap. High quality at high speeds; all splendor, no pomp.
“Our purpose is Community by way of Coffee,” Hill tells me. “We strive to use coffee as a means to engage, encourage, and elevate every community we interact with.”
And it’s working. Hill remembers the first time he really felt like Loyal was the community space they had envisioned it being, and it came under inauspicious circumstances. “The vibe at Loyal is usually pretty loud and upbeat with lots of people and lots of conversations. But after the election it was very different,” Hill recounts. “While we serve and welcome guests who are all over the political spectrum, we serve a great deal of folks who didn't wake up with joy in their hearts that day. It was very special to me that people who felt scared, nervous, or confused knew that they could grieve, chat, and find some sense of normality at Loyal.” Hill goes on to mention how much of the coffee served that day was gratis, a small way of being there for the community that knows Loyal is there for them.
With plans for a second location already in the works, it’s clear that Loyal has struck a chord their city, and they have done so in a way that feels true to who they are and where they are from. It’s not a shop that is trying to be a Portland cafe, or Los Angeles or Denver even, though they could make a name for themselves in these cities just as easily; Loyal is a shop that keeps its focus on its community and serving coffee within the framework that works specifically for the people of Colorado Springs. And somewhat ironically, they are making a name for themselves nationally because of it.