At five years old, Amethyst Coffee is making its mark on Denver’s thriving coffee scene and the industry as a whole. On a recent trip to Denver, I discovered this first hand when I visited the first of their four locations — a retail space in a strip mall on Broadway. The space is warm and the staff exudes a certain hospitality that leaves you feeling happier than when you walked in. That is on purpose, explains co-owner Breezy Sanchez.
“Really good hospitality are things that people would never notice,” she says. For Sanchez, that happens behind the scenes– the goal is to read what each guest needs and to meet them where they are.
Elle Taylor, who opened Amethyst in 2015, said she wanted to eliminate some of the toxic elements of working in coffee. She also wanted to create a space that is more welcoming to marginalized folks who aren’t always the face of the coffee industry. It wasn’t necessarily the impetus for Amethyst, but it organically happened as they sought ways to make barista work more sustainable for their employees.
“There are some things that will always be unavoidable, but why don’t we give people a consistent schedule?…If we can soften the blow in areas that are controllable– that’s kind of why I wanted Amethyst to exist,” she says.
Five years later, Amethyst has grown to four locations, gained an owner (Sanchez came on board in Oct. 2018) and is now roasting [editors note: Amethyst roaster Sam Neely recently placed 3rd in the US Barista Championship]. Formerly a multiroaster, Taylor said she will always miss the fun of having other roasters on bar, but their growing number of cafes made roasting for themselves the logical choice. For Taylor, Amethyst’s baristas now feel more informed and have greater ownership when talking about the coffees.
Although roasting is exciting, for Sanchez and Taylor it’s the least interesting part of the story. The part of roasting for themselves that is the most interesting is the sourcing. Right now, they have a few direct relationships and utilize importers for the rest of their coffees.
One of the most exciting coffees Amethyst has sourced so far is the much-anticipated natural process Eugenoides from Inmaculada Coffee Farms in Colombia. Eugenioides is a species of coffee separate from Arabica and Robusta and tastes almost nothing like those other species. I had the chance to try this coffee when I was there. It tasted like candy, then cake frosting. Which is to say, it did not taste like coffee. It tasted sweetened, and it was incredible.
One of the things that makes Amethyst stand out as a hospitality leader is their ability to demystify some of their rarer coffees. Over the summer, Amethyst made batch brew out of it and had customers try it for one dollar. For Sanchez, this takes the intensity out of it and makes it more accessible.
While the original location is a great cafe, Amethyst has options no matter where you are in Denver. Most recently, they joined the lineup at Edgewater Public Market in a 201 sq. foot round bar and opened November 17th. This is their first public market location and is primarily Sanchez’s project. Sanchez says that all of the other Amethyst locations are their own thing and that people are generally visiting for the sake of Amethyst. In the food hall setting, they are seeing more guests who are just in search of coffee and not looking for Amethyst specifically. This is a great opportunity, explains Sanchez: “we get to have a lot of exposure to [show people] what third wave coffee even is.”
No matter the location, any visitor to Amethyst will be able to find something to be excited about, whether it’s the specialty drink menu, their list of single origins, or the exceptional collection of plants that warm the space. More than that, Amethyst is the kind of business that is easy to support because they’re leading the charge in Denver to make the role of barista a viable career. This is evidenced by the low turnover rate.
“Elle and I both want to grow baristas into better skills and ultimately grow better humans,” says Sanchez.
Taylor and Sanchez carry over their approach to hospitality to their employees.
“If we care this much about our guests, we should care this much about our people,” she says.
The next time you’re in Denver, or if you happen to live there, be sure to stop by any one of the four Amethyst locations:
Broadway – 1111 Broadway
Lakeside – 4999 W 44th Ave
Realm – 3851 Steele St
Edgewater Public Market – 5505 W 20th Ave
All photos by Audrey Boyd