The first standalone Allegro Coffee Roasters roastery café opened its doors at 4040 Tennyson Street in Denver, Colo. last month, introducing a program of rare coffees exclusive to the café, independent of the Whole Foods subsidiary’s larger-scale grocery offerings.
The Allegro company, founded in Boulder, Colo. in 1977, returned to its home state to set up shop under the ACR brand in a fully remodeled 100-year-old building with a Loring Falcon S15 roaster — another first for Colorado — in full view of patrons, helmed by former Blue Bottle roaster Olivia Miles.
Miles worked for Blue Bottle in various capacities for about three years prior to coming on board with ACR at the Berkeley location about six months ago. “I think a lot of our sourcing practices are on the same lines as Blue Bottle,” Miles told Daily Coffee News. “One thing I appreciate working for Allegro is that we’re very up front on what we’re doing with our resources and trying to follow through with sustainability.”
Miles was happy to transfer to the Denver site where the company is using its standalone café as an opportunity to present smaller single-origin micro-lots. “Now we’re able to say, ‘yes, we want to work with you,'” said Miles of the exciting new sourcing process. “We want to work with all these producers that we have heard of and have even cupped with, and finally take their coffees. It’s pretty great to be a part of that.”
“Darren Daniels, our head of sourcing, is working his butt off to get us these incredible high-scoring coffees,” said Miles, who said that of the impressive 19 coffees on the menu at ACR Tennyson, at least nine are unavailable anywhere else. “Everything being involved on the Tennyson project has been an honor,” said Miles. “Getting to work with these coffees, and work on such an intimate level with sourcing and with marketing and training.”
Come January 2016, the roasting facility on Tennyson Street will start roasting for ten area Whole Foods locations as well as for ACR online orders. So while the micro-lots exclusive to the café will not be available on shelves at Whole Foods stores, they will be available in the online store for anyone to order for delivery through the mail.
Allegro Coffee became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Whole Foods grocery corporation in 1997. In that time, shoppers have grown familiar with the brand as essentially a Whole Foods house brand, although the company has maintained its own name and brand despite being housed within Whole Foods marketplaces. The Whole Foods locations in Brooklyn, N.Y., and in Berkeley, Calif., both contain Allegro Coffee Roasters branded roastery cafés, where customers can see the roasting equipment, purchase coffee roasted freshly on site and order drinks made from the same.
While Allegro remains proud of its relationship with Whole Foods, the standalone store in Denver reasserts the ACR brand’s individuality, which also raises its stature among coffee lovers from a marketing perspective. For anyone not familiar with the Whole Foods connection, the café in Denver gives no indication whatsoever; it’s branded entirely as Allegro with no WF logo or signage at all. Located in an historic hardware store built in 1917, the build-out preserved the space’s original hardwood floors, ceiling, and painted brick walls.
The coffee bar at the ACR café is equipped with Modbar pour-over brew heads, a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine and a BKON brewing machine. The innovative BKON is dedicated solely to tea brewing for the time being, although it’s possible that it could be brought into the coffee brewing lineup at some point. “I was working on one in the training lab a few weeks ago before we opened, and actually had a Panama Gesha on there, and it was really tasty,” said Miles.
The menu at ACR Tennyson includes all the basics as well as creative options for aficionados, such as coffee flights tailored to include either three coffees in one brewing method or one coffee brewed three different ways. The house espresso blend is called Mister Twister, named after a famous local roller coaster. The company has stated that while there are no plans in the works or additional cities under specific consideration, it’s likely that additional standalone ACRs will eventually follow.