Big coffee gets a bad rap. And for the most part, that reputation is well deserved. The country’s biggest names in coffee certainly aren’t making their fortunes with sustainably sourced, mindfully roasted, or even halfway decent-tasting beans.
But Allegro Coffee Company, a big name you’ve likely heard due to its association with Whole Foods, makes a compelling case that bigger can be better with their latest venture: A stand-alone cafe and roaster called Allegro Coffee Roasters Tennyson that opens on Wednesday. Though the company roasted approximately 5.8 million pounds of coffee in 2013 and is responsible for supplying the shelves of hundreds of Whole Foods locations with freshly roasted beans, this is the first time Allegro has tackled a freestanding cafe independent of a Whole Foods location.
This local coffee shop is simply the latest chapter in Allegro’s long history. The company was started nearly 40 years ago in Boulder (it was called the Brewing Market). Whole Foods acquired the Allegro brand in 1997, keeping values like sustainable sourcing and environmental stewardship at the forefront. A few years ago, Allegro implemented ACR venues in Brooklyn and California with in-house roasters and tricked-out cafes, the precursor to the sparkling new location on Tennyson Street. The decision to provide the cafe experience here in Denver was an easy one: there’s already a large roasting plant in Thornton. “Denver is right in our backyard,” ACR Tennyson’s head roaster Olivia Miles (who goes by “Miles”) says.
While Denver is home to a booming craft coffee scene and a diverse variety of shops, ACR Tennyson stands out from the pack. Not only is the airy, gold-accented space much bigger than your typical coffee shop (4,000 square feet total, about half of which is devoted to roasting), the equipment behind the 30-foot marble bar is top notch. There’s a Modbar, a tucked-away system that gives baristas the ideal set up for preparing manual brews like Chemexes, Harios, and Kalitas, taps dispensing nitro cold brew, and the crown jewel, a La Marzocco Strada espresso machine with bespoke white-and-gold paneling.
It’s not just the state-of-the-art, no-expense-spared equipment that distinguishes this cafe. Swing by on a given day and you can expect to find 19—that’s right—19—different coffees available, all roasted in-house under the direction of Miles. Allegro’s unique position as a larger coffee buyer gives it the added advantage of purchasing some incredible single-origin coffees you won’t find anywhere else in the city. “We’re bringing in really unique micro-lots from small producers, rotating seasonally,” Miles says. A few standouts include the Panama Esmerelda 1500 Gesha, an organic Congo Sopacdi, and my personal favorite, the Ethiopia Queen City Harrar, a juicy, sweet Ethiopian natural with “bass-y notes, big body, and plenty of red fruit and chocolate,” Miles says.
To best experience ACR Tennyson’s offerings, stop by for a flight once the cafe opens Wednesday. For just $9, you can sample one coffee brewed three ways or three coffees brewed one way. Or, enjoy a Borgia (the shop’s signature drink, like a latte but with Valrhona chocolate powder and fresh orange) and pick up some just-roasted beans to go. Either way, this is a must-visit destination for craft coffee lovers. Allegro opens this Wednesday, November 18, and will be open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. 4040 Tennyson St.