Elle Taylor has worked in specialty coffee for six years. Along the way, she’s competed in several national competitions and become a coffee expert. Yesterday that experience paid off when she officially opened the doors to Amethyst Coffee Company on Broadway. We sat down to talk with Taylor about launching her own place, meeting everyone’s needs, and the barista profession.
5280: What ideas went into starting your own shop?
ET: I named the shop Amethyst because precious stones are treated with reverence, and I see coffee the same way: it’s a precious commodity that we can all gather around and cherish. I also wanted to commemorate my dad—his birthday is in February and amethyst is the month’s birthstone. So it’s perfect that we had our opening in February. I created the whole philosophy around Amethyst, which is to create a shop that has a very professional feel to it and provides a space for baristas to be professionals. But [I also wanted] to provide a space for the consumer to feel totally comfortable ordering whatever they want. I’ll get those people who want half coffee and they want half [cream] and sugar, but then we’ll get the people who want straight espressos. So, I’m totally happy to serve all those people, and that’s what Amethyst is about, making people happy—from both sides of the counter.
5280: Is it challenging to make both sides of the counter happy?
ET: Yes. It really is. And we’ll never be able to make everyone happy. We had a woman come in who wanted a mocha, and the biggest size we do is 12 ounces and it’s $5. She told us she usually gets a 20-ounce for $5, and we said sorry we don’t have a 20-ounce cup. She left and went somewhere else. You do your best to have whatever most people want. You also have to give your baristas the space to say, “We don’t do that.” At the same time, not having baristas scoffing at someone who wants a vanilla latte.
5280: Having only whole milk and almond milk, what do you do about dairy and nut allergies?
ET: This is a good question. I also think it’s a good question for 98 percent of coffee shops. Because I think—I mean how many coffee shops do you walk into that have rice milk? But I also don’t like to push black coffee on people. If they have a milk and a nut allergy, but they want coffee, I’m happy to make them just coffee or just espresso. That’s kind of where I stand on that.
5280: Do you think coffee mocktails are part of the trend to make being a barista more of a profession?
ET: I think it makes you more aware of your product. [To] balance flavors, which requires a really good palate, you have to know what you’re looking for and you have to be really creative. I think creative outlets are good for everyone. Right now we have the shakerato, which is espresso, shaken with ice and simple syrup. We paired each espresso with a flavored syrup, like we have a Colombian that tastes like cherry, so we paired it with house-made cherry syrup. It comes out frothy, and accentuates the espresso really nicely, while still being a little sweet. It’s stuff like that that’s starting to happen.
5280: What do you think adding signature drinks to your menu will do for Amethyst?
ET: I think it creates a unique thing that people might come back for. I think most shops make a vanilla latte, and they probably taste pretty similar because they’re supposed to taste like vanilla and coffee. I think creating things that people can only get in our space is kind of fun. Hopefully it brings people back for that one thing. We don’t have any particular signature drinks right now. They’re more tailored to specific coffees and baristas. They’re about letting baristas explore and create something new. They’re mostly used in barista competitions. We’ll have them on the menu, but they’ll be changing constantly
5280: Finally, what is your favorite coffee?
ET: In general, I prefer savory coffees. I find them more interesting. I prefer Kenyans, I like Papua New Guineas. I feel like every season I have a new favorite—I look forward to certain coffees coming back around. I love it when Ethiopians come around because I get to drink washed Ethiopians that taste like flowers and sugar. And I love it when Kenyans come around because I get to drink tomato coffee. And when Columbians are in season I get big bold, chocolatey citrusy things.