Travel for work can be intense and rewarding. It can also be exhausting. My way of coping is to try to do at least one fun thing on each trip. For me, that usually means finding good food or coffee. My most recent trip to Denver was going to be my last for the foreseeable future so I wanted to make it count. My co-workers and I planned what turned out to be a wonderful dinner at Rioja. I also put two coffee destinations on my itinerary. The first was Aviano Coffee.
Aviano is just south of downtown Denver in an old stone office building that’s been gutted and turned into several newer stores. The café itself is pleasant and comfortable, despite the lack of natural light. Leather chairs and a couch sit in the center, surrounded by a mix of high and low tables and there’s free wi-fi available. The walls are lined with a mix of local art and coffee-decor, like coffee sacks. It also has elements of a vaguely Roman architecture theme with (unappealing) marble table tops and a dome in the center of the room. This choice seemed odd to me given their choice of coffee provider which usually embodies more of a modern, even deco theme. There is also apparently a second floor, which I missed.
I first learned about Aviano on Mile High Buzz and had since looked at their website and read lots of reader comments. Everything pointed to good coffee, but no one pointed out one of Aviano’s most distinctive features: they serve Intelligentsia coffee! But Aviano doesn’t just serve one or two Intelligentsia beans. They serve Intelligentsia’s Black Cat espresso, have two rotating Intelligentsia drip coffees, sell anywhere from 5-10 different intelligentsia beans (based what’s in season and depending on how close it is to their weekly shipment), sell Intelligentsia’s tea and even have cups, both paper and ceramic, with Intelligentsia’s logo. They lack the Intelligentsia name on the front door and possibly a clover machine, but for all intents and purposes, they are an Intelligentsia franchisee.
Of course, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve had Intelligentsia from Intelligentsia (the LA branch is still on my list), and that was the last time I was truly impressed. The Intelligentsia I’ve had at other cafes just hasn’t been that good. But I had high hopes for Aviano given the level of their Intelligentsia commitment. I ordered a macchiato, which looked great and tasted even better. It was sweet and nutty with just a hind of something spicy. It also had this slight caramelized taste like the edges of a well done chocolate-chip cookie.
The drip coffee, on the other hand, was somewhat disappointing. They were serving two: the New Guinea (medium) and the El Diablo (dark). I ordered a cup of the New Guinea to go. It was hot, but had a stale airpot taste and otherwise didn’t impress me all that much, especially after the macchiato. It’s not that surprising that the coffee wasn’t fresh; it was late in the afternoon on a Friday. Since I was leaving and really only wanted a taste, I didn’t bother to send it back. But, at the very least the barista should have warned me the coffee might be old; maybe have provided me with the option of an Americano if they didn’t want to brew a whole new pot.
During my five recent trips there, I’ve only managed to make it to a few of Denver’s cafes and have probably overlooked a good micro-roaster or two, but that said, there’s no doubt that Intelligentsia Denver Aviano Coffee is definitely worth a visit.