Novo Coffee was the other coffee destination on my latest trip to Denver. In full disclosure, it’s not my first visit. A couple of trips ago I stopped by their Arvada store, and I’ve had their coffee at home a couple of times. This time I went to their café across from the entrance of the Denver Art Museum. Novo makes up one of three pieces of well-designed food court, along with “Mad Greens” and “Mad Wine,” meant to serve the museum crowd. My goal this time was the now, quite famous, Esmeralda Geisha coffee.
Novo’s Esmeralda Geisha is not some of the famous auction lot that sold for $130/pound, but it’s hardly second tier coffee either. It still runs $56/lb and costs $7 a cup on the clover! I was worried that it possibly couldn’t live up to the hype – well, it did and didn’t. It was amazing. It had strong notes of jasmine and a moderate level of acidity with hints of lemon. It was light and clean, but not too delicate, and generally pretty incredible. At the same time, I’m not sure it’s my cup of tea, or perhaps that’s just it. It so closely resembles (a really good) tea, that I almost forgot I was drinking coffee. Throw in the cost and the fact that lemony coffees have gone a bit sour for me recently, and I decided to pass on buying it.
The real fun started when I went up to buy some beans. It was Friday night and so the place was generally pretty empty. In no time, I found myself deeply entrenched in a very geeky conversation about coffee with the barista. We talked coffee and drank coffee with her brewing up several cups for us to taste (too many tastes to talk about here). Before we were done, I met Jake and Herb Brodsky, two-thirds of father-son trio that heads up Novo, who happened to just be there that evening. I talked more coffee with them before turning back to my bean selection. I ended up with the Lake Tawar Sumatran – still one of my favorites – and the Beloya Selection One (stay tuned for coffee@home for these two).
I unfortunately bought too few bags – I forgot to get a couple of gifts – and had to head back briefly the next night. While there, I ordered a macchiato, realizing that I actually hadn’t tried Novo’s espresso. They brewed up a cup with the Eleta Espresso. My first thought was that something was off. The flavor was deep and rich, yet somehow empty. After tasting some more, I realized that I was coming across an almost ethereal quality, like good alcohol, that simply evaporates or perhaps like butter that melts away as you drink it. I’m not sure how it would work without milk, but it had the most amazing mouthfeel I can remember experiencing.
I’m sure it’s obvious by now that I’m a big fan of Novo. I like their coffee, their philosophy of working closely with the coffee growers, and their push to raise coffee consciousness. I also like the fact that they are the first top-tier coffee roaster I’ve been to that doesn’t just cater to the uber-hip, twenty-something, dark glasses crowd; it’s nice to see, that good coffee is reaching a different demographic. Of course, Novo may not be for everyone. They roast quite light. Other than Ritual, I’m not sure I’ve tasted anyone who roasts this light. But that said, if you’re headed to the mile-high city or simply looking for your next mail order location, you should certainly give Novo a try.