There's no better way to try Novo Coffee than in one of the company's two Denver cafes, one on East 6th Avenue and one downtown. "Our retail locations are a great way to showcase our coffee," says president and co-founder Jake Brodsky. "The fact that we do it in our own cafes gives us more strength," he adds.
Brodsky also has plans for a new Novo cafe in Highlands Square, which could be open by spring.
Novo started as a wholesale roasting facility in the former Denargo Market in River North in 2002 by Herb Brodsky and his sons Jake and Joseph. The family business has opened and closed a number of retail locations since then, including a space in the Denver Art Museum complex and a cafe where the current Two Rivers Craft Coffee Company is located in Arvada. Currently Novo runs two cafes and has moved the roaster to a bigger warehouse on Larimer Street, where they relocated about seven years ago. Novo also sells coffee to a number of cafes in metro Denver.
Jake Brodsky says Novo would eventually like to move into a larger roasting location, although there's still plenty of room in the current one. He's been on the lookout, but competition is difficult with marijuana growers taking all the large warehouses.
The Atmosphere "Each is unique to the neighborhood," says Brodsky of the two current cafes, adding that the two locations are different but retain a clear branding. Both cafes feature a clean-lined modern design with a focus on the coffee bar itself. The 6th Avenue cafe features plenty of dark gray and black in the paint scheme and furniture, but there are also retro highlights and large windows that make it bright and cozy, especially in the couch corner. The downtown Novo theme is more industrial, with blond wood, painted metal stools and plenty of welded steel.
Beyond Coffee Each cafe has a small selection of pastries and baked goods from Denver's Sugar Bakeshop, and they also recently began serving breakfast sandwiches and panini provided by Share Good. Sugar Bakeshop's pop tarts should be a favorite for anyone who's a sucker for the nostalgic; the filling is fresh and not too sweet (unlike the classic Pop Tarts), and the pastry stays crisp and flaky despite the fruit filling. The new Novo location in the Highland neighborhood will also offer crepes. The cafes serve Colorado Tea Company's tea and two different brands of kombucha: Happy Leaf at 6th Avenue and Upstart Kombucha downtown.
The Buzz If you want to experience quality coffee while learning about the flavors of different bean varieties, Novo's roasting facility offers cupping sessions, lead by lead roaster Erich Rosenberg. Guests can see and feel the beans before they've been roasted, and smell the differences. The aromas of unroasted beans are subtle, but the experience shows participants how different each bean variety is from its origins. During the actual tasting, you're invited to smell whole roasted beans, then the ground coffee before it's brewed, then, of course, the brewed cups, which you'll later taste with a slurp from a spoon. The slurp, according to Rosenberg, allows you to smell and taste it at the same time. The hour-long tastings are at noon every Friday at the roaster and everyone leaves with a bag of freshly roasted coffee; reservations are encouraged.
The Roaster Rosenberg is Novo's head roaster, and the roaster he uses, a La Vittoria roaster from the 1960s, was always meant to be his. The roaster, which roasts about 60 pounds of coffee at a time, has his initials--ER--carved or stamped into the metal by a previous user, maybe, he suggested, a former version of himself.
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The smaller one, which he can use for smaller batches--thirty to eight pounds--is also a La Vittoria but was built in 1995 and actually runs on a Ferrari engine.