C'est La Vie Wants to Bring THC Coffee Pods to Colorado Dispensaries | Westword

C'est La Vie Wants to Bring THC Coffee Pods to Colorado

It's been a slow pour so far, but success takes time to brew.
C'est La Vie Coffee plans to be in stores early next year.
C'est La Vie Coffee plans to be in stores early next year. C'est La Vie Coffee
Share this:
Nicholas Goodwin doesn't need caffeine to get giddy over coffee.

"I like the cherry notes and notes of pomegranate, blueberries and chocolate. I like hints of caramel and hazelnut. Talking about coffee gets me excited. It's more fun than playing with Baskin-Robbins' 31 Flavors," says the founder of C'est La Vie Coffee. "I've always wanted to run a coffee shop. Ever since I was a kid, when my grandma would make Folgers in the morning. She'd watch me when I was in school, and that's when I fell in love with coffee."

Despite his childhood introduction and continued love for coffee, however, Goodwin put his bean dream on the back burner after high school. Born in Germany to a military family and raised in Colorado Springs, he decided to become a dentist. But in 2016, while Goodwin was in his car at a stoplight, he was rear-ended by another car going full speed, pushing his car against the vehicle in front of him.

"The person who hit me wasn't paying attention, and the impact crushed my car like an accordion," he says. "I had seven surgeries in total. Multiple back surgeries. I had to learn how to walk again."

After two years of surgeries and physical rehab, Goodwin found himself addicted to opioid painkillers in his late twenties. His personality faded, and family members called him out for not being himself. His cousins tried to help, Goodwin says, even taking him on a cruise around Miami and the Bahamas to help him get sober and clear his mind.

"Because of the opioids, I don't remember any of it," he says. "When I got back, I cold-turkey'd myself and started experimenting with CBD and THC and had substantial relief. As I started doing more research, I wondered how this could help other people."

It didn't take long for coffee to enter the picture again. Goodwin, selling cell phones for AT&T in the Park Meadows mall at the time, began researching and brainstorming ways to connect his old and new passions. He knew he wanted to make cannabis-infused coffee, but how? And where? And with a full-time job that had zero tolerance for cannabis use, when?

He began experimenting with different ways to infuse coffee with THC and CBD extracted from cannabis. Finding the right flavor and ensuring the extract didn't separate from the coffee after brewing were two obvious challenges, but figuring out a consistent dosage and delivery method were two more major hurdles. The questions didn't end there. Should he sell whole beans? Ground coffee? Coffee pods?
click to enlarge Man stands in front of a fountain
C'est La Vie Coffee founder Nicholas Goodwin grew up enjoying the smell of Folgers in the morning at his grandmother's.
C'est La Vie Coffee

One thing he never doubted, though, was the name. A common saying in French for "That's life," C'est La Vie was named to honor Goodwin's mother, Diana, who loves France and often uses the phrase. And that wasn't the only way his family members aided the new potrepreneur.

"All I could rely on were myself, family and friends for testing it," he says. "I was getting off work and getting right to it, staying up all night trying to figure out the right mixtures. I'd be going to work the next day with zero sleep, but I'd be full of energy from all the coffee I was drinking the night before. There were a few times when I accidentally had too much THC and my eyes would be red, so my friends would have to warn me."

He settled on coffee pods, or K-Cups, to ensure a consistent dosage and infusion as well as easier compliance with Colorado's edibles serving laws, which require recreational THC edibles to be split into ten-milligram doses.

"When you grind and brew the beans, the THC oil still goes to the top. Mine is fully emulsified in the cup. With the K-Cup, I can dial it down to ten milligrams and it still tastes like a delicious cup of coffee. There's no THC taste," he explains.

However, Goodwin soon discovered that none of his friends and family had pod-using coffee makers, so he had to buy a couple of those, too. Still unlicensed and working out of his home, he knew he needed more help, so he enrolled with the Color of Cannabis, a minority-focused Denver incubation course for cannabis business owners.

Led by local cannabis social-equity advocate and mobile pot lounge owner Sarah Woodson, the Color of Cannabis recognized the value of both Goodwin's hustle and his edibles idea, naming him course valedictorian and awarding him $2,000 to launch his business. He used the money to pay for a machine to make his coffee pods and find a local coffee roaster, and had a little left over to secure a spot in a new production facility. The infused manufacturing outfit, launched by Woodson and the City of Denver as part of a $500,000 cannabis social equity grant, aims to host multiple startup cannabis businesses over the years.

"I've received a lot of technical assistance from them," Goodwin says. "It's a blessing. I've been searching for this place for a while. Sarah Woodson and the Color of Cannabis really helped that dream come to light. I had everything ready, but the operation was so spread out. They've helped me streamline it."

C'est La Vie will soon make cannabis teas and coffee creamer, as well, and Goodwin still dreams of opening that coffee shop one day — only this version includes a cannabis consumption lounge similar to those in Amsterdam. But right now, he's focusing on attaining the right business licenses and dispensary contracts to get his coffee pods in dispensaries. Although the pods aren't yet on any store shelves, C'est La Vie should be in dispensaries by early 2024, he predicts, right in time for Colorado's coldest weather.

"I was 28 years old with a cane. It was kind of cool for a point, but being in a body brace was really bad. It feels so good to be part of something bigger than me," he concludes.

It's been a slow pour for Goodwin so far, but success, like a good cup of coffee, takes time to brew. If that's not life, then what is?
Can you help us continue to share our stories? Since the beginning, Westword has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver — and we'd like to keep it that way. Our members allow us to continue offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food, and culture with no paywalls.