Denver is full of coffee people — shops, roasters, baristas and consumers. Self-identified coffee person Kathryn Melheim noticed how many people in the industry were involved in creative side projects outside of coffee, so she started a creative side project of her own dedicated to them: the Coffee People zine.
Melheim got her start in coffee five years ago, first as a barista and then as a roaster at Logan House Coffee. Her inspiration for the zine came after attending a friend's art show at Port Side last year. "I went to this art show, and I was blown away by how awesome it was," she recalls. "I thought: What other baristas and coffee professionals do I know that maybe create things that don't have an outlet? I want a place for everybody to show off their stuff, because everybody does really awesome stuff, but nobody has a place to put it where everybody can see it."
That's how Coffee People was born. This past March she released the first issue, Spring 2018, which weighed in at forty pages. Melheim chose to do a seasonal zine versus quarterly because, as she puts it, "it seems more natural. Coffee itself is an agricultural product, subject to seasons."
The first two issues received submissions from as far away as Minnesota, California and Philadelphia, and were shipped to readers in countries such as Sweden and Japan. The newest installment, Autumn 2018, has plenty of Denver-based content. Though its reach has spread far beyond Denver, the Mile High City is still the main focus. Recurring articles written by Melheim include new shops that have opened in and around the metro area since the last issue, as well as a coffee shop and barista feature. Features on Allegro Coffee Company, barista Karl Gunselman from Huckleberry and new openings of Brew Culture, Spur, Doppio and Amethyst Lakeside make up a few of the issue's ninety-plus pages.
"It's been able to connect people — all who love and have an involvement in the coffee industry, and connecting them on non-coffee levels," says Melheim. "There are a lot of coffee-industry get-togethers…but everybody only talks about coffee at those things. ... I love coffee as much as the next person — probably more — but I was getting frustrated with the one-dimensionality of the conversations. We are also humans and people, with other things that are important to us, so let's talk about those things, too."
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In addition to connecting people in the industry, Coffee People invests in the Denver coffee community by giving one dollar from every copy sold to a local cause. Proceeds from the Autumn issue benefit Cherry Roast, a Denver-based coffee competition for women, transgender and queer folks. Now in its third year, the Cherry Roast promotes inclusivity by providing underrepresented coffee-industry people a safe place to participate in latte art competitions. Former recipients include the #coffeetoo movement that advocates for workers' rights, and Prodigy Coffeehouse, the nonprofit shop that trains and employs at-risk young adults.
"My basic vision for it is a platform for people to share their creative things —o I want to be able to allow musicians and dancers and videographers the same platform," says Melheim. Her dream of expanding the zine to incorporate multi-dimensional art will be realized at the release of the third issue.
Beginning at 6 p.m. tonight (Thursday, September 27), seventeen films, all made by coffee people and ranging in length from thirty seconds to thirty minutes, will be screened at Allegro Coffee Roasters at 4040 Tennyson Street. Tickets are $8 at eventbrite.com or $10 at the door and include food, drinks and raffle tickets for tickets to other film festivals...and coffee, of course.
Copies of the zines past and present (and a Denver field guide to coffee that Melheim also put together) are available online or in person at places around town like Amethyst, Black Eye, Purple Door, Huckleberry, Crema and lots more. Visit the Coffee People website if you're interested in learning more, purchasing a zine or submitting content.