Cafe Society

Marley Coffee Cranks Up Bicycle Caffes Around Denver

You may have seen a black-and-gold bicycle-trailer contraption peddling coffee and other treats on the 16th Street Mall at Larimer Street; it's been setting up shop there since January. Now Marley Coffee, the brainchild of chairman Rohan Marley (son of reggae legend Bob), is expanding its bicycle caffe program into office buildings, special events and other locations in an attempt to penetrate deeper into the Denver market since setting up headquarters here just over a year ago.

See also: Marley Coffee Is High on Denver

Brent Toevs, CEO of Marley Coffee, explains that the mobile coffee units -- powered by propane or electricity -- are already serving espresso-based coffee drinks, drip coffee, juices and grab-and-go snacks at several other public and private locations throughout the area. In addition to the 16th Street Mall location, there's a mobile caffe parked in the lobby of the Alliance Center, at 1536 Wynkoop Street (just up the street from the Tattered Cover); in the Citadel office building, at 3200 Cherry Creek Drive; and the Orchard Falls office building, at 7800 East Orchard Road in Greenwood Village.

Toevs says that there are six of the mobile units in permanent spots, plus one more that's making the rounds of special events, including University of Colorado football games and EatDenver's Harvest Week later this month.

"Most celebrity brands are a name and a picture," explains Toevs. But Rohan Marley actually owns 52 acres of farmland in Jamaica's Blue Mountains, where he's dedicated to growing coffee organically and sustainably. "Marley was trying to get [organic] certification when it really didn't exist in Jamaica," he continues, noting that the company's chairman was teaching farmers and the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica about organic-farming practices in the early 2000s. "We think about our crop not just for next year, but for twenty to thirty years from now."

Marley Coffee's goal for the bicycle caffes is to sell all of company's products available to consumers in grocery stores. That means espresso drinks and drip coffee made from whole beans (from Jamaica, Ethiopia and other coffee-growing regions) as well as coffees (and teas) made from a single-serve brewing setup. As of March or April of 2015, those single-serve drinks will be made using recyclable "eco-cups" -- the first in the coffee industry, according to Toevs. Each eco-cup comprises enough ground coffee for one serving, a natural-fiber filter that's compostable, and the plastic pod itself, which can be recycled. The only non-reclaimable part is the tear-off plastic cover -- a fraction of the total amount of materials used.

The caffes -- depending on location and customer volume -- also sell Irish moss smoothies from Island Peppapot (a juice and catering company specializing in Jamaican cuisine), pastries, breakfast burritos and pre-made sandwiches.

By partnering with businesses and property-management companies, Marley Coffee hopes to bring a higher-quality coffee experience to corporate employees. "It's amazing how many man hours are lost to employees leaving [their offices] to get coffee," says Toevs. Pricing for caffe placement varies, depending on the number of employees at a location, he continues. Right now, the carts come with a trained Marley Coffee employee who can serve between twenty and forty cups of coffee an hour, but if the concept continues to grow, Toevs expects that new locations will be able to provide their own employees (who would be trained by the coffee company).

That future growth potential includes non-bicycle units for smaller spaces, more bicycle caffes for Denver, and possibly more nationwide (right now the only one outside Denver is in Vancouver, British Columbia), but that depends on the company's ability to hire the right people to monitor quality in multiple locations. Denver, for now, is the company's ideal focus for growth, concludes Toevs, because of the city's "quality of life, cost of living, and talented young people with the same mentality."

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation