Last September, the owners of a new brewery called Novel Strand unveiled their plans to open in a former convenience store at 305 West First Avenue in the Baker neighborhood. While the brewery isn't quite ready to open, Denver-based specialty coffee roaster Queen City Collective Coffee, which shares the space, will begin serving this Saturday, June 23, and will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. thereafter.
Two years ago, brothers Luke, Scott and Eric Byington started Queen City after years of international experience and connections with Zimbabwe and Rwanda. Eric and Scott ran the Elias Fund, a nonprofit founded by Chad Urmston, a family friend. The fund was launched with the intent of helping one Zimbabwean gardener, Elias Sithole, and his three sons, but the initial fundraiser was so successful that it evolved into a full-fledged organization to help reduce poverty and empower Zimbabwean communities.
Eric and Scott worked for the Elias Fund for seven years before Scott decided to pursue a master's degree in rural environmental sociology. He focused on rural development in southern Africa, which included a stint of research at the University of Zimbabwe. "Through that work, I got to know a lot of farmers, some of whom happened to be coffee farmers," Scott explains.
Luke, meanwhile, spent three years roasting with Allegro Coffee Roasters and also helped open new ACR shops around the country. Scott says that when he finished school, Luke came to him and said, "You know all these farmers [and] I know how to roast.'' So the two joined forces along with Eric, who has a master's degree in business administration, and the three started their coffee company. "Denver used to be known as the Queen City of the plains, but [our name] is also a subtle nod to the growers that we're working with," explains Scott.
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After roasting 200-pound batches of coffee in a closet at Bellwether (a combination coffee bar/cocktail bar/barber shop on East Colfax Avenue) for close to a year, the brothers were finally able to move into a bigger space that was previously inhabited by MiddleState Coffee at Fourth Avenue and Broadway. (Middle State is in the process of moving to a larger location on Santa Fe Drive.)
The Byingtons' coffee has been available at Crema, Weathervane, Bellwether and Pour, but the Baker cafe will be the first official QCCC retail location. In addition to small-batch coffee and espresso-based drinks, Queen City will pour cold brew coffee and nitro tea on tap.
QCCC's flagship relationship is with a women's co-op in Rwanda, and a portion of its proceeds go to support the community there. Last year alone, enough money was raised to build drying beds in the co-op's coffee-processing center. Queen City also has relationships with growers in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Colombia. "We are trying to roast and source coffees you want to drink every day," says Scott.
Festivities for the grand opening include a "$1 drip coffee for life" card for the first 25 customers.