Chelsea Keeney has been covering Denver's coffee scene, from new neighborhood openings to where to find the perfect cortado or creative coffee cocktail. And now she's getting to know the caffeine crew even better with a new series profiling baristas, roaster and coffee shop owners. Here's the first — a chat with New Zealander Hayden Barnie of Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen.
After nearly fifteen years in the coffee industry around the world, New Zealander Hayden Barnie has found himself in Denver with his wife, Amy Cohen, as co-owner of Stowaway Coffee + Kitchen. After five months of settling into the RiNo neighborhood, Barnie gives us some insight on what it’s like to be a new business owner, what the coffee scene is like in New Zealand and Australia, and what he hopes to bring to the Denver coffee scene.
Hayden’s start in coffee is a familiar one, but it evolved into something much bigger than a coffee job to pay the bills during art school. After doing the barista routine, he learned how to tinker with espresso machines, which became a full-time gig until he moved to Japan — where he met Amy — to teach English.
The couple eventually dropped anchor in Australia, where Hayden had an opportunity to work for Coffee Supreme, a well-known coffee company based out of New Zealand. Hayden says that working in coffee always interested him from early on, especially being from New Zealand, where coffees from all over the world are abundant and the quality is superb everywhere you go. “Once you’ve been exposed to that very high level of quality, there’s no going back,” he explains.
And that’s what he’s trying to bring to Stowaway. He notes that the product is the complete experience, and every step of the process should be as good as it can be — from water quality to the grind.
In Denver, this quality has been received with open arms in the coffee community. Barnie says he cannot express enough how grateful he and Amy are to really feel like they are contributing to a growing community and bringing people together. Where Melbourne is the epitome of saturation, Denver is not yet close to that, he points out. There’s still a lot of room for new guys, he adds, and speaks of the experience here as “totally positive — that everyone has been really welcoming and supportive of us just coming here and opening, where I’m not sure you would find that elsewhere. We’ve felt lucky to land in such a good little spot. Everyone is humble and hardworking.”
Barnie himself is also incredibly humble and hardworking. From the beginning of our conversation, he was spouting out other baristas, roasters — Stowaway features Corvus and Boxcar — and coffee-shop owners he deemed far more talented than himself. When I ask him what his favorite kind of drink is to make, he chuckles and says, “Ones that turn out good.” He’s quick to confess that latte art is not his strong suit. Coming from the machine-mechanic side of things, his training on coffee has been much more behind-the-scenes and less showy than the typical rosetta masters who swirl patterns into foam. Still, Barnie pours a flat white — an Australian style of cappuccino with a more velvety texture — that leaves no one complaining.
I ask him what has been the hardest part of being a small business owner so far: “The hardest part — it’s all kind of hard, but it all kind of melts together. But it’s not a drag,” he responds. Hayden and Amy each have different strengths but still consult each other with decisions. Hayden runs the coffee program while Amy runs the food, but they have to work well together to make sure everything runs smoothly. At this point, it seems like business ownership suits them well. Every time I’ve stopped by, both coffee and food woo me — and the neighborhood agrees. Stowaway is generally packed every morning, with even bigger crowds on the weekends.