Roaster Feature: Huckleberry Roasters
It’s your classic coffee shop success story: Local barista meets customer. Customer becomes a regular. Barista and regular bond over a love for records and beer, becoming good friends. Friends experiment with roasting coffee in their garage. That coffee gives way to Huckleberry Roasters – Denver based coffee roaster and café producing some of Seattle Coffee Gear’s favorite coffee.
Huckleberry Roasters is the byproduct of entrepreneurs Koan Goedman and Mark Mann’s friendship that developed over a shared passion for community centric business practices and specialty coffee. Shown in their transparent relationship with their farmers, their ever growing staff of excited coffee professionals, and their dedicated following of customers expanding far beyond the Mile High City area – it’s clear that Huckleberry Roasters is doing something incredibly special.Huckleberry Roasters Pecos Street location. Image Credit: Ross Evertson
We caught up with co-founder Koan Goedman to hear a little bit about his personal journey in coffee, how Huckleberry Roasters came to be and where they’re going next, and his favorite home brew method.Huckleberry Roasters co-founders Koan Goedman (left) & Mark Mann (right). Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
It seems like every coffee enthusiast has a journey where really good coffee finally clicks for them. When was that aha moment for you?
Can I claim two "aha" moments or is that a huge cop-out? The first, which happened as a consumer, I remember quite vividly. It was a natural Ethiopia Harrar from Intelligentsia brewed on a Fetco in 2002. To be totally honest, I didn't seek it out and I didn't really know what to do with the coffee when I tasted it -- it was so radically different from what I thought coffee was. It was delicious and I wanted more! Fast forward most of a decade, the second a-ha moment came very early on in Huckleberry's existence. We'd just roasted a coffee from Guatemala, called Finca La Bolsa. Joe Marrocco from Cafe Imports suggested it and who was I to argue? It was one of the first coffees that we roasted and was legit tasty! We roasted it well, we sort of knew why & how we roasted it well. It was a milestone for a tiny coffee roasting company and it propelled us forward!Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
It’s one thing to go from simply enjoying coffee to stepping into the specialty coffee industry. What made you decide to take this venture on? What was the goal?
I wish this story was a bit more romantic, but here's the truth: it could have been anything! Mark Mann and I shared in an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to own a business together...and coffee is what we did, what we knew and what we were interested in. Had we been heavier/savvier drinkers, maybe it would've been a neighborhood bar (I own one of those now, so what does that say about me?). Had we been makers and better with our hands, maybe it would've been a leather goods company? We knew coffee, we had an amazingly supportive community through coffee and our decision was basically made for us. The path forward seemed clear(ish).
Like most businesses, our mission statement is a living thing. It changes from time to time. Our focus gets shaped and shifted as our experience teaches us what works. However, from day one, we've always wanted Huckleberry Roasters to mean something, stand for something and leave a mark. This certainly manifests itself in our coffee philosophy, where we try to be approachable and welcoming in the coffee we source, roast, brew and serve. That foundational goal also pushes us to be generous in our fundraising and support of organizations doing important work, while also pushing ourselves forward towards a healthy, thriving and fun company culture for our family of employees.The roasting process. Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
What is your favorite coffee that you currently are roasting?
Like picking a favorite child. This is cruel! I've been on a pretty big South & Central American coffee kick lately. We just roasted the last of some of our Colombian coffees, but we have a stunner from Costa Rica, called Santa Maria, that's just the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas. It's so good! Comforting in all the right ways with deep sweetness and fantastic body, but also with some grape and candied orange fruitiness that keeps your attention. It also happens to be one of the kinds of coffees that Huckleberry prides itself in! We're really proud of the cooperative (CoopeDota) it comes from and being able to help Costa Rica continue to be a global leader in sustainable coffee growing. It's maybe not the wild & crazy flavor profile you may get from a Kenya, but it's super drinkable and enjoyable. It's the kind of coffee that I think specialty coffee needs to truly embrace if we're going to keep growing.Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
What is your favorite way to brew at home?
Siphon. Ha ha. False - I'm not a psycho. Honestly, the go to is the Bonavita Auto Brewer. It's easy, it's consistent, it's fast, it makes good coffee and it allows me to spend my little free time with my family.
Outside of Huckleberry, are there any other roasters your excited about?
Most def! I (and Huckleberry on the whole) have a pretty big crush on the lovelies over at Cat & Cloud. Just a bunch of superheroes over there that are hitting all the marks right now! Plus, I used to go to Capitola Beach when I was growing up, so I have a soft spot for that city. I continue to always be in total awe of Counter Culture. (Do I just have a thing for roasters with the letter C?) Counter Culture keeps growing and does so with such smoothness and ease that it's almost irritating. If only they weren't so dang nice! We get to send them coffee from time to time and their roasters give us the best, no bulls*** constructive criticism we hear.Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
Community is clearly at the core of Huckleberry. How did that become so central to the ethos of what you guys are doing?
I think I hinted at this a little bit in an earlier response, but...we would be nothing without the love and support of our friends & families. They said our coffee tastes good when it didn't, and encouraged us to push onward. They said our coffee tasted bad when we thought we were masters, and still encouraged us to push forward. We embraced all that love and wanted to be sure that we passed it forward ourselves - be it in the communities of our cafes, be it in being helpful to other coffee companies, so on and so on. Sadly, I think the word community has become somewhat meaningless over the last few years. It's such a trendy word to throw around that it's stopped being meaningful in a lot of ways. We do our best to push back against that tide as much as we can!The friends behind Huckleberry. Image Credit: Kathleen Moloney
Anything else we should know about what you guys are doing at Huckleberry?
Oh, yea! Mark and I just signed our names on a lease to a new cafe! It's going to be super, duper mega radical! We'll be located in the activated lobby of The Maven Hotel in downtown Denver, as the anchor tenant to the Dairy Block development. It's a pretty expansive space, so we're going to be doing some fun stuff like a walk-up style service window on the sidewalk, in addition to the full-service counter inside. We'll be doing some exciting and snazzy food & drink things, as well as using the larger footprint to offer programming and educational workshops. Plenty to be worked out still, but sometime before the end of the year we'll be doling out LOTS of high fives!
Huckleberry Roasters is currently Seattle Coffee Gear's featured roaster, and we're proud to include a bag of their coffee with every order on Rocket espresso machines. Purchase a bag here.
To learn more about Huckleberry Roasters, visit their website at huckleberryroasters.com.Image Credit: Koan Goedman