Junction shops pour special touches into customers' java experience
Let’s do a free association exercise. What comes to mind when you think about October?
Autumn. Frost. Halloween. Ghosts. Pumpkins.
Pumpkin spice lattes?
Yes, a lot of us probably associate the autumn chill air and shortening days with specialty lattes. We even look forward to the day pumpkin spice appears on coffee shop menus like kids look forward to Christmas.
But before Starbucks developed the pumpkin spice latte in 2003 — Starbucks also more or less reinvented the American coffee habit in the decade previous — it’s likely no one was thinking of latte flavors as the seasons passed. Or ever.
Between 1990 and 2000, the number of Starbucks stores exploded from 84 to 3,501. In the years since, plenty of other locally owned and operated coffee shops cropped up to take advantage of our addictive coffee culture. And now we’re a coffee-drinking people with a caffeinated vocabulary: americanos, breves and macchiatos!
The world went through 150 million 130-pound bags of coffee in 2016, according to a recent Bloomberg report.
And a 2013 study by the company Accounting Principles found the average American coffee drinker spends about $1,200 per year on coffee. No matter how you drink it, that’s a lot of java.
I’m a fan of coffee culture and make it a goal to visit every coffee shop I can in every town I spend any time in, which brings me to my recent coffee shop rounds in Grand Junction.
Although Grand Junction has the seemingly required assortment of Starbucks shops, offering average big-chain service at average prices, it also has at least 11 local shops that specialize in coffee, each putting personal touches on the coffee movement kicked off by the Seattle-based behemoth.
Below is a short summary of each of the 11 shops I found around Grand Junction, all with varying prices and special offerings.
If your favorite was missed, I’m sorry. Coffee is a jittery trend that can be hard to tie down, and this is a selection, not a comprehensive accounting of all area coffee shops and drinks. The list had to be narrowed one way or another.
So speaking of jittery, Jitterz Coffee Shop opened in 1997 as a little coffee shed — it’s now called Jitterz Coffee Hut, which is located on North Street in front of REI.
In June, Jitterz added a brick and mortar location at 2700 U.S. Highway 50 on Orchard Mesa, where the store continues to serve fair trade coffee beans air-roasted by the Kaladi company in Denver and cold coffee on a nitro tap that’s brewed in Montrose.
Jitterz also serves pumpkin- flavored drinks all year-round, a common trend among local shops striving to keep their pumpkin- jonesing customers happy no matter if it’s Thanksgiving week or Easter.
The store also has the community at its heart, another common trend among local shops.
Jitterz owner Josie Wright tries to keep her prices low so kids from the high school near the hut location can grab an affordable sandwich or chai, and she’s working on a program she plans to call “Mindful Mondays,” with some of the proceeds from all drinks sold on Mondays will be donated to scholastic mindfulness programs.
Another coffee spot keeping the community in mind is The Artful Cup, at 3090 N. 12th St., which happens to serve some of the most affordable coffee in town. If you bring in your own reusable cup, you can get a coffee for under a buck, all in support of HopeWest Kids.
Four Winds Coffee and Tea, 1235 Bookcliff Ave., also is distinctively about more than coffee. This shop is a nonprofit at work for the Christ Center.
Aside from fun seasonal drinks, such as the white chocolate pumpkin pie latte offered now, crepes, wraps and burritos, locally roasted Colorado Legacy beans and homemade butterscotch sauce, Four Winds has a weekly Sunday supper that is free for college kids.
Oh, and it has a daily happy hour between 2–4 p.m. when drinks are a dollar off.
Those who work on Main Street but don’t want to get in a car to hit Four Winds’s happy hour for a jolt could try Roasted Espresso and Subs, 502 Colorado Ave., which has a happy hour from 2–4 p.m. daily with drinks and food half price.
This young, vibrant, somewhat hole-in-the-wall coffee shop has a cult following and never a dull moment. Tolerate the blasting music and tight space, and you’ll find yummy goodies from Homestyle and Mihaela’s bakeries, locally roasted organic and fair trade coffee beans, “lots of love” and the city’s “best dance moves,” according to barista Spence Lenz.
Among the Main Street-area coffee slingers to consider when you’re downtown is Kiln Coffee Bar, 326 Main St. This hip, minimalist spot opened at the end of May and is in many ways similar to a wine tasting room, but for coffee.
Manager Jacob McDaniel said Kiln is about letting the coffee “speak for itself” and not overwhelming customers with menu options, which is why Kiln has only two sizes and two special flavorings, which are homemade.
(Don’t fear: One of those flavors is pumpkin this fall, and it will have peppermint on hand in the winter.)
What’s important to Kiln is responsibility through the coffee supply chain, from the farmers to the roasters to Kiln, McDaniel said. The shop offers a constant rotation of small-batch beans from a variety of roasters, and customers can try these varietals via a pour-over bar.
“The pour-over bar is an especially fun way to try coffees from all over the world,” said McDaniel, adding that different roasters can produce very different-tasting beans, even if the beans have the same origin.
Kiln makes coffee into an art at every step, including lattes with hearts made out of the foam, and will host a Latte Art Throw-Down at 7 p.m. Saturday that is open to the public. Baristas from shops all over town have signed up to take part in the event.
Just down the street from Kiln is Java Junction at 602 Main St., where it is tucked into the Robin’s Nest antiques store. The shop also can be directly accessed halfway up the block on North Sixth St.
Java Junction has the distinction of being the oldest coffee shop in Grand Junction, at least according to its owner Sterling Bock, who has owned it with his wife Debra for 20 years.
The small shop serves quality goods, including biscotti made by Bock’s mother, a delicious homemade chai and all the holiday-themed concoctions. Notably, Java Junction doesn’t force you to come to it. It caters with a portable espresso bar that you may have seen at functions across the Grand Valley.
If you’re a particular coffee fan and you’ve read this far, you’re probably asking, when’s she going to mention Octopus Coffee?
Octopus, with a store at 759 Horizon Drive and a hut in front of Mesa County Libraries’ Central Library, is perhaps most notable for its huge flavored latte menu and its regionally famous burritos.
The shop is a bit pricey, and manager Bryan Collings said that’s because the business tries to source socially and environmentally conscious beans and use as much local and organic products in its coffee and food items as possible.
If you’re hooked on Octopus, but your wallet is hurting, try biking to its locations and you’ll get a 50 cent discount, or bring a reusable cup, which will win you 25 cents off.
Two other coffee hotspots north of downtown are The Coffee Trader, at 666 Paterson Road, and Mountain Grind Coffee Company, 936 North Ave.
The Coffee Trader is perhaps better known in Montrose, where it takes up a charming old downtown house, but the Grand Junction location serves the same solid coffee and holiday goodness, and not just for the big holidays, either. Trader likes to do specials on the smaller holidays, too, such as cherry pistachio scones around Valentine’s Day and nutty Irishman lattes for St. Patrick’s Day.
Mountain Grind has some holiday features as well, such as a caramel apple butter latte. Khloe Tompkins, who owns the store with her sister, stressed that Mountain Grind’s specialty drinks are available all year unlike Starbucks, where she used to work before opening her own shop.
Tompkins takes pride in having some of the lowest prices in town, which she would like to keep lower than Starbucks, a store that drove her crazy with its waste, she said.
Tompkins plans her coffee store needs carefully to avoid waste, and she includes homemade touches, such as peach jalapeno jam and jalapeno- cilantro dressing for her lunch items and baked goodies made by Mom.
Similarly, offering homemade touches is important at Trailhead Coffee Bar and Cafe, 413 Monument Road, on the Redlands.
Owner Kelly Michel serves bakery and lunch items made mostly in-house and uses beans roasted in Montrose that are fairtrade and organic. She also has acquired quite a following.
“We have a senior crowd that sits here for three or four hours a day,” Michel said.
Trailhead will serve the regular rounds of holiday drinks, although it gets specialty requests all year long that it is happy to fulfill.
Another Redlands spot, Monument Village Coffee Shop, 2148 Broadway, is a bit of a home base for customers, as well, many of whom receive a warm greeting and joyful hug from owner Debbie Hansow-Reardon upon walking through the door.
Hansow-Reardon offers a mean breakfast and lunch menu that seems to keep people coming back for more, and she’s not shy about it.
“I’ve been told I make the best burritos in town,” Hansow-Reardon said. “Right now, though, everybody’s on this kick for biscuits and gravy. I run out of biscuits and gravy every single day.”
Monument Village offers pumpkin-flavored drinks all year-round, a selection of dog toys, locally-made soaps and a mug shelf, where regulars can leave personal mugs with their names on them.
Hansow-Reardon said she keeps her prices reasonable on principle. She doesn’t want to take people’s money, after all, her customers also are her friends.
“I’m not going to get rich doing this no matter what I do,” she said.
But even if no one’s getting rich, latte prices add up. If you’re addicted to coffee but don’t want to spend more than a grand a year on your habit, you could always get your java fix at home.
A pour-over cup of coffee using standard grocery store-bought, pre-ground coffee and a filter could cost you about 52 cents a cup. (Yes, I did the math.)
Heat up a cup of milk and use a pressurized coffee maker — Aeropress or Bialetti — to make espresso, and you will spend about 80 cents for a latte.
But have you noticed how everything tastes better when someone else makes it for you?
Plus, where are you going to find your own pumpkin spice and peppermint mocha mix? And what about meeting your friends or holding a meeting?
To the coffee shop!