Commonwealth Coffee is a new coffee roaster based in Denver, Colorado, founded by Jason Farrar and Ryan Fisher. The pair got things started last fall and I had the pleasure of meeting Ryan in Seattle at the SCAA Event in April. He sent me home with a stamped brown bag of their Ethiopian coffee that was one of my favorites on the post-SCAA cupping table and assured me that they had new bags coming out that would be fantastic. After seeing a couple process shots on his phone, I knew they were going to stand out—and that, they do.
The branding and the bags for Commonwealth are the work of notable designer and typographer Kevin Cantrell, whose intricate work looks like its from the bygone era of Freemasons and royal charters. The design is meant to reflect the core of Commonwealth Coffee, which represents unity between the quality of product and service. On the back of each bag is a quote from Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan which argues for the value of the social contract:
This is more than mere agreement or harmony; it is a real unity of them all. They are uniﬁed in that they constitute one single person, created through a covenant of every man with every other man… -Hobbes, Leviathan
The detailed line work wraps the entire bag in gold patterns, filling nearly every inch of empty space between the custom, typographic logo. Laced between the patterns and the flourishes you will find details of the coffee. Each country of origin also has be assigned it’s own custom typographic treatment that is just as well crafted as the logo itself. The details are tremendous. If Baz Lurhmann made a modern period film about coffee, this would be his bag of choice.
This video from Crema in Denver is brief but beautiful. Crema loves you and wants to make you a drink, here’s how they do it.
This shop came highly recommended from everyone I spoke to about coffee and it didn’t disappoint. The shop was small, but bright and comfortable. Fresh art on the walls and a bunch of cyclists sitting out front enjoying the weather. While I was there, they were serving Novo (roasted a block away) and Herkimer from Seattle. Their focus was mainly on espresso, but they had French presses available for fresh made coffee. It’s a bit of a walk from downtown, but totally doable and worth it.
While the name is overused, they have one of the coolest coffee websites I’ve seen.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of spending the day with Jake Brodsky, President and Co-Founder of Novo Coffee in Denver, Colorado. I’ve been involved with a great project in Boulder so I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the area recently. As much as I love this part of the country though, it can be a bit of a coffee desert. In Denver, I could only find two shops that offer single origin coffee, made to order—Novo’s own café beside the Denver Art Museum and Crema Coffee House ( and since returning home, I’ve also discovered Aviano Coffee).
For such a modern and progressive city, I found the coffee scene a bit disheartening and underwhelming. However, Novo has made it their mission to provide the Mile High City with great coffee, whether or not they have to do it alone.
Novo is a close-knit family run operation, I was greeted at the door by Jake’s father, who was just as excited about talking raw food as he was coffee. Their friendly spirit made me feel right at home in a way that doesn’t always come natural at roasteries.
The roasting facility is located in an extremely generous space north of downtown in the warehouse district. Complete with a barista training lab, cupping room, and ping pong table. At the center of the room were two beautiful Vittoria roasters that had been rebuilt and lovingly customized to complete the space.
The first time I tried Novo was a cup of Amaro Gayo, Ethiopia at Chinatown Coffee Company in DC. I remember it being the first time I strayed from my normal Intelligentsia selection and had no regrets. I was extended an invite to visit Novo’s roastery via Twitter and decided to schedule it along with their Friday afternoon cupping. The cupping had been canceled for the week, but that didn’t stop Jake from setting up a beautiful spread of coffee for me to try anyway.
The four coffees we tried were unique and diverse, with a slant towards the Ethiopian coffees where Novo tends to specialize. There was a Papau New Guinea (Kunjin) that smelled and tasted so much like tomato soup, I couldn’t think of anything else. We tried an El Salvador Pacamara (Mundani) that was smooth and floral. The Aleta Wondo from Ethiopian was a bright and gingery experience, while the Anyetsu from Wellega, Ethiopia blew me away with a mouthful of black currant and cocoa pebbles. I kept returning to it as a clear favorite and left with a couple bags of my own.
After cupping, we grabbed lunch at a great cafe and talked about the ample opportunity for coffee growth in Denver. Jake gave me a tour around town and suggested a fantastic place for dinner, proving that he knows good food as well as he knows good coffee. Nothing beats a day filled with great people and great coffee.