I’ve known about Verve for a while, but I hadn’t actually tried their coffee until recently. I had been completely enamored with their packaging, so I’m not sure what took so long for me to order some. Recently, I met Josh Kaplan, director of wholesale for Verve, while I was in Houston and had planned a visit to Sweetleaf the following week in NYC—who brews Verve. So everything fell in place for me to finally experience their coffee.
After a great experience at Sweetleaf, where Rich served up my first cup of Verve, he sent me on my way with a bag of Ethiopian Worka. However, I wasn’t able to brew it until meeting up with Mike White a few days later. By then, the beans were slightly passed peak freshness—and though it was good, I felt like I missed out on what it really had to offer. After getting home, I ordered a bag of their Ethiopian Lomi Peaberry—and after a series of shipping mishaps—really enjoyed this sweet and effervescent coffee.
But after all the shipping issues, which weren’t the fault of Verve, they made up for it anyway by sending me a fresh bag of Ethiopian Worka and my very own OG mug. I now had a second chance to taste this coffee in its prime and it didn’t disappoint.
Aroma: After opening the bag, I was blown away with dueling characteristics of Booberry and Count Chocula cereals. Dry and malty, but incredibly sweet with vanilla undertones. Once brewed, the cold cereal aroma became a warm buttered blueberry waffle. L’eggo my Eggo, this cup was all mine.
Taste: When the coffee fills your mouth, you discover dabs of sweet maple syrup that have burrowed into the bluberry waffle’s grid-like caverns. The syrupy body coats your mouth like a spoon of Mrs. Buttersworth’s, followed by a finish that is clean and bright—like a final swig of orange garnished spring water as you leave the table after Sunday morning brunch. Heavy and sweet, but well balanced.
This coffee is really exceptional, one of my favorites in recent months. I have no idea why it took so long to try Verve, but I’m glad that I have and I’m looking forward to more of their coffee in the future. Everyone I’ve spoken with at the company has been really awesome and I’ve found out first hand, just how much they value customer service.
It’s also very clear—once you’ve held a bag of their coffee in your hand—how great of an understanding and appreciation they have for design. There are few, if any, coffee bags that could rival the intricacy and production value of theirs. It feels nice in your hand and looks great on your counter. The best part is, the complexity and quality of the package reflects that of the product inside.
This video is a trailer for an upcoming [now available] book called Coffee Story: Ethiopia, published by Ninety Plus Coffee. The book, written by adventure author Majka Burhardt and photographed by father & son duo Travis and Helmut Horn, tell a variety of stories about coffee and it’s role in Ethiopian culture. With Ethiopia being the legendary birthplace of coffee, there is a lot of history and folklore weaved into the culture and this book is meant to share some of it. It should be an enlightening read for any coffee lover.
Ninety Plus Coffee works with producers at origin in Ethiopia and Panama to develop and implement new packing technologies and other system-related solutions to help source, develop and export some of the highest quality coffee from these regions. You may be unknowingly familiar with them if you’ve ever tasted a Nekisse, Amaro Gayo or Hartmann Honey. The site’s blog reads less like that of a coffee exporter and more like the travel journal of a romantic, experiencing the wonders of a beautiful world.
Along with publishing the upcoming book on Ethiopia, Ninety Plus also offers a sensory spoon handmade from ancient silver coins in Ethiopia as well as the opportunity to become part owner of an Ethiopian Gesha Farm. The company has a very unique and refreshing approach to sharing their business with the rest of the industry.
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.