Black Eye takes the coffee-drinking experience to a richer level
Like beer, marijuana and oxygen bars, Colorado has quickly developed a subculture of people who like to geek-out on coffee, enjoying the everyday beverage on a level far beyond the utilitarian purpose of a quick stimulant. "We're here to deliver more than just caffeine; that's just a perk," says Ali Elman, co-owner of Black Eye Coffee, which opened last week in LoHi but is closed today to prepare for a grand opening tomorrow (and recover from a private party this past weekend).
All photos by Sara Ford. Ali Elman.
"We're going to ruin people's palates to the point where they won't be able to take a sip of Folgers or Starbucks," adds Gregory Ferrari, also of Black Eye. "Once they discover there's something better out there, they won't be satisfied with other coffees."
If you think coffee is just coffee, and consume it with the single-mindedness of a drunk with his Five O' Clock Vodka, then Black Eye Coffee probably isn't the place for you.
Walking into the old brick building on Navajo Street, customers are initially faced with the chemistry lab aesthetic of a pour-over station, a minimalist operation for brewing single cups at a time that the owners of Black Eye believe is integral to their standard of coffee drinking. "Coffee has a brief shelf life," explains Ferrari. "If you have a coffee that's brewed thirty minutes ago, it will change, the taste will flatten. So if you're really into tasting all the nuances of a coffee, it's important for that cup to be as fresh as possible."
Rather than offer numerous options like a Starbucks or Dazbog, Black Eye is more interested in curating a beverage experience for its patrons, offering a rotating option of four types of coffee at a time, which gives the operation more of an art gallery ethos rather than service industry.
And so far, the neighborhood has responded enthusiastically to this approach. "People have been coming back the next day to try a different pour-over," says Dustin Audet, the third co-owner of Black Eye. "They'll have the Burundi, then come back the next day for the Sweet Yellow Brazil, then Ethiopan Yirgacheffe, and they compare the differences. They can learn what they like, and be educated why they like what they like. It's like getting into wine."
Still, Elman is quick to point out that an academic mindset is not essential for anyone walking into Black Eye: "If you don't know everything about the coffee, that's okay. People still come in and have their favorites, you don't have to know the flavor profile to enjoy it."