By Jennifer Pund
Coffee lovers in Gilpin County are celebrating. A new oasis in the “coffee desert” between Nederland and Back Hawk has opened in the form of a drive-thru coffee cart. Commuters, travelers and others driving the Peak to Peak Highway no longer have to travel long distances for, or do without, a good coffee drink. Jeremey Allensworth and his wife Tiffani Hartz, owners of Black Hawk’s Mountain Mocha Café and Peak City Roasters, are “excited” to provide their freshly roasted and brewed coffee offerings from their new Peak City Roasters Coffee Cart housed in a vintage 1973 Cardinal travel trailer in front of the Last Shot Restaurant.
The new coffee cart, open daily 7 a.m.-2 p.m., offers a full espresso bar, drip coffee, iced coffee drinks as well as assorted baked pastries and treats. Look for the “Espresso” flag waving alongside the highway at 17250 Hwy. 119—about 10 miles north of Black Hawk or 4 miles south of Rollinsville—then simply drive up to the window, order and get your drink. “We’ve been roasting coffee for about three years on the same property at Roy’s Last Shot. [The roaster] is about 200 feet away, ensuring you will not find a better, fresher cup of coffee anywhere in the county,” Allensworth said.
“We figure there are enough people in the county that live up here that either pick a different canyon to go down, or don’t go down into Black Hawk. It’s a coffee dessert between Black Hawk and Ned, so we just saw an opportunity to put something somewhere.” Allensworth explained. “It’s fairly low overhead, easy to get up and running. The plan is to be open every day and year round as long as locals keep showing up.”
Other places were considered, but with the roaster next to the Last Shot, locating the cart on the same property seemed like a natural fit. “This just kind of struck us as the right thing,” Allensworth said. “The plan from the start was to make this a permanent mobile type situation, if that makes sense. We can pick it up and leave if we want, but don’t plan on going anywhere. I think it’s going to be real good for commuters and folks that work down the hill to have a nice grab-and-go option. You don’t have to get out of the car, and it’s something decent they can grab on their way out. And, we are sitting right here on a patio, so we can have walk up service as well.”
After the couple approached Last Shot’s owner about using the space, they weren’t sure they would be able to get all the work accomplished in a short time. “Last winter we were like, hey, this is what we are thinking, what do you think, and it was super tentative for us. We didn’t really know if we’d be able to make it work out for this year or not,” Allensworth explained. “At some point Roy said, ‘Hey man, you better do that or I am going to. I think it’s a good idea.’ So, we’re doing it.”
Luckily, the couple happened to have an espresso machine looking for a home. “We actually bought the espresso machine before we even knew what we were going to with it,” Allensworth said. “We knew we were going to do something eventually, then found it on Craig’s List and could not pass it up; and here we are now.”
After a bit of a search for the perfect cart, the couple discovered a vintage trailer in Denver in early March. It seemed like it would be a simple renovation, and proceeded to gut the whole thing to build it into something suitable for coffee and light food service. “It was a little bit more than I bargained for,” Allensworth said. “I mean, we were prepared. We knew we were going to basically strip down the whole inside, but once we started… we found a little bit of water damage, so we ended up having to do a lot of re-framing. It was a lot of work in a couple of months. We were still working at the coffee shop all the time and taking days off when we could, but it’s hard to justify paying somebody so you can be at home working on something that’s not making any money yet. It was stressful, but I think it’s going to be worth it in the end.”
Allensworth and Hartz are no strangers to roasting and brewing coffee at altitude. Their Peak City Roasters supplies local businesses with fresh beans—roasted in small batches, multiple times a week—and retail items including New Moon Café and the B&F Mountain Market in Nederland, Two Brothers Deli in Idaho Springs and locations in Georgetown. They also create more than 30 of their own tea blends and service businesses like The Train Cars Coffee and Blue Owl Books in Nederland. They have also been serving their high-quality, locally roasted coffee drinks, and more, at their Mountain Mocha Café, 135 Clear Creek St. in Black Hawk for the past three years.
Peak City Roasters and Mountain Mocha Café specialize in both a variety of single origins, as well as multiple house blends. Look for selections made with organic beans including Sumatra Mandheling, Costa Rica Finca Amistad, Brazil Nossa Senhora de Fatima Estate as well as blends like House, Breakfast, Espresso and Wake the Dead. The café always has multiple varieties of coffee rotating throughout the day, as well as the ability and willingness to brew a single cup of any blend or single origin available in the store. Look for retail products at the café and online at peakcitycoffee.com.
In addition to coffee, the café also offers options for breakfast and lunch. Stop by for a breakfast burrito with green chile, homemade chorizo gravy and biscuits, or to see what special Tiffani dreamed up for the day.
The couple is dedicated to bringing great coffee to the area and actually moved to Gilpin County from Missouri for that very reason. They purchased Mountain Mocha Café after finding it listed for sale and then making several trips to explore the idea. “We had been coming to Colorado for [close to] 10 years every winter to ski and snowboard. Every year we tried to figure out how we didn’t have to go home,” Allensworth said. “It took us almost six months to figure it all out and two or three trips out here to chat with the old owners, check out the area and all that. We eventually pulled it together and moved to Colorado specifically for that. We’ve been here three years now and things are working great.”
Allensworth is always thinking of new ideas and projects, but feels he should just let things rest for now. “It seems like ever since we moved up here—between getting the roaster installed, this thing built, the shop up and running—as soon as one project ends, we got another one going. So, I look forward to just letting stuff run for a little while and not having some big project going, he said. “I’d like to do a little bit of fishing every once in a while.”
Visit www.peakcitycoffee.com to learn more.
© Originally published in the August 2017 issue of the MMAC Monthly