I recently discovered a little café in Black Forest. It’s called R&R Coffee Café and I had been following them on Twitter, but since I’ve been constantly disappointed with my choice of cafés here… I didn’t think to give them a try. I should clarify that I have been more disappointed than not with the beverages offered at most cafés here.
Last weekend when I was on my way to visit a friend in Black Forest, my curiosity got the better of me. I decided to make a stop at R&R and as soon as I walked in, immediately felt comfortable with the cozy space. I didn’t know what to expect, so I walked over to the counter and looked up at the menu. Then I noticed they had a Cona vacuum brewer and that alone is extremely rare where we live. Then I also noticed on a shelf above the cash register, they had a few tools for pour-over options, a Chemex and a French Press. Yes, my pulse immediately quickened and in my mind I said, “No freaking way…”
Since I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked, I ordered a medium roast in the (Hario?) dripper. As I waited for my coffee to be ready, I knew I had to come back another day and take photographs. Oh, and of course have some coffee made with the syphon. When I got home later that evening, I wrote an e-mail to owner and roast master Ryan Wanner. When he wrote back cordially inviting me to come by, I was thrilled!
I always enjoy driving in the Black Forest area because, well, it’s how I pictured Colorado would be when we found out we were moving here. Obviously, that’s not always the case. R&R is located in Black Forest Square, which is so quaint and one of the things about R&R that struck a chord in me is that it’s just so inviting and unpretentious. I spent a little over an hour and a half just chatting with Ryan and the barista and I loved how they greeted every single person (by name) that walked in. I also appreciated how they thanked them when they left as well. The customer service and feeling of community is top notch and it’s something that I constantly crave.
I can’t tell you how elated I felt to be able to “talk coffee” with someone without them frowning at me and wondering why I don’t just go to Starbu… well, you know what I’m talking about! I’m not claiming that I’m some sort of coffee expert because I AM NOT, but I do know that not all coffee and cafés are created equal! I enjoy going to a place that knows more about how to prepare coffee well without relying on just pushing a few buttons. The experience of going to a café for me has to surpass what I can already do at home.
One of my biggest pet peeves with cafés is inconsistency, especially when it comes to drinks. I highly detest ordering something and it’s just too hot. Yes, coffee is supposed to be hot, but not too hot to be able to enjoy it. I learned in recent years that dark roast is not the god of all coffees, I have learned to appreciate different types of beans and roasts and quite frankly I lean towards light to medium roasts these days. Oh, or ordering a milk based espresso drink and they come in HUGE mugs. I absolutely understand that people enjoy having large beverages and more power to them, but I’d like to have a choice. I prefer something smaller and carefully prepared than just settling for something mediocre. There is too much mediocre already.
I got a chance to try their Rwanda Abakundakawa Women’s Co-op Certified Fair Trade bean which is a light roast, prepared in the Cona vacuum brewer. The flavors in this is outstanding and changes a little with each sip and of course the more it cools down. “The ooze it produces is pure gold.” is how someone I know describes coffee made with the vacuum brewer. True that!
It’s an interesting process to see coffee being made with this beautiful glass object. If you’ve never had coffee made this way before, run to the nearest place that offers vacuum brews! I’m one who will go far for food and drink, so the anticipation of waiting for this coffee to finish brewing is definitely worth it.
They also made me a fantastic flat white and I was pleasantly surprised that they knew what that was! Even though the barista is still new with latte art (no big deal, really!) It was the best milk-based espresso drink that I’ve had here… hands down.
This is not Denver or Boulder where you at least have more options to choose from. This is not the Pacific Northwest, West or East Coast, this is not Australia or other places in the world with great coffee (or food) scenes. This is Colorado Springs (and surrounding areas) where the need for more excellent food and drink is needed more than anyone will probably admit. As someone not from here, I will say it flat out… no matter the backlash. Maybe this year I should seek out places that I think go above and beyond here.
I applaud Ryan’s efforts with his small batch micro-roasting, knowing how to properly pull espresso, training his staff to be excellent baristas, having wonderful from-scratch baked goods, knowing how important temperature is (with coffee, water, milk) when making good beverages, offering beverages in the sizes that many Americans want but also realizing that size does matter, because he is truly doing something unique (and much needed) here. I also appreciate that he realizes that the sky is the limit when it comes to his café and he is doing his best (and doing a damn fine job of it) with the resources he has. This is why I try my best to support the non-chain, non-cookie cutter businesses as much as I can. How can change and progress come about otherwise?
Even though I wish I lived much closer to R&R, I know that I’ll be going as often as I am able to! The fact that someone with a smile will most likely say, “Hi Kat! Nice to see you again! What’s your poison today?” or at least be recognized and greeted is reason enough for me. But knowing that I will be getting an excellent beverage is also an obvious plus!