The Coffee Tree in the Press
by Ann Depperschmidt
It took Heidi Thrash about six
months before she could see a design.
“You try and you try and about 300 lattes later,
you get a faint design,” said Thrash, co-owner of The Coffee Tree, a
cafe inside Anthology Book Co. in downtown
But to master latte art, the barista first has to
master the art of making a latte.
“Latte art is proof that the latte is prepared
right,” she said.
“It’s definitely icing on the cake, but the cake first has to be made
Latte art is the art of pouring milk into an espresso drink to create a
design at the top of the cup.
“It does tend to spoil people,” Thrash said with a laugh.
Thrash and co-owner Michael Cornelius are part of a growing national
trend of turning a typical espresso drink into a work of art. Both know
how to make designs — rosettas (a leaf-like figure), hearts and
variations of the two — by perfectly pouring the milk into a perfectly
made shot of espresso.
The shots of espresso must be prepared just so — the right volume and
strength, and roasted just right — and the milk must be steamed just so
— the right consistency with no air bubbles — all while constantly
adjusting for slight changes in room temperature and humidity.
Then baristas have to know how to work their wrists.
“It takes a lot of wiggling,” Cornelius said. “You really have to know
how to control your movement.”
But after a while — it took both about a half a year to learn the skill
— something that looks like a design starts to appear.
“At first you get a line that lost all of its leaves,” Cornelius said.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas tree, as we call it,” Thrash said with a
It’s the whole science of perfecting the latte — knowing that the
ground espresso beans have to be pressed with about 40 pounds of
pressure, making sure water is spread evenly over the coffee grounds —
that’s behind the growing popularity of speciality coffee.
“It’s the quality-driven niche looking for a way to differentiate from
the competition,” said Mike Ferguson, spokesman for the
California-based Specialty Coffee Association of America.
In the early 1990s, when David Schomer, owner of Espresso Vivace in
Seattle, introduced latte art to American consumers, there were about
2,000 coffee shops in the nation, Ferguson said.
Now there are about 24,000 — with more than 100 added every month.
“Latte art is just another edge on the competition,” he said.
Since the early 1990s, latte art’s popularity gradually increased.
After the first formal United States Barista Championships were held in
2002, the trade really took off, Ferguson said.
“I’ve seen customers take out their phone camera and take a picture of
their coffee,” he said. “They send it to their friends to say ‘look
what I drank this morning.’”
Now there are national latte art competitions, national and
international barista championships and books and Web sites dedicated
to latte art.
Some baristas use the tip of a thermometer to etch designs into the
milky top; others, such as Thrash and Cornelius, make the designs just
by manipulating the pour.
“You have to really be into it,” Thrash said.
Latte art is a short-lived pleasure, though — as soon as bubbles creep
up and the customer gets thirsty, the artwork turns into a milky
swirled cup of coffee.
“We’d do this all day,” Thrash said, handing a freshly designed latte
to a customer, before adding with a laugh: “I guess we do do this all
It’s fitting that Heidi Thrash and Michael
Cornelius met in Seattle,
one of the world’s coffee meccas. It’s also fitting that they have been
trained by U.S. Barista champions, (think Food Network meets
Starbucks). They’ve taken their knowledge of coffee, their flair for
showmanship, combined it with entrepreneurship and art, and made The
Coffee Tree in Loveland.
The Coffee Tree, you’ll not only get
a steaming latté — you’ll
get a work of art. Well, maybe not quite art, but it’ll be more
than your normal cup of joe.
The artisan-influenced technique
that the shop is known for involves a half-scientific, half-creative
balance of steamed milk poured into a design atop a nearly full cup
of espresso. Free-pour latte art is what they call it in the biz, and
it makes ordinary hearts and leaves look altogether fancy when done
right. But, if the milk’s not steamed properly, or if the shots
aren’t measured exactly, you’ll get something closer to average —
what Thrash refers to as “just not acceptable.”
don’t have to be able to draw,” she said. “Consistency is more
important than artistic ability.”
While each design is
different, the ease with which Cornelius pours a precise shot of
espresso or Thrash greets a customer by name, never changes. It’s
something that distinguishes them from other shops and keeps their
fan base growing.
“We do have people tell us that they can’t
go to Starbucks anymore,” she said with a guilty smirk.
2005, the pair stumbled into the Anthology Book Co. and the best
renovated coffee cart around.
“We came here every day
because it was the best,” 26-year-old Thrash said of the downtown
book store’s previous coffee station. “We sat down with the owner
one day and she offered us the space.”
Five business plans
later, the newly engaged couple is still perfecting the store.
use only organic milk and also plan to roast their own espresso
“As business owners, we have a responsibility to be aware
of our impact on the world,” Thrash said.
definitely encourage that lifestyle,” 30-year-old Cornelius
Being planet-friendly is among their top priorities, but
keeping their customers happy has been their key to
“They’re really good people. That’s half the
reason you come back,” Loveland resident David Spalding said,
between sips of the first of three iced coffees. “The other half —
damn good coffee.”
Written by David
The specialty coffee industry is growing in
popularity, and its impact is visible throughout Loveland. In 2006
specialty coffee accounted for $12.27 billion in sales, according to
the Specialty Coffee Association of America. A National Coffee
Association 2006 annual drinking trends study revealed 16 percent of
America’s adult population drinks coffee on a daily basis.
Starbucks has been the most aggressive
coffee retailer in the
Loveland market within the past year.
The Seattle-based company opened five new shops from Loveland
Starbucks has six shops in the Loveland region, with its
newest opening directly across from another coffeehouse, Dazbog Coffee,
at Eisenhower Boulevard and Denver Avenue.
Amy Moynihan, with GroundFloor Media for Starbucks Coffee,
said in an e-mail that “Starbucks has been credited with creating and
growing the modern coffeehouse culture and is known for being a
community gathering place where people connect.”
However, she would not comment as to the reason for Starbucks’ recent
expansion in the Loveland market or how sales have been.
The newest coffee company coming to Loveland is the Human
Bean, a drive-through coffee shop that combines convenience with
customer service, said owner Sam Ray.
Three Human Bean locations are planned for Loveland this
spring, at 3511 N. Garfield, 806 S. Lincoln and tentatively the new
shopping center in the Gold’s Gym parking lot on Eisenhower Boulevard.
Ray, who currently has six Human Beans in Northern Colorado,
plans eventually to open 50 of the drive-through coffee shops.
“Most people want it (coffee) conveniently and quickly because they are
on their way to work,” Ray said. “We try to fill that niche and still
Ray said his business model is focused entirely around the double
drive-through coffee shop that serves fresh roasted coffee from Seattle.
“We won’t do a store without a drive-through,” said Ray, whose first
shop with a seating area will open in Longmont.
In addition to Starbucks and the Human Bean, Dazbog has
entered the Loveland market, with a licensing agreement through C Cubed
Inc. owned by K Campbell.
Dazbog opens its second Loveland location, in Lincoln Place,
this month, and Campbell said Starbucks has had no effect on business.
“Our approach is we want to go head-to-head,” said Campbell, who sees
his coffee shop as a great way for everyone to have an affordable
The “experience” associated with coffee shops seems to be as
important as the coffee itself, according to local coffeehouse owners
such as Campbell.
The Coffee Experience
Brewing a tasty cup of coffee isn’t enough to compete
anymore. Now, coffee comes with WiFi Internet, conference rooms and
“I think coffee is an experience. Not just a cup of coffee, a whole
experience,” said Kim Schatz, owner of Loveland Coffee.
Loveland Coffee has been in the market for more than three
years, with a shop at 620 E. 29th St. and a drive-through at 1450 N.
Boyd Lake Ave. Schatz said its key to success is personable employees
and quality coffee.
“This is a fun coffee shop; we just have fun,” Schatz said. “Everyone
who works here wants to work here.”
City News, at Sixth and Cleveland, draws its customers with friendly
service, homemade baked goods and a variety of books and magazines,
said manager Kimberly Bode.
“People like it when you walk through the door and they say ‘Hey Joe,
you want me to get that cup of cappuccino going now?’” said Bode. “We
try to kill them with kindness. We want great customer service.”
John Patterson, owner of Circle Moon Coffee, 843 N. Cleveland
Ave., said he has seen a steady increase in customers since opening in
2004. And while new Starbucks locations across the city may take a few
customers, Patterson said he has a healthy client base from Fort
Collins to Berthoud.
“We have really developed a little community within a community,” he
Perhaps the shop that Starbucks has affected most is one of
Loveland’s oldest, Dallabetta’s.
The shop, started in 1993 by native Lovelander Kyle
Dallabetta, made its name selling Illy coffee produced in Italy.
“I serve a really fine espresso. Far and above the best in town,”
Dallabetta said. “(When Starbucks opened) it was as if people finally
discovered coffee in my neck of the woods. I was shocked. It really did
knock down about half my business, but I’ve climbed my way back.”
Dallabetta, who plans to relocate his shop into a newly remolded
building next to his shop, gets satisfaction from Italians who visit
from Italy and tell him what a great cup of espresso he makes.
Some coffee shops, like The Coffee Tree, 422 E. Fourth St.,
make their name solely on a quality cup of coffee.
Co-owner Heidi Thrash said The Coffee Tree’s focus is
offering a “specialty coffee experience” with its latte art.
“Our main gimmick is we don’t really have one,” Thrash said. “We just
have really good coffee.”
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Coffee shop regulars still frequent their local favorites, but they may
be coming in less often or downgrading their orders in economic hard
times. As a result, independently owned coffee shops in Loveland and
Fort Collins are seeing their sales dip slightly or remain flat from a
“It’s business as usual,” said David Cantor,
co-owner with K Campbell
of Dazbog Coffee Store, which has two stores in Loveland and two in
Fort Collins. “The numbers are remaining the same from last year.
One in five of Dazbog’s customers have switched from lattes and other
fancy coffees to drip coffee, Cantor said. But new customers are coming
in following the closure of other coffee shops, such as Loveland’s The
Sweet Spot and Circle Moon Coffee House, earlier this year, he said.
“This is a luxury people can afford or a pleasure people want to
afford,” Cantor said.
Business at Grounds-N-Rounds, a coffee and bagel shop that opened in
Loveland in 1996, is down slightly, but new customers are coming in
with the other coffee shop closures, said Jenifer Gibson, shop co-owner
with her husband, Sean Gibson.
“The one thing I have noticed, since times got harder, attitudes have
gone down,” Gibson said, adding that half of the customers coming in
have become more demanding, are treating staff poorly and are in bad
moods. “I talked to several business owners, and they said they noticed
the same thing.”
Customers also are not supporting downtown and locally owned businesses
as much as they could be, said Kimberly Bode, manager of City Newsstand
Bookstore & Coffee House in Loveland and Woody’s Newsstand in
“You’re losing your local independents because of that,” Bode said.
However, what has helped Bode’s two shops survive is selling books,
magazines and other merchandise in addition to coffee, she said.
“It’s very hard for coffee shops to live on coffee alone,” Bode said.
“This is not like Seattle where there’s a coffee shop on every corner,
and they all seem to be surviving.”
Colorado Coffee Exchange, a coffee shop and roaster in the Foothills
Mall, has seen sales drop not from the economy but after the closure of
several stores in the mall, including the January closings of B. Dalton
Bookseller and Hallmark Cards.
“With mall traffic down, we don’t have that drop-in foot traffic
anymore like we used to,” said Mike Thorsrud, owner of Colorado Coffee
As for the regulars, they buy what they have always bought, but a few
are not coming in as frequently, Thorsrud said.
“There’s no substitute for espresso,” he said. “They may not be in as
often, but when they come in, they drink what they always have been
Newer coffee shops such as Full Throttle Coffeehouse, which opened Nov.
1 near Trilby Road in Fort Collins, are building up their clientele,
even in hard times.
“Because we’re a newer shop, we’ve had a little bit of increase each
month,” said Josh Ratzlaff, who co-owns the shop with his wife, Amy
Ratzlaff. “Right now, it’s paying for itself, which was our goal
Josh Ratzlaff, who rides motorcycles, and Amy Ratzlaff, who wanted to
open a coffee shop, combined their interests to open a bike-themed
coffee shop with motorcycle decor and a bike night on Thursdays, along
with other themed events during the month.
“What’s cool about owning something local is it’s more communal, and
people are more interested in supporting that,” Josh Ratzlaff said.
The Coffee Tree: Where Good Things Grow opened in 2006 in the Anthology
Book Co. in Loveland.
“According to our business plan, we are not doing as much as we
projected for our third year of business,” said Heidi Thrash, co-owner
with her husband, Michael Thrash, of the Coffee Tree, a coffee shop and
roaster. “But business is better than it has ever been.”
As such, sales have increased 15 percent over a year ago, Heidi Thrash
“Our sales have kept climbing since we opened,” Michael Thrash said.
“We have a strong following. I see a lot of local regulars. We have to
attribute it to our quality and consistency.”
The Thrashes, however, have seen the buying habits of some of their
“People have cut back slightly on the fancier drinks — we’re selling
more drip to espresso drinkers — but have also increased their whole
bean purchases with us, so they can make coffee economically at home,”
Heidi Thrash said.
In hard times, independent shops rely on expanded menus, better
customer service, quality products
Independently owned coffee shops in Loveland and Fort Collins have a
few survival tips they follow to stay afloat in tough economic times.
“We saw this coming six months ago,” said David Cantor, co-owner of
Dazbog Coffee Store, which has four stores in Loveland and Fort Collins.
Dazbog cut management positions and restructured hours but did not cut
pay or lay off staff, Cantor said.
“We’ve done it by doing business as usual, going the extra mile for
customer service and trying harder to give them a good product,” he
said. “We say ‘hello’ and we say ‘thank you.’”
Kim Schatz, owner and operator of Loveland Coffee Co., which has two
stores in Loveland, says her staff is the reason her regulars are
coming in just as frequently as they did before hard times.
“You have to give exceptional customer service ... and give them more
for their money,” Schatz said. “Don’t get so caught up in the numbers
and the economy. Be optimistic and stay positive to your customers.”
Several coffee shop owners mentioned the importance of providing good
customer service, diversifying the menu with local products included in
the menu items, and retaining product quality as key to retaining
business in tough times.
“We have never sacrificed the quality of our products for a better
deal,” said Heidi Thrash, co-owner of The Coffee Tree: Where Good
Things Grow in Loveland. “This has started to pay off for us, as more
consumers are wanting the best bang for their buck.”
The Coffee Tree plans to add hot breakfast and lunch sandwiches to the
menu in the near future, Thrash said.
“We are listening to what our customers want,” she said. “We are
focusing on quality, community and making The Coffee Tree a place for
people to escape from the craziness of life for a moment.”
The Colorado Coffee Exchange in the Foothills Mall added soups and
freshly baked bread to the menu earlier this year.
“It’s working for us,” said Mike Thorsrud, owner of the Fort Collins
coffee shop. “It’s caught on, especially for mall employees.”
Jenifer Gibson, co-owner of Grounds-N-Rounds, a coffee and bagel shop
in Loveland, said for coffee shops to be competitive, they need to keep
prices competitive and provide good customer service.
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Written by Craig
Thursday, 7 May 2012
LOVELAND -- The Coffee Tree's owners are pulling
up their roots in downtown Loveland, but they're replanting them just
two blocks away. And they won't be leaving a hole behind.
Anthology Book Co. at 422 E. Fourth St., which has
hosted the coffee shop for almost six years, will reopen its own coffee
business after The Coffee Tree moves down the street in a couple of
Michael and Heidi Thrash opened The Coffee Tree in 2006 after coming
here from coffee-loving Seattle. They have expanded a few times inside
the bookstore, but they said Anthology's 3,000 square feet is limiting
the ability of both businesses to be their best.
After they and Anthology owner Stephanie Stauder tried unsuccessfully
to find a building downtown big enough to allow both of them to expand,
the businesses' owners decided to go their own ways. On April 30, the
Thrashes signed a lease on the former Mandolin Caf building at 210 E.
The 3,400-square-foot space is more than three times the size of their
current restaurant, and it opens up many possibilities, the Thrashes
At work this week on the remodeling of the new space, they pointed out
where they will build a children's area, a large community table with
art display space, soft seating areas, a computer bar with super-fast
WiFi, booths and bar seating.
The much larger kitchen will allow The Coffee Tree to prepare more
fresh produce, and they plan to offer more gluten-free options and
healthy breakfast and lunch sandwiches in a "fast-casual" setting,
Michael Thrash said. The Thrashes bake their own bread from scratch
each morning and roast their own organic fair-trade coffee.
"We're going to be a coffee shop with really good food," Heidi Thrash
They already have artists lined up for monthly exhibitions and plan to
host live "family-friendly" music for each month's Night on the Town
event, and possibly more often.
The coffee shop will have seating for 56 people inside and eight more
on a sidewalk patio, they said, and an entry through the back of the
building will open up access to more than 50 parking spaces within a
block of the shop.
They hope to make the move down Fourth Street in six to eight weeks,
they said, closing for a day or two to move equipment. Heidi Thrash's
parents, Bob and Maureen Thrash, work in California as a builder and a
designer, and they are in town helping remodel the new space.
The new location will feature expanded evening hours: 5:30 a.m. to 9
p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday,
and 7 or 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Phone: 663-1885.
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