The coffee industry is one that has previously been defined by men. Many women didn’t get into roasting due to the physical demands of the job, but from Hannah Ulbrich’s perspective, that isn’t an issue. In 2013, Ulbrich purchased Copper Door Coffee Roasters — which became the city’s first women-owned coffee shop — and she began to learn how to roast and source coffee. “A lot of people ask if the equipment and bags of coffee beans are too heavy and I say, ‘just like anything else that’s heavy, if I can’t lift it myself I’ll ask for help. A full grown man wouldn’t lift a couch by himself, would he?’” This attitude has contributed to Copper Door’s success over the past seven years and led Ulbrich to open a third location at the Denver Botanic Garden’s new Freyer Newman Center.
The Freyer Newman Center was designed to act as an extension of the Botanic Gardens and will offer — when it’s safe — classes, a public library and art galleries to the public. Classes range from herbalism to cooking and Copper Door intends to use the classroom spaces for its own classes like cupping and (potentially) a class on terrarium building. The new Copper Door location is at the front of the Freyer Newman Center and has plenty of natural lighting — making it a great place for plants to thrive indoors and outdoors. Ulbrich has been purchasing plants from a local nursery and placing them in cute pots she’s collected over the years to sell in the cafe. “It’s easy for people to just bring home to their apartment and not have to buy any soil or a pot for the plant,” said Ulbrich. She describes plants as “nature’s gift” and keeps the prices for the potted plants extremely affordable — as little as $3 for a small succulent or around $17 for a medium sized potted plant.
The inside of the cafe has a mural of bees pollinating a coffee plant — a piece that isn’t overbearing but adds a bit of whimsy to the space. You’ll also find a few solo bees on other walls throughout the space that help create a fun, cheerful atmosphere. In front of the mural one of the baristas will craft a beverage utilizing one of the batches of beans that are locally roasted at Copper Door’s roastery in the Santa Fe Arts District. Over 90% of Copper Door’s coffees are women-produced and it’s Ulbrich’s goal to purchase coffee from mostly women-owned farms. “This location is a chance for us to highlight these really amazing coffees that we don’t necessarily bring to all of our locations,” she said. Some of the women-produced coffees include the Guatemalan Huehuetenango, Costa Rica Santa Elena, Sumatra Queen Ketiara and Colombia Hulia. These roasts can be purchased online and in-store. While Ulbrich doesn’t bake anything in-house, she brings in delicious pastries from Handcraft Bakery and French for Sugar and breakfast burritos from Mame’s.
Copper Door may have been the first women-owned coffee shop in Denver but it certainly wasn’t the last. “In the last couple of years I’ve really seen a movement to lift up women — and women of color — in the industry,” said Ulbrich. She is currently a chair of the U.S. Roaster Competition Committee and has seen the number of women involved in the competitions — from participants to judges — greatly increase over the past several years. “There was a year where I was the only female judge and last year there were six of seven of us,” she said. There are also several organizations she supports to help women get involved in coffee roasting including Glitter Cat and She’s the Roaster.
Make your next trip to the Botanic Gardens a bit more fun and stop by Copper Door to grab a coffee on your way in. You’ll be supporting more than your caffeine addiction.
Copper Door is located at 1085 York St, Denver. Open 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. daily. All photography by Brittany Werges, unless otherwise noted.