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Tea drinkers – time for a coffee break!

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No frilly coffee at Cholua Bros. coffee store

By Patty Unruh

After standing on a cool street corner in Black Hawk taking photos of Gilpin County School’s homecoming parade on October 19, I looked forward to stopping in at the grand opening of Cholua Bros. Mining Co.’s first coffee store. As a confirmed tea drinker, I don’t like coffee and never consume it, but I thought it might be good to just warm up my hands around a cup of the hot liquid. I found myself in for surprise.

I entered the coffee shop located in the historic barn at 470 Gregory Street in Black Hawk, taking in the rustic coffee bar, aroma of fresh roasted coffee, folksy country music, and friendly greetings of brothers/proprietors Dane and Jake Cholua as they welcomed customers. Whole bean coffees distinctively packaged in gold, copper, and black foil bags were displayed on shelves, along with coffee and spice grinders and meringue cookies.

I had to smile at a sign that proclaimed, “No frilly coffee sold here! Only our legendary Colorado coffees, just the way the miners drank ‘em! Nearest Starbucks 20.1 miles away.”

Dane’s fiancé Laura Kemper and her brother Matt were helping the brothers sling free coffee to all comers. Business was as brisk as the coffee: 70 customers served and 70 pounds of coffee sold during the grand opening event on the 19th and 20th.

“What kind of coffee would you like to try?” Dane asked me.

“Well, I’ll have the kind that has the natural vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel flavors,” I decided. They said that was their signature coffee. I added a little sugar and took a conservative sip, then another. It was good! Really good. I couldn’t believe it. I finished the whole cup and actually thought I might throw caution to the wind and ask my husband to buy me some for Christmas.

Dane said they would be offering gift crates packaged for Christmas with all the coffee flavors. They have French roast, which is described as a full-bodied, dark roast with rich, full flavor; medium roast, with a bright, smooth flavor; and the signature roast, with mellow overtones of vanilla, hazelnut, and caramel.

I learned that the natural flavoring is quite subtle. Most of us are accustomed to artificial flavoring, which Dane says is 300 times sweeter than natural. “If you put in a little cream, that brings out the flavors and gives the coffee a marshmallow taste,” he advises.

The Cholua Bros. roast their beans in small batches at 10,000 feet altitude right here in Colorado. They say the high altitude provides one of the best environments in the world for roasting coffee. It enables roasting at lower temperatures and prevents two common problems of low-altitude roasting: baking and scorching, which tend to make coffee bitter. Maybe that’s why I’ve never liked coffee – I was trying to drink that flat-land stuff.

The business had its beginnings nearly 100 years ago, when the brothers’ Polish ancestors came to the Black Hawk area hoping to strike it rich during the Colorado gold rush. They never did make their fortune in gold; instead, they developed a syrup that family legend says flavored the miner’s coffee. The recipe got handed down through the generations, and Dane says that with the addition of rum, it eventually became the recipe for the family’s sought-after coffee liqueur.

Cholua Bros. Mining Co. has been in business for three months, initially online via the Internet, then through products sold at The Colorado Store. They had a booth at the Gilpin County Fair in August and have done a couple of other shows besides. They are currently selling their roasted coffees and also plan to introduce their coffee liqueur in the fall of 2014. The price for a one-pound package is $17.75, for two pounds is $16.75 per pound, and for three pounds is $15.75 per pound.

Dane and Jake are very grateful for the interest and support shown by the townspeople who visited the coffee store. As a way to say “thank you,” the brothers plan to hold special events several times a year to show their appreciation. “And the cups of coffee we serve will always be free of charge,” they advised.

The Choluas plan to have the store open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays only during the rest of this year. However, store hours may change, so visit their website at www.choluabros.com.

The Cholua Bros. believe strongly in the quality and refreshing flavor of their products. And, will wonders never cease…they even made a believer out of me.

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