- Griffin Swartzell
- Hearty food comes direct from Pueblo.
There’s eco-friendly business, then there’s Solar Roast Coffee. Brothers Mike and Dave Hartkop founded Solar Roast in 2004, initially roasting beans literally with the power of the sun, scaling up from a mail-order business in Oregon that utilized a mirror-lined satellite dish (a concentrated solar power method) to two brick-and-mortar shops in Pueblo. Though they’ve since upgraded to more traditional roasting, they have retained the green symbolism and functionality by utilizing power from solar panels on the roof of their flagship location.
Which brings us to downtown Colorado Springs, where Solar Roast recently took over a former Starbucks. Their Pueblo pride shines through here, with chile ristras hanging around the entrance and stylish murals by Pueblo artist Mathew Taylor across the walls. Plus, they sell vinyl records, curated by Mike.
Pueblove (Pueblo love — see what we did there?) shows up in the coffee, too. A seasonal porter mocha gets its flavor from syrup made by cooking Shamrock Brewing Co.’s Irish porter down until it’s alcohol-free and thicker. Its roast and the medium-dark roast of the Aristotle Blend used in their espresso drinks go well together, and the lighter, sweeter chocolate powder balances out that darkness. The beans’ nutty notes show clearer in a cappuccino, made properly and served tongue-searingly hot. But we simply can’t taste the Pueblo green chile syrup in the green chile latte, though it’s a fine drink otherwise.
Beans tend to be roasted dark here, which we can’t escape with a spendy 4-ounce bag of their signature bourbon barrel-aged beans, ostensibly medium roast but in truth dark enough that some beans have become glossy with oils. We try said coffee at home in three ways. An Aeropress-expressed espresso “shot” shows us flavors of oak and a not-quite-musty “un-freshness” we struggle to describe, though bourbon notes rise when we add steamed milk. Our homemade pour-over sips cleaner, but the coffee itself doesn’t jump out. It’s different and maybe a nice holiday gift but not The Next Big Thing, in our opinion.
Our bacon breakfast burrito and cilantro lime carnitas burrito both bear bits of Pueblo green chile for heat. The former’s full of potato, egg and bacon, coming together a little dry, though a side of salsa verde fixes that with a lime kick. The latter rates better, bearing sweet, roasted corn and a pleasant lime pop, its porky meat tender but playing a smaller role in the flavor.
We also dig Solar Roast’s sweet baked goods. House banana bread is pure mom’s kitchen: moist, dense and heavy on real banana. Brownies come big and fudgy, packed with walnuts or chocolate chunks. Gluten-free chocolate cake bears a light texture, but it’s a skosh dry, though not-oversweet frosting and rich chocolate ganache atop help.
All in all, Solar Roast clearly shows the Springs how it has become a beloved staple southward: Though that starts with sustainability, what really shines through with style and sincerity is the Pueblove.