“For Queen City the approach that we take when we roast is that it’s always been about the farmer. It’s saying “Hey, how did the farmer grow this? How did the farmer process this? How do we bring out the best in that?…We want people to experience what the farmers have done so we try to make our coffees accessible in that way.” – Scott Byington, head roaster and owner of Queen City Collective Coffee
By Colorado Coffee Zine
Local award winning roaster Corvus kicked off the summer just as a roaster might, by going to origin. This trip, however, was no ordinary roaster excursion, it was a well coordinated, community effort nearly a year in the making. Scott Byington, head roaster and owner of Queen City Collective Coffee, was one of the Colorado-based organizers who helped to shape the trip to Kigali, Rwanda into a project centered around respect and meaningful change.
The relatively new entrant into Denver’s growing roaster scene, Queen City Collective Coffee is the family project of the Byington brothers. Scott the middle brother and Luke the youngest brother are the ones most credited for Queen City’s coffee and advocacy work both stateside and abroad. Scott recalls a fundraising project he organized with his brother which later turned into a non-profit the pair ran or about 7 years. Met with success, the project that raised funds for a community in Zimbabwe introduced the brothers to more communities with unique needs across Central and Southern Africa, culminating in several subsequent projects across the region.
When the pair split to explore other opportunities, Scott ended up in Montana where he took up coffee roasting as a side job during graduate school. The hope was to apply everything he had learned working in Africa and the non-profit sector while making a few bucks to stay afloat. During his nearly 3 years roasting coffee, Scott couldn’t help but notice his interest in academia was being replaced by his growing passion for coffee.
“I love both worlds, and coffee is the great mediator between both worlds and so coffee just kind of felt right. But I didn’t really think about starting anything up for quite some time” said Scott about the long period of personal and professional assessment before syncing up with Luke again for the next chapter of their non-profit days. Eventually, coffee’s power of persuasion and the entrepreneurial itch won over the book stacks of academia. Scott returned to the place where he grew up and took the plunge.
“Denver used to be the Queen City of the Plains and we want to connect back to the history of our community, and so Queen City for us just kind of felt like a cool throwback to “hey these are our roots” and really trying to be cognizant of that history and what we do” said Scott about the name of the roasting company. “One of the other cool benefits of Queen City, of the name, was that most of the farmers that we work with are women and so…. We don’t advertise it as “QUEEN = WOMAN” but it was just kind of a cool subtle nod to the resiliency of the women that we work with.”
Being back home in Colorado, Scott reached out to some of his local friends who were now grown up and running businesses of their own. Suddenly Queen City had a nesting ground, a space hosted by old friend Josh Schmitz, founder of the notorious hybrid concept Bellwether Club, a coffee shop, whiskey bar, barber shop, and boutique.
Scott also discovered that the roasting community was interested in going above and beyond merely sourcing coffee and that the idea for what became this summer’s trip to Kigali, Rwanda was already floating around town. Once Scott began connecting with everyone, new friends like Corvus and Copper Door stepped into leadership roles for planning and organizing while many others like the Hot Shot Baristas team lent a hand in other ways.
Today, Queen City Collective Coffee approaches its one year anniversary as a Denver based coffee roaster. In that time, the team has worked to shine light on the farming communities in Africa and Central America that produce their coffee and have inspired their work. They plan to remain involved both on the ground at origin and stateside, addressing as much as possible the needs for infrastructure improvements and local programs that lead to higher quality of life for their farming communities.