Co-owners Lydia and Pablo.
The Coffee Line That’s Always Eclectic
The Coffee Apothecary on the south side of Taos doesn’t have a single sign with their business name. Instead they have a beater Toyota pickup parked out front with a giant “Coffee” billboard in the bed. For them, it’s not about advertising or shouting from the rooftops. It’s just about roasting and serving amazing coffee.
That approach has worked in a place like Taos, where people don’t really care about your branding, just your product. Every morning there’s a line out the door of people waiting for the fairly-sourced coffee that co-owner Pablo Flores, 29, meticulously roasts in small batches every week. And being that this is Taos, the coffee line is always eclectic.
“You have a person dressed in a suit and right behind someone who’s barely dressed and smells to high heaven,” Pablo laughs. “That, and the rush actually starts at 9 am instead of 7 am. People have such a different lifestyle here that they don’t even adhere to normal business hours. This lack of routine and structure can be hard at first, but eventually you grow to love the edginess and wild west aspect.”
Pablo was raised in Taos but left and spent time in Albuquerque where he met his partner, and co-founder Lydia McHaley, 27. They helped usher in a new wave of high-quality coffee shops in Albuquerque, but eventually decided to move back to Taos when they’d had enough of city life. Neither was sure that a high-quality, small-batch coffee would do well in a small town like Taos, but the quality spoke for itself.
“We didn’t know what to expect, but we were slammed in two months thanks to just word-of-mouth,” Lydia says.
Part of their continued success comes from continuous innovation. They don’t carry any artificial syrups because they don’t want customers putting chemicals into their coffee or their body. So instead they make their own vanilla and chocolate syrups with only natural ingredients.
They’re also always on the lookout for coffee that’s not only has exceptional taste, but is sourced the right way. They don’t actually carry fair trade coffee because they felt that system was problematic and instead went with with a third-party company that makes a direct connection between small farms and small roasters. Right now they’re carrying beans from small farms in Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Columbia. They also carry a decaf that uses a more natural, less chemical-based way of extracting the caffeine.
There have been some struggles. Taos’ economy is directly tied to tourism, so if there’s a bad winter for skiing, or fires during the summer, fewer people pass through and businesses struggle. “The business flow here is definitely dictated by nature,” Lydia says. “And that means nothing is predictable. And businesses need predictable.”
Nonetheless, both Pablo and Lydia are excited about the future. They feel like Taos, thanks to its diverse history and culture, is willing to try anything so they’re going to keep innovating and ensuring that people can get the most ethically-sourced, delicious coffee in the state.
“Taos is an incredible town because you can make it what you want it to be,” Pablo says. “You have to put up with some craziness, but there’s also tons of potential for us, or for anyone, to make a vision manifest.”