On my Cafe Tour of Colorado Springs, Switchback Coffee was the only truly 3rd Wave Specialty Coffee location I visited. When I use the term 3rd Wave, I mean they roast their own beans, have single origin coffee offerings, and offer other specialty brew methods besides espresso. Switchback did all that in a very delicious way. They also emphasized my current belief that is true most of the time in specialty coffee: the better the coffee gets, the worse your service becomes. For me, Switchback Coffee was hard to find, the service was poor, and the coffee was delicious.
Hard to find. While Switchback maintains an online web presence, if you search them out on google maps or ask Siri to give you directions, you’ll find the business listing at that address as 50/50 Coffee house. I’m not certain if this is the same company, rebranded, or if there once a completely different cafe at the same location. Once you arrive, there is only street parking (and not much of it). So before you go, make sure your parallel parking skills are up to snuff or you have a car that can park for you. I nailed the parallel part in my rental van, but was a little further away from the curb than the 12 inches I normally shoot for. It wasn’t too bad and I didn’t stay too long, so I didn’t make a second embarrassing attempt.
A positive about their location for me was how close it was the USA Olympic Training Center. It’s only about a five minute drive, and if you visit Colorado Springs, the center should definitely be on your list of things to see. The wife and I both enjoyed the training center way more than we thought we would. Cannot recommend it highly enough. And, since you’re in the neighborhood, you might as well swing by Switchback and see if you can get better service than I did. I only stopped by once. Though that’s not always the best gauge of service, it’s sometimes the only chance to get to win a customer.
The Service. When I walked in to Switchback, it was challenging for me to find where I should stand in line to order. Once I found the spot, there was no one there to help me. The barista was engaging other customers at their small bar, so no problems there. Maybe he could’ve said hello, but maybe not. There were more employees sitting close to the ordering station, folding cloth napkins and joking around with, what appeared to be other off-duty employees (based on their conversation), and gave my existence no acknowledgment.
I waited a few minutes and decided to leave, because I just felt uncomfortable. My wife grabbed me, reminded me I drove out of my way to visit the shop, and that I should keep waiting. So, I did. Then an employee came in from the roaster next door, greeted me, and loaded roasted coffee bags onto display for sale. She was kind, but I probably would’ve preferred her to ask if I’d been helped, to either help me or find the employee who could help me, instead of just loading bags and going about her day. But I know, sometimes I ask for the world. After another minute or so, an employee came out of a back area to take my order. She was kind as well, but there was no acknowledgement that I had been waiting some time for service. Maybe a long wait is just expected here, I don’t know. But the coffee, eventually, was worth the wait.
The Coffee. In all of Colorado Springs, this was the only cafe I found that offered a single origin pour over coffee, so I had an Ethiopian Yergacheffe. It was awesome, and the barista was willing to talk about his use of the Hario V60 with me. The Mrs has a cold brew, and she really enjoyed it as well. The hot cup my coffee came in was branded with a Switchback stamp, but the Mrs’ cold cup was sadly blank. We were unable to carry two little billboards all over the Springs for Switchback and had to content ourselves with just one.
Still, it’s a nice little cafe if you have some time on your hands and an adventurous driving spirit. I didn’t try any of the food, but the reviews are positive. If you’ve eaten there, or experienced different service than I did, please leave me a comment about it. I’m curious to know if my experience was an anomaly.