Rohan Marley is peddling coffee in metro Denver

Brent Toevs CEO of Marley Coffee at his Denver office with several Marley Coffee product

Anchoring his nascent Marley Coffee in Denver, Rastafarian
son-of-Bob will be peddling and pedaling his sustainably grown java
across the metro area.


Marley Coffee’s BikeCaffes are
self-sufficient coffee carts with manual-pull Italian espresso machines
mounted on burly, three-wheeled bikes.

This month the company
will roll out seven of the caffeinated trailers across the Front Range,
pouring its pedaled brews outside the city’s largest events and on the
16th Street Mall. Several carts will be semi-permanent, inside office
buildings.

Made in Denver, the artsy, propane-powered carts are
the latest step in Marley Coffee’s plan to establish itself as
Colorado’s premiere coffee — an audacious goal in a state known for its
craft beverages.

DENVER,
CO – SEPTEMBER 4: Coffee at Marley Coffee headquarters in Denver on
Thursday, September 4 , 2014. (THE DENVER POST | Cyrus McCrimmon)

Marley
Coffee is going up against Denver’s rich list of homegrown
coffeemakers, like Boyer, Dazbog, Kaladi Brothers and Novo, as well
as the metro area’s ever-growing roster of local roasters.

There
is no such thing as “local coffee” said Brent Toevs, the career coffee
executive who has grown Marley Coffee to 31 employees from five — all
in Denver — in his three years as chief executive of the company. “It’s
an agricultural product … typically grown far from here … and it’s
always changing.”

But there can be a local brand, he said.

“We
are growing an international brand out of Denver. This is the center of
our universe,” Toevs said. “Most everything we do is for here in
Denver.”

Denver is the
launching point for Marley Coffee, and the BikeCaffe franchise in
particular. Toevs’ acquisition of the Denver-born bike company last fall
was one of many maneuvers to establish the Marley brand in Colorado,
joining his purchase of a modest beverage distribution company and his
deals to pour inside office buildings and at sports stadiums. (A Marley
BikeCaffe will be outside Sports Authority Field at Mile High and
Boulder’s Folsom Field and Coors Event Center this season, joining the
company’s locations at Coors Field and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.)

“These
owners … they want to elevate the coffee experience for their fans,”
said Toevs, calling his deals with a growing list of sports teams “a
coup.”

The company is publicly traded under the Jammin Java Corp. banner. With distribution deals for big grocery chains in the U.S. and Canada landing in 2013, the company saw its net revenue grow from
$1.8 million in its fiscal 2013 to $5.6 million in the year ended Jan.
31, 2014. The company’s stock recently has been trading for about 25
cents to 30 cents a share.

Marley Coffee was founded in 2004,
promoting its roasts with lyrical names like “Get Up, Stand Up,”
“Lively Up” and “Buffalo Soldier.”

The company settled in
Denver’s Sunnyside neighborhood in July 2013. With direct international
flights enabling its global expansion and Colorado’s midpoint between
Rohan in New York City and the musical headquarters of all things Marley
in Los Angeles, the city was a logistical match.

But it was the state’s vibrant sustainability ethos that sealed the move out of Southern California, Toevs said.

All
Marley Coffee is organic and certified by the Rainforest Alliance.
Rohan’s 52-acre farm in Jamaica, where the company’s high-end — as in
$45 a pound — Jamaica Blue Mountain beans are grown, pioneered
sustainable farming in the country. In March, the company will debut
recyclable single-serving cups, a first for the exploding K-cup, or
pod, market.

It’s easy to question a company’s commitment to
Rasta-hued sustainability when it’s making millions of plastic
single-serve coffee and tea pods.

“You have to be in the game to change the game,” Toevs said.

Americans
use billions of the single-serving pods every year, creating hundreds
of millions of pounds of unrecyclable trash. Marley Coffee’s patented,
fiber-filtered, recyclable pod, Toevs said, “is a game changer” nearly a
decade in the making.

“We are always trying to lead and innovate,” he said.

The
company plans to have nine branded BikeCaffes in metro Denver by the
end of the year, each one designed and constructed in its Sunnyside
warehouse. There could be double that number in 2015. The idea is to
sell the bike carts to independent operators.

Trevor Holness has
been pedaling Marley Coffee around Vancouver, British Columbia, since
late 2012, following an inspirational visit to Jamaica. Every day,
Holness tweets his BikeCaffe’s location —
@StirItUpVanCity — joining the sweeping North American street-food scene. While the
first independent owner of a Marley Coffee BikeCaffe tries to follow a
predictable daily schedule for his coffee customers, he also parks the
cart at farmer’s markets and events.

“I can pull into an event
and expose entirely new groups of people, promoting the coffee and the
concept,” said Holness, who has joined other vendors to create a pop-up
café that serves Mexican-Jamaican fusion food. “People have even been
following me around. And I deliver … to regulars who haven’t found a
comparable product.”

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