RidgeGate Up Close
Nate Wertz & Jared Keiffer, Monk & Mongoose
“RidgeGate Up Close” is our series of interviews with people who make RidgeGate a more vibrant place. Read the unexpected stories of residents, workers and local leaders who live and work here. Know someone who has a unique perspective or life in RidgeGate? Contact us at email@example.com.
A big thank you to Sarah Neumann Photography for conducting and photographing our RidgeGate Up Close interviews!
This month: Nate Wertz and Jared Keiffer, General Manager and Co-Owner of Monk & Mongoose, an independent, specialty coffee shop located at RidgeGate Parkway and Commonwealth Street, on the ground floor of the Ovation Apartment Homes building.
Recognizing an under-served market, Nate and Jared teamed up to bring high-end coffee to Lone Tree. We spoke with them about their desire for Monk & Mongoose to become people’s “third place,” sourcing ingredients locally, and the value of a stripped down coffee menu.
#1. What’s with the name ‘Monk & Mongoose?’
Jared: “So we’re not like the most creative people in the world, but we have a good friend that is, so he helped us come up with our name. We told him we wanted a name that represents the origin and excellence of coffee, because we really are striving to be one of the best shops in Denver from quality to service and beyond. He came back with Monk and Mongoose.
Nate: “In Eastern Africa, according to legend, Monks had extraordinary brew methods, brew tactics, and so on. The “Mongoose” actually refers to the Kopi Luwak, which is in the mongoose family. They ingest and produce some of the most high-end coffee in the world because their digestive enzymes make incredible flavor profiles. So our name is little play off the origin and practices of high-end coffee producers.”
#2. You’re located on the ground floor of the Ovation apartments. I’d imagine a lot of those residents frequent your establishment. Are you the “Cheers” of coffee bars?
Nate: “Funny, I used that same analogy the other day with a woman that was doing some marketing for us. We’re your local neighborhood coffee shop…where everybody knows your name.
#3. Can you describe the aesthetics of your space for our readers? It’s pretty unique.
Jared: “Well, we wanted to bring in a lot of ‘urban’ features, like the chrome fixtures and two garage door walls. We also brought in some wood elements, and the fireplace, to make it feel ‘Colorado.’ We love our space.”
#4. …And speaking of spaces, you also have a conference room for rent that is attached to the shop?
Nate: “Yes, and it’s really easy to reserve. You just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or we’re listed on the co-working site, Liquid Space. It’s been great for people who work from home, but need to have a client meeting. It’s $35/hour or $250 for a day.”
Jared: “We also do private events after hours. One woman just emailed us today about having her baby shower here. So we’ll stay staffed in the evening and make drinks for them while they’re hanging out and having fun. We also did a Christmas party.”
#5. Have the two of you always worked in the coffee business?
Nate: “I’ve always had a passion for coffee and the connections it creates. My college roommate roasted coffee in our dorm room, and we learned that was a great way to connect with people. My wife and I lived in Costa Rica for four months and got to visit a bunch of coffee farms and talk to the coffee farmers. It was a phenomenal experience. We learned there are two things that go across all cultural boundaries: coffee and soccer.”
Jared: “I met Nate about three years ago, and he was really amped up about doing something with coffee. I didn’t know as much about it, but – as a business owner – I could recognize that this was an underserved area when it came to high-end coffee. Somewhere I read that everyone needs a ‘third place.’ We have work, we have home, some people are gym nuts, some people love going to bars, but a lot of people love a coffee shop. It’s a place where relationships begin.”
#6. Where do you source your coffee and food from?
Jared: “It’s really important to us to stay as local as possible. For example, we sell Black Squirrel Granola which is local, and our pastries are made by a local company. Our coffee roaster is a Q Grader out of Lakewood — Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters — and they’ve won tons of awards. Our caramel is from Hellimae’s caramel factory in Wheat Ridge…it’s all local.”
#7. Are your coffee beans from one particular place?
Nate: “The farmers we use are all over the world. Right now we have a lot of coffees from Central America, Eastern Africa, Costa Rica, Guatemala…but that will change when the harvest seasons change. So our coffee is constantly rotating, and Sweet Bloom does a great job of sourcing and making sure that our coffee gets to us at its peak.”
#8. Are you connected to your coffee farmers at all?
Nate: “Sweet Bloom does a great job of visiting farmers and bringing them to the states and allowing them to see their final product and where it’s going. Last November, they brought in a few farmers that they work with directly in Panama and they got to see where their coffee is being served. We got to sit down and discuss the challenges they face, which was really interesting.”
#9. The Monk and Mongoose coffee menu is much simpler than many other coffee shops. Is that intentional?
Nate: There are a lot of things on coffee shop menus that can distract from the excellence of the coffee…or hide it. For that reason, we have very limited flavorings. We want our flavorings to pair well with the coffee and bring out the tasting notes.
#10. So no Unicorn Frappucinos?
Nate: “Haha…no unicorn Frappucinos!!”
#11. What does Jared order when he gets a beverage at Monk and Mongoose?
Jared: “I usually get a Cortado with almond milk. This is actually the first time in my life that I can also just drink an espresso and enjoy it. It’s just so fine and smooth.”
#12. …and how about you, Nate?
Nate: “It really just depends on the day…and maybe the weather…and the barista that’s working…and if I have to make the drink myself.”
#13. So what’s next for Monk & Mongoose? What else can we look forward to?
Jared: “Actually, we’re really excited about launching ‘mocktails.’ Right now we have a ‘Mongoose Mule,’ which is a play on a Moscow Mule, but we use cold brew coffee instead of alcohol. It sounds odd, but it tastes great! We’re always exploring the opportunity to maybe obtain a liquor license, but that’s still in the works. We want what we do now to be perfect before adding anything else.”