To watch Jonathan Jarrow at work behind the counter at Harbinger Coffee is to watch a uniquely designed performance that blends art and science.
There’s fluidity to his movements as he maneuvers around his space preparing coffee for his customers and engaging them in conversation about his passion for coffee.
Today, Jonathan is the founder and owner of two successful coffee shops known for both the high quality of its coffee and of its hospitality.
Those two coffee shops can be traced directly back to where Jonathan first became interested in coffee.
“I love to read, and as a teenager I spent a lot of time at the library,” he recalls.
It was at Main Library (now Old Town Library) that he was introduced to JoAnna Quick, a friendly and gregarious woman who managed the Happy Latte coffee cart and welcomed people to the library.
“She was crazy nice, super friendly, and always recognized me and remembered my name,” Jonathan explains. “I’d grab a cup of coffee, grab a book, and read. I’d get lost in a book until I had to work or go home.”
It was during this time that Jonathan says he fell in love with coffee and the experience it creates.
“It was about going to a place and feeling recognized and taken care of,” he says of this period at the library and Happy Latte coffee cart.
After high school, Jonathan left for the east coast for college, where he worked at a coffee shop in between classes and studying. But, he felt pulled back to Fort Collins.
He returned home, spent some time working construction, but knew that his passion lay with coffee, so he left his job and went to work at local coffee shops Alley Cat and Everyday Joe’s, soaking up as much knowledge about the science and chemistry of coffee as possible.
Jonathan’s curiosity about coffee sparked a move to Chicago, where for nearly five years he learned from some of the industry’s smartest and most innovative brewers and roasters, attending to the scientific and artistic details of coffee including “the nitty-gritty of extraction and the evenness of brewing and roasting.”
All his learning paid off when he was named the first ever Northcentral Regional Brewer’s Cup Champion and was invited to compete at the national competition. While he didn’t win the overall competition, Jonathan does note, “I was around tons of smart people who taught me even more about coffee.”
Jonathan returned home to Fort Collins with the intent to bring all of his knowledge, experience, and passion for coffee to the local community.
“I really wanted to be the harbinger of high quality coffee and attention to details,” he explains. “There were a few cafes in town doing craft coffee and doing it well, but I wanted to bring people an experience around coffee that was unique and trend setting.”
Anyone who’s visited one of the two Harbinger Coffee locations knows that it’s a great place to “nerd out over coffee” with Jonathan and his staff or to simply sit and relax with a freshly brewed pour-over. It’s a place where conversations about light refraction or the second crack during the roasting process are as common as discussions about vacation plans or new movies.
But, it took a lot of work and planning to bring his business to this point.
“I wrote my first business plan [for the Mason Street location] at the library,” Jonathan recalls, pointing out that the library offered him access to computers, business resources, and cheap printing.
If the idea of Jonathan creating his business plan at the same location where he fell in love with the coffee experience in the first place seems a bit poetic, for him it was a natural choice: “The library’s a resource for just about anything you’re attempting to get into, and it’s a place of personal enjoyment for me.”
He credits his grandmother for instilling in him a love of learning and libraries, “She’s my hero. She took more classes and pursued more learning during her retirement than anyone I know.”
Today, much of Jonathan’s own reading and learning trends toward business leadership and marketing topics, but he still makes time to enjoy the library with his 3½ year-old daughter Mabel. He likens the library to visiting a cathedral – it’s calming, welcoming, and filled with awesome knowledge.
“We’ve developed a ritual when we go to the library,” he explains. “We visit the kids section to play the tea party game on the iPad and then walk around to find books to take home. I love having the opportunity to share that with her.”
During the rest of his spare time, Jonathan is usually found enjoying the outdoors with Mabel and his wife. “It’s a chance to reset and appreciate the natural beauty. Especially here in northern Colorado.”
To visit Jonathan and his fantastic Harbinger Coffee staff and “geek out” about coffee, stop by one of his two locations: 505 S. Mason St. Suite 100 (North) and 3581 E. Harmony Rd. Suite 160 (South). And check out the website, https://harbingercoffee.com/.
Harbinger Coffee is a participant in the Library District’s Flash Your Card program, so be sure to show your library card when you order.