Telluride’s Ghost Town

Two Telluride locals opened Ghost Town this week and finally put the ski town on the coffee map. 

I rode the Telluride gondola this week with a guy from New York who, when he heard my Australian accent, started talking to me about the coffee scene in the Big Apple.

“You Aussies do love your coffee” he laughed while sipping on a thermos of drip filter liquid speed. “You’ve taken over New York with your obsession.” Some newspapers would say he is right.

Later that day I stood behind a couple from Seattle while waiting in line at Cowboy Coffee caravan.

“We’re coffee snobs, it’s in our Seattle blood” they told me before ordering a 12 oz (350ml) latte. Oh the irony. But then, Seattle brought the world Starbucks, the same Starbucks that didn’t survive in Australia.

Most Americans are surprised to find out that Australians are actually massive coffee snobs. Drip filter is sacrilege where I come from unless it’s a slow cold drip of course.

This is the beginning of my fifth month of residing in the smallest and most remote ski town in Colorado, Telluride. Every day I walk out the front door hoping that something has miraculously changed overnight and that someone, somewhere has opened a new cafe with a barista that doesn’t burn the milk and a roasted coffee bean you can actually taste.

It’s like those times when you open the fridge door knowing that you are the one that filled the fridge and ate from the fridge but expecting there to be something new you forgot was in there. Of course there never is.

I guess I am searching for Australia’s obsession with breakfast and the social interaction and connection that breakfast and coffee is responsible for in our culture. When you travel alone and work alone interaction is more important than ever.

Then one day this week it happened. The doors on a new hole in the wall cafe opened. Though they don’t call it a cafe, they call it a grocer. Ghost Town Grocer to be precise.

‘They’ are business partners Meghan McCormick and Drew Ludwig. Meghan was the name behind the now closed Steaming Bean coffee outlet in town and wanted a place to showcase her Steeping Leaf teas. Drew is a local artist and wanted a place to showcase design from the quirky sticker line on the counter to the funky paper booklet menus (so funky that the 30 menus originally printed had already ‘gone missing’ by day 5).

They both also wanted to offer local organic produce for purchase from loaves of bread to farm fresh eggs and fruit and vegetables. Alongside good coffee created on a state of the art machine to be driven by qualified baristas only and served up with clean fresh wholesome bites.

It’s early days, the first week to be precise, but the space has a welcoming feel thanks to a super friendly team. Design elements come into their own with a dash of humour. The ‘water closet’ (bathroom) has traffic lights outside the door that flash red when busy and green when vacant.

Clean white stone walls hold jars of colourful pickled goods, book shelves offer Where the Wild Things Are (in Spanish) and there is the obligatory stash of hipster mason jars that have infested cafes across the land.

Cult fit paleo peeps will be happy with the ‘bullet coffee’ (espresso shaken with hot butter) offerings, vegans will love the hemp matcha milk smoothies, raw devotees will be happy with the cashew and almond butters and cacao nibs.

Me? I was just super excited to experience a real single shot 6oz latte in a crystal glass cup. We’ve now dubbed this ‘the lovely’ as ‘flat white’ has already been hijacked by the coffee chain that dare not speak it’s name.

Of course, with coffee, consistency is key. I have been back three times and thanks to Steve, the barista trained in Denver and Boulder, the coffee has been equally good each time. The milk isn’t over heated, the coffee isn’t over poured, the taste isn’t bitter nor it is it non existent.

Downtown Telluride isn’t traditionally known for exceptional service or spectacular food offerings -exceptional skiing and spectacular views, yes. Some places are of course better than others and the on mountain food outlets are actually very good. The town generally ‘gets by’ and has for a number of years but ‘getting by’ isn’t enough when your town is growing and the world knows where you are.

I was told recently that in fairness to the hospitality staff downtown they do get slammed heavily by visitors and that would make anyone grumpy. The thing is plenty of other ski towns get slammed too and they know how to deal with it.  Though again, some better than others.

A fish rots from the top down and in my experience it is up to the owners of hospitality establishments to set a service example and motivate their staff. Why? Because it is blatantly obvious to tourists when that top fish is rotting and the staff are not happy.

No such issue at Ghost Town. I actually can’t fault it.

You’ll find Ghost Town on Main St (210 West Colorado Avenue). They’re open daily from 8am to 2pm. Check out their Facebook page for more.

Read more: 10 reasons you should pay Telluride forward

Read more: The couple changing the shape of Telluride food carts

Read more: When coffee and USA Ski fields don’t mix

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


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