Love of Coffee Led Alumnus to Build Thriving Business

Since graduating from Trinity Western with a Bachelor of Science, Andy Sprenger (’95) has earned prestigious reputation in the coffee industry. Not only has he had success in several brewing competitions, but his Denver-based roastery, Sweet Bloom, has received critical acclaim, drawing tourism from all around the world.

a master in the making

As a child, Andy Sprenger (’95) fondly recalls the smell of coffee in his home. Coffee was a special part of their family life, and his mother often had a pot brewing. However, Sprenger doesn’t recall really appreciating coffee until he got to Trinity Western, where he connected with David Anderson (’95). Both young men were Resident Assistants in the dorms and became good friends.

“David introduced me to Tony’s, a coffee shop in Washington,” says Sprenger, who quickly fell in love with the place. Trips there to study or just relax became a big part of his Trinity Western experience. “That was where I got my first love for the café culture and for better coffee.”

Though he was studying biology, coffee quickly became his passion. In his senior year, he bought an espresso machine and served his friends drinks for late night study sessions.

After graduation, Sprenger toyed with the idea of starting his own café, but felt it wasn’t practical. He was a biology major, and had no experience in business. So when an opportunity arose to work for A Rocha—the same Christian environmental stewardship organization Anderson now works for in BC—he took it.

Sprenger and his wife lived in Lebanon and worked to protect a wetland called the Aammiq Marsh. Things were good, and he loved what he did. But after three years, the war in Iraq started, and they were strongly encouraged to return to America.

the Return to Coffee

While looking for work in his field, Sprenger opted to work as a barista in a newly-opened roastery in Maryland. As it turned out, he came on at the right time. The company experienced significant growth, and he with it.

“I fell in love,” says Sprenger. “I realized I had skills in specialty coffee and could make this into a career.”

He worked with what is now Ceremony Coffee for ten years, doing everything from serving coffee to working in the warehouse to roasting. After his third year, he became the head roaster.

“I’d say I’m hyper-sensitive,” says Sprenger. “That helped me in bird conservation. I could hear bird songs and identify them quickly. Having acute taste and smell helped me in the coffee lab. I realized I fit in well in situations where I had to pick the highest quality coffee.”

These skills led Sprenger to participate in several competitions. He was two-time US Brewers Cup champion (2011 and 2012) as well as the 2013 US Aeropress champion. He was also runner-up in the 2012 World Brewers Cup championship and the 2014 US Taster Cup championship.

The Birth of Sweet Bloom

For a variety of reasons, Sprenger felt he needed to return to Denver, his hometown. Once there, he couldn’t shake the idea of starting his own business.

“I’d built up a reputation and name. I think the desire to do my own thing was growing and growing,” says Sprenger. “So we dove into starting Sweet Bloom.”

The Sprenger’s poured their life savings into the business and borrowed from family to get going. They were on a small budget, but ended up getting a roastery going. It was a simple warehouse, with a small café attached and a staff of three people.

“We started off very humbly and small, and it kind of steadily grew,” says Sprenger. Today, they have a staff of twelve, a busy wholesale roastery and cafe, and a new training + education lab.

The Days Ahead

Sweet Bloom focuses on consistently buying amazing coffee and establishing relationships with cafés that have a similar emphasis on quality, sustainability, and healthy relationships with the growers.

With the new training and education lab, Sprenger brings in baristas, retailers, and producers. Part of his dream is seeing relationships form between people in all stages of coffee production. So far, they’ve had four Meet the Producers events, where coffee producers fly out to share stories of life on the coffee farms and to see the end result of the work.

“It reminds everyone that coffee doesn’t just show up,” says Sprenger. “It reminds us all of the challenges the producer has to go through to deliver high quality coffee—from making sure the machines are working well to all the issues of different diseases that can completely devastate a farm.”

As his business continues to grow, Sprenger spends more time on the road, building relationships with growers and retailers. He isn’t sure what the future holds for his business, but desires to continue the pursuit of excellence in all aspects of coffee production.

“I kind of scratch my head sometimes and wonder how it all happened,” says Sprenger of his success in the world of coffee. “It’s been a really cool experience, and I’m grateful for how things have gone. I feel very blessed.”