January 6, 2011

“I’m buying coffee that’s not the best coffee out there” – Counter Culture

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Rolando and I did a crazy thing the other week. We bought $150 tickets and flew down to Raleigh to visit Counter Culture.

Counter Culture is one of the 3 roasters that helped move us from Starbucks/ Peets era forward to something new. They started buying directly from farmers, started exploring the differences between coffees from one farm and another.

We buy from the other 2 (Intelligentsia and Stumptown), but that’s because we’d had a chance to visit those two and see their operations. We hadn’t done the same with Counter Culture. So even though we had a great feeling about Counter Culture and loved their coffee, we weren’t going to sell it without seeing where it was roasted/ etc.

So we found ourselves on a quick trip to Raleigh. The coffee was awesome. We had some much fun. I had this absolutely mind blowing espresso, they call it Apollo 3.0. I guess they are changing it up pretty frequently. It was like nothing I’d ever had. Really wild. Like a new fruit I’d never eaten.

I had struggled to find information about the origins of Counter Culture online before going down, so was sort of curious what the deal was. Turns out the guy who started it went to business school and thought coffee would make a good company. His name is Brett and he spent a really generous amount of time with us. Some of us B-school grads aren’t so bad : )

The poster behind Rolando’s head is a bunch of labels, each representing a different coffee from a different farm. The most unique thing about Counter Culture in my mind was how they approach growers. While we heard about best coffees/ micro lots, local knowledge, etc. from other roasters, CC was focused on relationships. They told us straight up that they’re not buying the best coffees out there this year, or last year. But they’re buying from farms they have committed long term relationships with. And they hope to help those farms improve their coffees over time. Really cool. And it helps them hit something like 60% organic content. Really amazing.

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