Our Local Coffee Roasters
Higher Grounds Trading Company & Great Northern Roasting Company
Traverse City is fortunate to have not just one, but two locally-based, coffee roasting businesses that utilize fair trade practices: Great Northern Roasting Company and Higher Grounds Trading Company. The two enterprises have a lot in common; they launched around the same time, in 2001 and 2002 respectively, both do business with farmers in El Salvador, Ethiopia, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico, among other countries, and both have personal relationships with the coffee farmers.
For Chris Treter, founder of Higher Grounds, it all started during his college internship in Chiapas, Mexico when he developed a relationship with coffee farmers there and subsequently imported beans from them. That close friendship with the farmers in Chiapas serves as a model for all the company’s interactions with other coffee suppliers, one of the main goals being to pay even above and beyond a fair price to farmers.
Great Northern, founded by Jack and Sarah Davis, also emphasizes the relationships with farmers and utilizes what they call direct trade by meeting with farmers and guaranteeing purchases, offering education and incentives to farmers to protect the environment, and placing a high priority on traceability.
Oryana is happy to offer a venue that’s close to home to these two coffee purveyors, and judging by sales, Oryana shoppers are happy too. We sell approximately 30,000 pounds of Higher Grounds coffee per year and 5000 pounds of Great Northern beans. Shoppers’ favorites are Higher Grounds Highland Humanity Blend, a post-roast blend of medium-roasted & dark-roasted Mexican beans, and Great Northern Toffee Monster Single Origin Espresso.
At Higher Grounds, a recent exciting development is a new relationship with coffee growers in the Congo that Chris established earlier this summer; he helped set up a brand-new cooperative of farmers in a place called Furaha, and Higher Grounds will be their very first buyer.
According to Jennifer Yeatts, Quality Assurance & Marketing Director of Higher Grounds, coffee has been grown in DR Congo under pristine conditions for generations, but in such remote and conflict-ridden areas, it has been difficult for farmers to find a secure market for their product. “Building a co-op is helping those farmers organize and establish the infrastructure they need to do business sustainably and provide solid income for their communities. If everything progresses as planned, this coffee will be headed our way in late October,” she says.
Great Northern is manufacturing a coffee brewing device called the Piston Brew. Their device is unique in that it gives the user complete control over the variables in the brewing process and utilizes a brewing method that removes the physical aspect from the finished brew, known as “the bloom,” which can damage flavors.
You can visit Higher Grounds coffee bar at the Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City. They also offer public tours and cupping on Fridays at 2 pm. Visit their website at highergroundstrading.com. Visit Great Northern’s website for more information about the Piston Brew or to peruse coffees: greatnoroco.com.