As you sip your morning coffee, how often do you consider its entire journey from a single bean to your lips? The increasing demand for and profitability of coffee impacts people and the planet significantly. The global coffee market was valued at $465 billion in 2020. The New York-based National Coffee Association reported last year that overall coffee consumption is up 5% since 2015.

Seven of 10 Americans drink coffee every week, 62% drink it every day and the average drinker has more than three cups per day.

Let that data percolate for a moment. That’s a lot of beans that don’t pick themselves.

Aldea Coffee in Grand Haven and Muskegon; and Higher Grounds in Traverse City have made ethical practices their mission. Both are Certified B Corporations — a distinction bestowed to businesses that balance purpose and profit. Each has an inspiring story and is rooted in care for people and planet.

From Central America to the Lake Michigan coast

La Union, Honduras
Credit: Aldea Development

Prior to opening its first cafe in Grand Haven in 2015, Aldea Coffee began as a nonprofit organization in Honduras. Owners and founders Andrew Boyd’s and Jeremy Miller’s work in providing microloans for farmers in La Union soon grew into importing green coffee.

Fostering lasting relationships with Honduran farmers is at the heart of Aldea’s success. The company opened a second location in Muskegon in 2019, and has a roasting facility in Muskegon Heights.

Aldea’s nonprofit, Aldea Development, helps achieve conscientious growth.

“Charlie Heins is the director of Aldea Development and lives right in the middle of the town, La Union,” said Brittany Goode, whose focus is sustainability and community outreach for Aldea. Goode visited La Union in 2018 and said the Aldea team makes plans to visit whenever possible.

“While profitability is important to the long-term success of an organization, it is not the focus of our daily decisions,” Goode said. “We take pride in paying farmers and U.S. partners fair prices for the quality of their products, compensating employees appropriately for their well-being, and investing in our organization and community to create lasting success.”

Aldea Coffee also uses environmentally friendly to-go and packaging products. Hosting multiple beach cleanup events and sustainability workshops are additional ways Aldea carries its mission outside of the workplace and into the local community.

“We work with a local farm in Muskegon Heights for all of our composting and continue to work with both the City of Muskegon and Grand Haven to improve recycling and composting accessibility,” Goode said.

Aldea Coffee’s Matcha Latte
Credit: Aldea Coffee

All of Aldea’s syrups are made in-house, many of which are used for flavored lattes — a customer favorite. Goode said a cup of black coffee is also a popular pick, and for a specific reason.

“In the early days of Aldea we only did pour-overs, giving us the opportunity to make the best cup of coffee and really highlight the individual farmers’ coffees,” Goode said.

Born in Mexico, brewed in Traverse City

Higher Grounds’ offering from South Kivu, DRC
Credit: Higher Grounds

Before its house-made chai became a local favorite, Higher Grounds owner and co-founder Chris Treter was hand-packaging coffee and selling it at a local farmers market in Traverse City.

But the coffee bar and roastery’s beginnings can be traced back further.

“The idea for Higher Grounds started to take shape in 2001 when Chris was living and working among coffee farmers at the Maya Vinic cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico, as a part of a post-graduate internship,” said Jennifer Yeatts, Higher Grounds director of coffee.

Before leaving Mexico, Chris and his friends in Chiapas brainstormed a coffee business that would create employment opportunities for Chiapas residents and sustain the friendships he made there.

Higher Grounds strives to develop long-term relationships with producers. Some are a decade or older.

“Through ownership of our importer, Cooperative Coffees, we purchase coffee from producer partners in about 10 different countries,” Yeatts said.

Higher Grounds latte with house-made chai
Credit: Higher Grounds

These nations are in Central America, South America, Asia and Africa. This only scratches the surface of Higher Grounds’ practices that led to achieving B Corporation status in 2016.

“On the Ground, the nonprofit we founded, started out by building clean water systems in Mexican farming communities, and over the years has expanded to other community development projects — like building schools and facilitating gender equity workshops, for example — in other farming regions where we source coffee,” Yeatts said.

After its certification, Higher Grounds launched a Volunteer Time Off program which allows full-time and part-time staff to be compensated for up to a certain number of volunteer hours per year.

“We have also used our certification as a motivator to amp up our compost and recycling practices,” Yeatts said.

Higher Grounds director of coffee Jennifer Yeatts tours the COMSA cooperative’s facility in Marcala, Honduras
Credit: Higher Grounds

Higher Grounds welcomes new beverages to its menu every season; in the spring, customers enjoyed drinks like the Atlas Shrubbed — made with mango and coconut shrub with a spritz of chai spice served over coconut water. The seasonal menu has recently transitioned to summer drinks.

Whether enjoying a classic cappuccino or a seasonal feature, every dollar goes toward the care of people and planet.

“When you drink Higher Grounds coffee, you’re connecting with the amazing people around the world who work hard to produce it,” Yeatts said.


Featured image: Aldea coffee producer Marlon Carcamo

Credit: Aldea Development

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