Roaster Profile: Counter Culture Coffee

The main focus of Anelace Coffee is to showcase the best coffee available. To accomplish this we have cultivated partnerships with a few coffee roasters across the country. Without these relationships we would not have the ability to bring such a dynamic and compelling menu to the Twin Cities. To show our appreciation and bring the recognition so deserved by our partners, we will be doing a few blog posts profiling the roasters we work with. 

First up, Counter Culture Coffee, based in Durham, NC. We have been fans of Counter Culture since we have been fans of coffee. They have a dedication that is clear in every aspect of what they do, and they are a major driving force in the development and progression of specialty coffee as we know it--not to mention consistently offering some the most diversified and delicious coffees in the industry. Here is a little video and Q&A featuring Josh Dugue and Rich Futrell from the Chicago training center.




Can you give us a brief history of Counter Culture?

CCC was started in 1995 by Brett Smith, who is still the owner of the company today.  Brett established the company by selling coffee to fine dining restaurants, specialty markets and coffeehouses, and those remain the primary type of businesses that we seek out for partnership.  

Counter Culture has been a leader in the industry since it's outset, pioneering and supporting now well-know events such as Barista Competitions, Latte Art Throwdowns, Meet The Producer and Meet The Buyer/Roaster events, as well as movements like Third Wave and Direct Trade.

We are well know for our focus on education, and we now have 10 Training Centers nationwide committed to training baristas and educating consumers about ethically sourced, high quality coffee.

About Us

Counter Culture just celebrated 20 years in business! What, in your opinion, has contributed to your continued success and growth? 

At Counter Culture Coffee, we approach our work with a relentless pursuit of coffee perfection, a dedication to real sustainability, and a commitment to cutting-edge coffee education throughout the coffee chain. (This is our Mission Statement)

No other coffee company in the industry supports their customers like Counter Culture. We do not have any retail stores, so 100% of our time and energy is dedicated to making sure that our customers do an excellent job with the coffee. If they don't, then we engage and help them improve. If they do not have a commitment to excellence, then we don't work with them.  

What are some key points that make Counter Culture unique from other roasters?

Remarkable coffee, first and foremost, but also a huge commitment to partnership and transparency throughout the entire supply chain. That's pretty radical. We are not just committed to our best customers or a farmer here and there, but to everyone in the supply chain. 

We form long term relationships with farmers, cooperatives, importers, exporters, wholesale customers and baristas.  The idea is that we are all in this together, so if we make a commitment to improve everyones situation, then everyone can do a better job in their role of handling the coffee and then passing it on to the next person. A lot of hands touch the coffee, and everyone has a responsibility to harm the coffee the least during their turn to take it from point a to b.  This sounds funny  I know - harm the coffee - but the thing is, no one in the supply chain adds quality to the coffee. All you can do is maintain the potential quality that in inherent in the coffee and hopefully not do anything to detract from it.  That is why connecting price, payment and financial gain to quality is so important. If you know that you will make more $ by treating the coffee better, then you will take care to do so.  

The connection to farmers and producers at origin has never been stronger. What is Counter Culture doing to cultivate and maintain these relationships? 

Wow, so much! I'm always amazed when I reach trip reports from our Coffee Team because they do so much stuff at origin with producers and cooperatives.  All of the trip reports are on Flickr and they are worth checking out because each picture has a lot of notes that get into a lot of detail. Here is a link -

Our SEEDS program is worth mentioning, and here is a link that talks about it -

What is your favorite part about working with wholesale accounts?

Oh man, so much!  I loved owning a shop and I now get to share the excitement of opening a new shop with dozens of people per year.  

I think I enjoy the consulting aspect the most - I've been in the business for over 20 years, so I have a lot of valuable experience and information that I can share with new shop owners that can help them avoid costly mistakes.  I'm also very honest with people and I'll tell people not to open shops if I think it won't work. It's always hard, but I never want to participate in driving someone into bankruptcy. I'd rather lose a sale than make money on someone who I know is not going to make it.  

Any parting comments, thoughts, or ideas?

We are super excited and honored to be working with Anelace Coffee!  You are the exclusive Counter Culture vendor in the Twin Cities and we thank you for that.  Hopefully we can come out to spend time with you soon!