Located in Fuzzco's old headquarters, N.C.-based company Counter Culture Coffee
(CCC) has just opened a barista training center on Spring Street. But what, you ask, is a coffee training center? Well we headed to the new locale to find out. The answer: We still don't quite know.
The space itself is gorgeous, with exposed wooden rafters and the kind of little twinkling lights Anthropologie shoppers drool over. But don't get too excited. This is not a coffee shop. Counter Culture Coffee is just a training facility. Local restaurants and coffee shops that use Counter Culture coffee (i.e. Brown's Court and Edmund's Oast) can send employees here to learn how to brew espresso beverages and pour-over coffee.
Brown's Court Bakery owner David Schnell says that he approached CCC almost a year before his shop even opened. When Schnell opened his bakery in 2012, he wasn't happy with the roasters available in Charleston (although he says the options are better now). According to the baker, high-end espresso drinks require a solid roaster. Having worked in bakeries in North Carolina, Schnell says he'd been drinking CCC for a while and liked everything about it. "The average consumer spends a lot of money on coffee, but people don't know a lot about it. It has to be sourced seasonally," he says.
While Schnell says that the coffee is not local in the sense of being "10 miles down the road," with the roasting facility in Durham, the coffee gets to Brown's Court very quickly after it's ordered which garauntees freshness. Plus, CCC will service your machines if you brew their coffee, which cuts maintenance costs. The company doesn't require that you use their special espresso machines and pour-over equipment, but they obviously recommend it.
Counter Culture was founded 20 years ago with the intention of, (according to their website), "sourcing incredible handmade coffees directly from farmers and cooperatives, and roasting [to] bring out their unique flavors." They place an emphasis on freshness, roasting, bagging, and shipping coffee all in the same day. There are nine other training facilities in the country, with one all the way out in Cali.
And they're all about "sustainability." A recent blog on the company's website sets out to explain their commitment to the often overused term. Some examples include: in 2011 Counter Culture started measuring their carbon footprint by tracking waste and water usage; they seek to be "socially sustainable" as well by collaborating with nonprofits in the communities where coffee is grown, like Food 4 Farmers; and they offer $500 in matching funds for training center employees who start their own personal sustainability-related projects.
But what does all that mean to the average passerby? Well, you can check out the training facility for yourself this Friday and Saturday, with a tasting on Friday and an open house with a pig roast and gelato on Saturday. The Friday tastings are a weekly event that are free and open to the public, with the option to try different kinds of coffees from Africa and South America and learn a little about the harvesting and roasting process.