Leeds-based Higher Ground Roasters has been named Micro Roaster of the Year by Roast magazine.
"We just got tired of drinking bad coffee," Alex Varner, co-owner of Higher Ground, told writer Rivers Janssen, who notes in the article in the November/December issue that "Higher Ground is one of a growing number of specialty coffee micro-roasters in the Southeast that are directly confronting the region's commercial coffee roots. It's no easy task in an area that lacks an established specialty coffee tradition, one where many consumers still list flavored coffees as their coffees of choice. Higher Ground has done so, moreover, while committing to a sustainable business model in all aspects, from purchasing renewable energy to donating 1 percent of all gross sales to environmental and educational nonprofits to selling only certified fair-trade, organic and shade-grown coffees. In short, Higher Ground has taken a road rarely traveled in Alabama -- and done so quite successfully."
Varner and co-owners Josh Kelly and Glenn Smith founded Higher Ground in 2002. It's mission: "to purchase the best coffee available anywhere, to roast it to perfection, and to make it available fresh, to anyone." Higher Ground's coffee lineup now includes coffees from single origins like Guatemala, East Timor, Bolivia, Mexico, Sumatra, Ethiopia and Peru, along with a number of blends affiliated with local non-profits, such as the Alabama Environmental Council, the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Jones Valley Urban Farm. They do not have a retail location, but their coffee is available in local supermarkets such as Publix and Tria Market, and you can buy directly from Higher Ground through their website.