When we were at V. Richard's recently, we were struck by the display featuring locally roasted coffees.
Red Mountain Coffee Roasters, the "first-born child" of O'Henry's Coffees in Homewood, has been around since 1995, but it's strictly a wholesale business. They do custom roasting and blends for numerous coffeehouses, bakeries, specialty markets and restaurants, which generally receive their beans two to 14 hours out of the roaster. While you won't see the name "Red Mountain Roasters" in the retail market, you can buy O'Henry's coffee beans at O'Henry's Coffee locations, online at their web site, and at some retail locations such as Bruno's, Piggly Wiggle, Western and V. Richard's.
Then along came Higher Ground Roasters in nearby Leeds, which sells wholesale, direct on its web site, and through local retail outlets such as V. Richards, Tria Market and even Publix. Higher Ground roasts exclusively Fair Trade, shade grown, organic coffees of specialty grade.
Primavera Coffee Roasters in Cahaba Heights has a retail shop where they sell their precisely brewed coffee as well as coffee beans and related items. They also sell online or by phone, and can be found at V. Richard's. It's the brainchild of Brett and Havilah Burton and their colleague Holly Rodricks. Coffee purists, they don't offer flavored coffees, and want to educate customers about coffee. We recently tried one of their "Cup of Excellence" coffees, and it was amazing. You can read their blog going all the way back to 2004 and 2005 and their time in Guatemala learning first-hand about growing, roasting and brewing coffee before they started the Birmingham roasting business.
One of the newest on the scene, which we also found at V. Richard's, is O'Kafes. Kirk Summers and Erin Isbell started o kafes! (pronounced “oh-kah-FESS”) coffee roasters in 2005 with a mission to bring environmentally-friendly, socially conscious (or “sustainable”) coffee to the central Alabama market. They offer premium Fair Trade coffee from around the globe and are a fixture at the Saturday Pepper Place Market in the summer. In addition to V. Richard's, you'll find O'Kafes at Red Rain in Homewood and Sojourns on 3rd Ave. North, or you can order online. And in a few months, you'll be able to visit their new retail shop and roasting facility in the Martin Biscuit Building at Pepper Place and enjoy freshly prepared coffee drinks as well as buying the beans to take home. They're taking over the current Amani Raha space, and hope to be open in mid-May.
One of the benefits of locally roasted coffee (besides supporting local businesses, which we're all for), is that freshness is key. The Primavera coffee we bought at V. Richard's indicated it had been roasted only a couple of days previously. Contrast that to the Starbucks I bought on sale at the grocery store about the same time in late December, which said "May." I don't know if that meant it had been roasted last May or was supposed to be fresh till next May, but either way, that's hardly what I'd call fresh, when you compare it to what you get locally!