Know what we like? Coffee. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Some of you would kill for it (or at least kill if you don’t get it. Know what Alpha Coffee Company makes? Coffee. Know what we’re going to talk about today?
The Nectar of the Gods – It Comes from Utah
Carl Churchill, who started as a 17-year-old E-1 and retired as an O-5. He’s now making a name for himself selling what our editor calls the Nectar of the Gods. An Army combat veteran, his VA Veteran of the Week spotlight tells us he served with Special Operations Command Europe, 1st Armored Division, and both the 3rd and 9th IDs.
Coffee. Cofaidh. Koffie. Cà phê. Qaxwaha.
Big Joe caught up with Carl while the latter was on the highway recently and spent a little time talking about it.
Big Joe is still in the crawl phase of what good coffee is and little did he know he is going to get quite the education on what real coffee is and how its made. Its really not his fault though, he only goes and gets coffee because chicks in yoga pants get coffee at the same place. He gets easily distracted and then doesn’t know what to order and just blurts something out, and later regrets it when it tastes like crap.
If you are like Big Joe and don’t know much about coffee or really dig good coffee. You might learn a little extra than you would think, in this Small American Business write up
B-B-C: How did you get your start in the coffee business?
Alpha: We’ve been doing it since September 11, 2010. That’s when we formed the company, and we started out as an online business selling direct to consumer. Then, probably three years ago, we started doing some wholesale. A couple other folks had us roast their coffee for them, and eventually, we wanted to open up a retail location.
B-B-C: What made think, “Hey, I want to do coffee?”
Alpha: It’s funny because I did 21 years in the military. I start as a private and retired a lieutenant colonel, did lots of deployments in between. So during the mid-80s, I was deployed to Central America, and they have, in my opinion, some of the best coffee. Some of the best coffee in the world comes out of Central America now.
So we’re literally patrolling through coffee plantations, saying, “Dude what kind of trees are those,” because we had no idea. While we’re drinking crappy-ass soldier’s coffee!
So after I retired, it was in 2010, I was thinking, “Hey, how do I…how do I still give back? I’m retired. I’m not in the Army anymore. But I’d like to do something where I can kind of help, to be in the fight so to speak with the boys and girls deployed say in the lap of Afghanistan.
Then…we’re drinking some of this amazing coffee that my brother-in-law was roasting, and my wife and I talked about it, and we said, “Well, let’s take this coffee, and let’s sell it online. We’ll send an equivalent amount to those cups to troops downrange, and that will be our cost. There are many companies that are cause-based and do good things, but we wanted to do one specifically to give back to the military community.
B-B-C: But it had to good coffee, eh? Not what you called “crappy-ass soldiers coffee”?
Alpha: We love coffee that kind of shares where we’ve been. My brother-in-law won Roaster of the Year, so we’re really into, really good quality coffee. So we just decided, “Let’s create a brand that resonates with the military community and those who support them, and then let’s make it so we give a little bit of that back, and send it to the troops.”
So that’s what we did. Since then, we’re somewhere past 11,000 bags of coffee sent to troops deployed overseas.
B-B-C: Don’t you guys have a “Coffee for Troops program”?
Alpha: Carl: Yeah. That’s one of the things we take pride in. Some people don’ understand but the Military runs on shitty Coffee, and we are trying to change that one cup at a time. We have a few different options you can choose from. Someone can place an for someone down range and well ship it out no problem. People can also make donations as well, but we also have a request form that deployed troops can fill out and well get them out some great coffee. We also try to throw in some extra stuff as well.
B-B-C: That’s so funny that your brother was Roaster of the Year and you just thought, let’s start a coffee company?
Alpha: It was kind of crazy.
That’s what Veterans do. After 21 years of doing all these different things. If somebody said to me tomorrow like, “Hey, let’s build a house.” I’d be like, “All right. Let’s do it.” I don’t know how to pour foundation. But I’m sure we could figure it out. Let’s make it happen. And that’s kind of how it was with this company. I mean, I love coffee, and he is an awesome roaster. And we’re like, “Hey, we could take this coffee, and we could create a brand, and do this.” And so yeah, we did it, and we learned a lot along the way.
B-B-C: We really enjoy some delicious coffee, but what’s the process of how its made or roasted? Could you geek out for a second and explain it?
Alpha: The way the process works is that we get beans from literally all over the world. We’re getting beans from everywhere from Ethiopia, Central America, Papua New Guinea, and even the U.S. All of those beans have different flavor profiles, you may get an Ethiopian coffee, for example, our Lock and Load java is a Sumatra Ethiopian blend. So we’ll get Ethiopian beans that are kind of a berry-type flavor to them, and then we’ll take a Sumatran blend that is kind of an earthy taste to it, a darker taste, and then we’ll roast those beans together, or mix them together, and we’ll create a specific flavor profile. So that’s what a blend is. We get the beans imported, then we roast them either in a light, medium, dark roast, or a lot of different shapes in between. And then we package them up, send them out to consumers, we can pre-grind them. So we have really expensive precision per grinders, they grind it, because you want your coffee grounds to be very consistent, so when you brew it, you’re extracting the same amount for each grain of coffee.
So we do a lot of big beans, a lot of small beans. The small ones will over extract, and the large ones will under extract. So you’ll have a less delicious cup of coffee. We either send them out whole bean, or we pre-grind them for folks, and then they get them at home, and they serve them up. We also do K-cups since that is a pretty popular thing right now.
B-B-C: From what I am hearing is that it’s important where you get the beans from and the flavor profiles?
Alpha: That’s right. Yeah, the quality of the beans, and skill of the roaster, and small details matter. Our packaging, all of our bags have one-way bleeders valve so that oxygen can’t get in. But any off-gassing, because out beans are really fresh when we ship them out. There’s still off-gassing from the roast, and that will escape from the bleeder valve, it’s one way, so air can’t get in. It’s all about the quality of the beans, the skill of the roaster, and then the care of how the beans are packaged, and shipped, and stored, and how fresh it is.
We also obviously have the coffee shop where we’ll bring it in, and we’ll grind it up, and do espresso drinks.
So you can get a latte in all kinds of stuff. In our coffee shop, we have some specialty drinks. Like, one is the Viking which has butter, three shots of espresso, some cream, and then sea salt. And we’ll do different drinks like that in the coffee shop.
B-B-C: Wait, Wait, just hold up a second! Two questions here: you have an espresso with butter in it? That sounds amazing but I am not really sure why…
Alpha: Yeah. It is really good. It’s one of our most popular drinks. We do some drinks with butter, and some drinks with coconut oil as well, because the fat in, that’s why people do cream in their coffee, its the fat that brings out the coffee flavor, the milk fat, and cream. The same thing happens with butter, or with coconut oil. It’s a pretty big hit at our brick and motor shop that we have.
B-B-C: That brings me to my next question, you have your own Coffee shop? Like with real baristas and everything?
Alpha: Yes. We opened our coffee shop up in January, close to where we live…the mountain of Big Cottonwood Canyon [note: that’s in the Wasatch Range, just SE of Salt Lake City]. So, now we have the coffee shop, wholesale, and direct to consumer retail over the web.
It’s pretty great having the shop, we had the Utah chapter of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association there when we had our grand opening at the shop. A bunch of these guys ride up, and one of the guys comes up says, I really appreciate your coffee. He was deployed to this small combat outpost in Afghanistan, and he said, We didn’t have shit out there. Then all of a sudden one day we got this box with 10 bags of different amazing coffee, and we loved it. He was like, You have no idea what that meant to me. It’s so cool to be here for your grand opening of the coffee shop. Just having that guy tell that to me really put a lot into perspective for me, and made me think I did the right thing.
One of our local cops was deployed the first time and he had our coffee, and when he came home, he started ordering it online. He was living in San Diego at the time, then later moved to Utah, and he didn’t even know we were in Utah. Later he e-mailed us and said, Hey, where are you guys located… and I said, a place called Cottonwood Heights, and he was like, “Dude! I’m a cop here! I work for the Cottonwood Heights Police Department!”
So, when we opened up the coffee shop, his whole squad rolled down. Every morning there’s like, six cops in the coffee shop. It makes us feel pretty honored.
Few things are better than a good cuppa Joe.
Honestly having the shop is a blessing in disguise for us. We have events all the time that help out veterans and the local community and we get to meet new people all of the time. The shop also lets us carry other veteran-owned brands that we can sell and help them out. We try to bring everything full circle.
Order Alpha Coffee online here.
Alpha Coffee Company is on LinkedIn and on Facebook (/Alpha.Coffee.Official/). Learn more by listening to a different interview with Carl on Episode 12 of the Charlie Mike Podcast, or this one on Vetrepreneur Life.
Declare for Morning Wood!