Seeds Coffee serving quality roasts alongside a global vision
0413 Seeds coffee
Brett Huey, left, one of five owners of Seeds Coffee Co., pours hot water over freshly roasted beans while his brother, Jeff Huey, also an owner, talks with customers.
Jeff Huey found what he was looking for on the other side of the world, but he didn’t find it surprising.
Earlier this year, he traveled to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia, which is known globally as a source of quality coffee. Before he ever left though, Huey was aware the country’s fiscal climate offered little compassion for its notable crop – or the people who farm it.
As he walked through the market, he watched as men dropped their handpicked coffee beans or “berries” into the street. The crop had yet to ripen, Huey noticed. Worse, it was being run over, getting muddy and depreciating quickly.
“Those berries shouldn’t have been picked,” Huey said. “But if that farmer doesn’t sell that coffee, his family and maybe even his neighbors’ families wouldn’t be able to pay for basic needs. Literally, they wouldn’t survive.”
Huey, 32, is one of the five owners of Seeds Coffee Co., which held its grand opening in West Homewood on Saturday, April 13. The nonprofit coffee shop and music venue on West Oxmoor Road is elegantly designed and proud of its product, which, depending on the customer’s order, is hand-poured over the grounds as he or she waits.
But, in part, it’s all a front for a much larger mission.
“Our vision is to know those farmers, to partner with them as we celebrate our accomplishments as local baristas,” said Taylor McCall, 31, another of Seeds’ owners.
McCall said Seeds Coffee is the second step in the owner’s long-term plan. The first began almost a year ago when Jeff’s younger brother, Brett, also an owner, began roasting coffee beans in a Whirly Pop Popcorn Popper in his kitchen. Brett had success finding flavor through considerable trial and error, and eventually people began asking to buy his beans.
Within a few months, the store was moving forward, partly thanks to Honors Real Estate in Homewood. Seeds and Honors identified a space they could share, including a place to roast coffee – within a closet in the Honors office.
Joined by other owners Rod Lee, 30, and Stephen Stepkoski, Jeff, Brett and McCall all agreed that Seeds’ storefront would focus on offering rich, flavorful coffees and regular music to their community.
In the meantime though, they were already focusing on the final part of their vision.
Jeff Huey, Brett Huey and McCall are all from South Alabama. Jeff came to the Birmingham area in 2006 to plan a church in Chelsea. McCall met Jeff at that church in 2007, and Brett arrived to join his brother in 2010.
In 2012 and 2013, well on their way to becoming professional coffee roasters, all three left the U.S. to explore their options building connections through coffee – options they hoped would lead to founding churches.
Jeff went to Indonesia, Brett to Guatemala and McCall to India. They returned with similar accounts of farmers living in poor conditions, selling their crops to exporters for pennies. Many of these farmers have never tasted coffee, they said, and don’t know of the global demand for their product.
“On average, a farmer’s coffee changes hands six times before it gets to port,” Jeff said. “Direct trade eliminates that and allows us to say, ‘I can be an advocate for you.’”
Using their experiences and their storefront, the owners of Seeds are continuing to search for ways to pay farmers a fair wage, as well as connect Homewood with the rest of the world. They haven’t figured it all out yet, but they know they started on a stovetop and it led them to a store. Now, they’re confident the community will help push them on to what’s next.Seeds Coffee Co., which held its grand opening on Saturday, April 13, is a nonprofit coffee shop and music venue on West Oxmoor Road that seeks to connect Homewood with the rest of the world. ]]>