If you don’t already love coffee, Vicki Wilson, Founder of Door County Coffee and Tea, will convert you. Her enthusiasm for her business and the caffeinated bean that fuels it is infectious.
On a recent visit, I watched Vicki bounce around the cafe, refilling mugs while offering hugs to regulars and recommendations to newcomers. I wondered if she was naturally so energetic or if it was the effect of her coffee, but either way, it’s working. Door County Coffee started as a family operation 22 years ago, and Wilson and her team have been roasting Specialty Class 1 Arabica beans in small batches ever since. Small batches are not to be mistaken with small production though–Door County Coffee roasts more than 3,000 pounds of coffee per day, and serves more than 250,000 customers each year (including Aaron Rodgers). The cafe even had a nice bustle going on in the midst of February, long after much of the county’s business had fled south.
The reason for Door County Coffee’s success, aside from the warm atmosphere, is the focus on quality. Beans undergo rigorous taste tests, and Vicki refuses to buy from regions that don’t live up to the highest standards. Brazil is the world’s largest coffee producer, but you won’t find a Brazilian roast at Door County Coffee and Tea because the quality isn’t as great as Costa Rica or Sumatra, for example. Speaking of Sumatra, coffee growers there happen to produce Vicki’s favorite coffee, thanks to their drying methods. In most places beans are dried with a machine, but Sumatra growers lay the beans on a bed of dirt and dry them with a paddle, resulting in a deep and delicious earthy flavor.
Because her coffee fits such strict criteria, it can be frustrating for Vicki when other companies aren’t held up to the same standards. Coffee is not nutritionally significant and therefore it is not subject to mandatory labeling laws, enabling companies to list what they want as ingredients. The coffee grade doesn’t have to be specified, so a company can write ‘Premium Coffee’ on a bag and the consumer doesn’t know whether that’s the grade or a persuasive adjective. Vicki says she hopes someday the labeling process will change, but until then she’s happy knowing she roasts the best coffee from the best beans possible, and she believes her customers understand and appreciate this. Considering she serves a quarter of a million people and growing, plus sells to stores around the country and customers around the world, I have to agree.
As the name suggests, Door County Coffee and Tea produces much more than just coffee. They serve five types of tea, a large breakfast and lunch menu, and an array of pastries.
What I liked best about Door County Coffee and Tea was its familiar, cozy atmosphere. It has a small town feel despite major success. The emphasis is on the customer, as was obvious in the way Vicki spoke of her regulars and the fact that her marketing director responds personally to every single Facebook or Trip Advisor comment. Photos of the community adorn the cafe, and the roasting room (which visitors can observe through a giant glass window), is decorated with murals by a local artist.
Coffee addicts and skeptics alike will learn something new and find lots to love at Door County Coffee and Tea, an obvious stop and a new favorite on my ever growing cafe list. Happy Monday!
5773 WI-42, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235
Open 7 days a week 7:30am to 5:00pm