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Cultivating Community with Coffee and Craft Beer in SE Michigan

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Yesterday we shared news of the latest happenings at the up-and-coming roastery Hyperion Coffee Co. in downtown Ypsilanti, Mich. Today we head across the street — quite literally across N. River Street in Depot Town — to Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse, a new multiroaster cafe, craft beer house and community space that recently celebrated its first month in business.

The two companies are not technically related in a business sense, although upon visits to both, it’s clear they share a similar coffee ethos — elevating quality standards locally while supporting equitable trade practices that funnel down to coffee producers.

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Cultivate is actually a 501c3 nonprofit led by wife-and-husband team Bekah and Ryan Wallace, as well as by Coffee Director Billy Kangas. A Cultivate LLC was created to hold the beer license, making possible the somewhat overwhelming selection of 36 craft beers, almost all which are produced in Michigan. The business is still on the path toward profitability, but the idea is that once the core staff is paid, additional net earnings are applied to community-focused projects locally and farther afield — particularly those related to ending hunger. In general, the business is equally centered around the three concepts of craft, community and cause.

For the coffee program, the craft element begins with a rotating selection of coffees from roasters who demonstrate equitable sourcing practices that translate to improved farmer incomes. Said Kangas, “We realize coffee farmers are some of the most vulnerable people in the world in terms of food insecurity.”

Billy Kangas. Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Billy Kangas. Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Recent offerings have come from roasters such as Counter Culture Coffee, George Howell Coffee, Ipsento Coffee (Chicago), Populace Coffee (Bay City, Mich.) and Anthology Coffee (Detroit). Naturally, coffees from Hyperion are also regularly found among Cultivate’s daily roster.

“People have asked us if we’re intimidated by them opening,” Hyperion co-founder Eric Mullins told Daily Coffee News regarding Cultivate. “But we’re like, ‘no, we think it’s awesome. We get to go across the street and taste coffees from all these other roasters and stack them up against what we’re doing.’ It’s pretty amazing.”

The Wallaces. Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

The Wallaces. Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Cultivate offers a daily selection of coffees brewed with custom-made Kalita Wave pourover stands, and on busy mornings the team will occasionally keep Chemex brews in an airpot. The espresso program, which also incorporates new coffees on a daily basis, is powered by a La Marzocco Strada MP and a Mahlkonig K30 Twin grinder. The menu is simple, offering black and white (with milk) espresso drinks, as well as seasonal espresso drink creations.

“Every given day, I like to have at least one natural, and if I can have an East African that’s great,” Kangas said of the daily pourover selections. “I try to have three roasters represented each day, but sometimes I can only have two, just based on selection.”

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

The coffee bar occupies only a corner of the large, well-lit space that the Cultivate team spent 10 months renovating after it was left by Ted’s Auto Electric, a well-known, family-run business that had been there for approximately 60 years. They removed walls, added large community tables, a small stage, a kids play area, and a wall-sized chalkboard community calendar. A patio and garden area in a fenced yard behind the shop will be fully realized this Spring.

Bekah Wallace said the intention from the beginning was to create a community-centered space, removing some of the physical boundaries and visual signifiers of more traditional for-profit bars or café spaces.

“Coffee and beer are both beverages that we’re really passionate about, but at the heart of it is the community piece,” Wallace said. “People gather around coffee; they gather around beer. They are great conversation starters.”

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

Photo by Amy Kimball Photography (amykimballphotography.com), courtesy of Cultivate Coffee & TapHouse

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