“It’s a homecoming for us,” Nate Broadbridge, co-owner of SK Coffee said, as he looked around a half-assembled coffee shop in January. A few weeks later, he welcomed in neighbors to the bright, plant-infused space. Broadbridge is also a long-time Whittier resident.
SK Coffee officially opened their doors on February 4. It is the coffee company's first coffee shop.
When SK Coffee started out in Minneapolis in 2018, it roasted its beans out of the now-closed Salty Tart bakery at 2940 Harriet Ave. S. SK Coffee is primarily a subscription-based coffee company but has branched out into serving coffee in the lobby of Vandalia Tower in St. Paul, technically a coffee bar, and now in Whittier. SK Coffee beans are available at select grocery stores in the Twin Cities.
“Wedge was the first grocery store to ever take us,” Broadbridge said.
What sets SK Coffee apart from other coffee shops and roasters in the Twin Cities is its place in the specialty coffee industry.
“We’re pushing it the hardest and the best,” Broadbridge said.
SK Coffee buys and roasts specific coffee beans from specific farmers’ land. One coffee tree can be cultivated for five years and take a full three years to grow the coffee beans that SK Coffee will purchase, roast, and sell. Using this purchasing model, SK Coffee purchased beans from 56 different coffee farm lots last year from six different countries.
Later this month, SK Coffee co-owner Sam Kjellberg is visiting Finca Gascón, a farm in Antigua, Guatemala that focuses on growing specialty coffee. There, only six pickers are trained to pick the beans that roasters like SK Coffee buy.
Broadbridge talked to me about the importance of SK Coffee respecting the farmers’ craftsmanship and everyone succeeding together rather than Western roasters exploiting farmers. Both Broadbridge and Kjellberg murmured to me a few times that the farmer who owns Finca Gascón is financially secure. Broadbridge showed me a picture of his home in Antigua (it is breathtaking). Point taken.
So what does this all mean for the coffee drinker? A really good cup of coffee. It’s just a bit pricey.
A drip coffee at SK Coffee runs $3.50. A pour-over can be as much as $10.
Beyond the cultivation of the coffee beans, part of the cost is the process the beans go through before they are roasted. The farmers that specialty coffee roasters collaborate with are typically open to experimentation. Broadbridge brought up the koji-fermentation process out of Japan that coffee farmers are experimenting with as an example of what processes may be integrated into the coffee at SK Coffee. Fruit fermentation is another process to look out for.
As Broadbridge, Kjellberg, and I chatted in their coffee shop space, we traded anecdotes about being willing to pay for non-alcoholic drinks as a trade for alcoholic consumption.
If people were once willing to spend $15 on a fancy cocktail, spending a similar amount on a single-origin cup of coffee with an intricate growing and fermentation process behind it doesn’t seem so wild.
Kjellberg and Broadbridge have also found that people are willing to pay for their direct relationship with the farmers. For example, if there are fees to wire money to a farmer in Costa Rica, SK Coffee will cover the cost of the fees so the farmer gets the full amount of money. The fee coverage gets calculated into the price of the coffee.
“People want to be helpful,” Broadbridge said.
In their reiteration of the coffee shop space, Broadbridge and Kjellberg are using as much recycled material as possible. When Misfit ran the coffee shop, the original front wooden bar was poured over with concrete. SK Coffee removed all the concrete, refinished the wood and it now sits as the back bar. The new front bar is made from recycled marble bits made at Leon’s Countertops in Bloomington.
“They crushed it,” Broadbridge said of marble countertop work.
Omfrome Design, around the corner on 24th Street, helped with the interior design and found the pastel light fixtures that line the coffee bar.
Pastries will be provided by Vikings & Goddesses and Laune Bread. SK Coffee does not have plans to have a food menu. They are going to stay in their lane, as Broadbridge put it.
SK Coffee is continually offering up new coffee from different farm lots. At the Whittier location, you will be able to buy bags of coffee not available at grocery stores that carry SK Coffee (e.g. The Wedge). The coffee shop also has a sugar-cane processed decaf available.
SK Coffee is located at 2401 Lyndale Ave. S and is open from 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. seven days a week.