By Lee Noles
INDIAN TRAIL – When many people were tearing into their presents on Christmas Day, Chris Berger was delivering them.
Berger owns Sugar Creek Coffee Roasters, with help from Noah Setzer. While the order for the specialty coffee roast could have waited until after the holiday, that doesn’t fit into the business’s belief.
“We want everyone to feel like they are the only ones we are dealing with,” Berger said.
The compassionate attitude toward others is a trademark and cornerstone of a company that had its genesis when Berger and Setzer met nearly five years ago.
Berger had just moved to Union County and was at a local park with his daughters when he saw Setzer playing ultimate frisbee with a few of his friends. An avid player himself, Berger struck up a conversation with the group and then started joining them for games on the weekend.
The friendship grew. At dinner with their wives, they discovered a similar passion for home-roasting coffee. It was then they began to lay down the building blocks for Sugar Creek Coffee, which was formed in 2016. The business recently enjoyed an expansion by renting out space six months ago at Sweet Union Brewery in Indian Trail to accommodate a large commercial roaster they purchased.
“It’s like we are riding a Harley,” Setzer said of the large roaster the business got in August 2019. “When I look back at pictures (of roasting at home), it was like riding a bicycle with training wheels.”
The process takes constant monitoring as Setzer uses his background as a science teacher at Porter Ridge High to use convection, pressure and temperature to create the assorted flavors. After picking and weighing the beans, they are then placed into a hopper while the machine heats to more than 400 degrees. Once the roaster is at the desired temperature, the beans are dropped into the machine and continually turned until their greenish and yellowish color starts to turn darker from the heat. When the beans become roasted, they are cooled before transitioning to a bucket where they are placed into a bag that can accommodate large orders or individual consumers.
“You really have to stay on top of it,” Berger said. “A couple of seconds can determine if you have a good batch or a bad one.”
Customers’ needs are essential to the two as they developed a website where people create the coffee they want based on the specific beans and roast level, as well as if they want whole or ground beans. They also offer free delivery in the area. Customers pay for their own distinct coffee beans either as they go, or for a month’s worth in advance.
“It’s your own personal coffee of the month,” Berger said.
Not wanting to lose track of their product, Setzer and Berger keep distribution limited to coffee shops and breweries around the Charlotte and Monroe area. This allows direct contact with their sellers as well as keeping the batches fresh by replacing them monthly.
Where the beans come from is just as important to Berger and Setzer as how they are roasted. Sustainable small farms that are involved in cooperative and fair-trade practices and organic are important factors in who the two will work with.
Their enjoyment of coffee is what brought them together, but it’s helping others that drives them. They make sure 100% of their sales and profit from some of the blended coffee goes to a variety of nonprofit groups. Everybody Fed provides food, education and medical care to orphan children who live in Jinja, Uganda, and benefits from the generosity of Sugar Creek Coffee.
“It goes back to a love for helping people,” Berger said. “And I have been blessed in my life, and to give back is very important to me.”
Educating others about what goes into making coffee is another aspect Berger and Setzer enjoy. They have a large flat-screen television above their roasting machine so people can view the stages the process goes through. They also have tastings at coffee shops where they talk about the history of the drink and how they create their products.
“People think coffee is coffee,” Setzer said. “But coffee to us is like a fine wine. You can get the typical flavor on top, but underneath there could be chocolates, or there could be almonds. All of these different flavors are right there, and we want to show them to people.”
Want to know more?
Sugar Creek Coffee Roasters is located inside Sweet Union Brewery, 13717 E. Independence Blvd., Indian Trail. They also sell their coffee at a variety of retail locations. Visit www.sugarcreekcoffee.com for details.