Bret Smith and Fred Houk


Counter Culture Coffee is founded in Durham, NC by Brett Smith and Fred Houk who met while Brett was in business school at UNC.

We sold our first bag of roasted coffee to Pop’s Trattoria in Durham, NC.

Sanctuary Coffee


We launched a bird-friendly coffee line called Sanctuary Coffee. We were one of the first roasters to sell shade-grown coffee, introducing our Sanctuary Coffee line to the industry at the 1997 Specialty Coffee Association of America event in New Orleans.

USDA Organic


Our Durham facility became the first certified-organic roaster in North Carolina on the first day it was possible (based upon the National Organic Program).

We held our first public cupping. Such began the weekly Friday tradition that continues in each regional location. Public cuppings have become commonplace for most coffee roasters.

Vision Statement


Codification of our dedication to real social, environmental, and fiscal sustainability into the Counter Culture vision statement. This document was signed by Brett Smith, Peter Guiliano, and Daryn Berlin on March 10, 2003.

Counter Culture founding


We took our first customer group to visit coffee farms in Nicaragua—a precursor to our Origin Field Lab, which continues as an annual event.

Source Coffee


We launched our “Source” line of coffees: a 12 oz retail bag design focused on single-origin coffees. That year, the Source line won best new product at the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America conference.


Counter Culture formalized our third-party-certified Direct Trade policy, which we continue to refine.

SEEDS Program


We created our Sustaining Environmental and Educational Development at Source (SEEDS) program—to structure and define our monetary contributions to projects that are not coffee-quality-specific, but still benefit our coffee-producing partners and their communities.

We obtained Green Plus sustainable business certification. In 2012, Counter Culture received Green Plus Sustainable Enterprise of the Year award.

Coalition for Coffee Communities founding member


We became a founding member of the Coalition for Coffee Communities—an organization established to help address food security issues in coffee communities that set a precedent for pre-competitive collaboration.


With 20 years of experience, we opened a new roastery and training center in the San Francisco Bay area, and began operations in April to better serve our West Coast partners.


In 2016 we moved our Headquarters to a new facility near downtown Durham, NC.