Wonderstate Coffee: Award-Winning Specialty Coffee with Integrity from Viroqua, WI
Tucked amidst the rolling hills and valleys of the Driftless region in rural Wisconsin isn’t the first place you’d expect to find a world-class specialty coffee company. The town of Viroqua is home to 4,000 individuals, a vibrant and unique culture, and a small-town feel where everyone knows everyone. The town is simply one big family.
Wonderstate Coffee founder Caleb Nicholes started his company here in 2005, and since then has led a mission-forward effort that has established the company as a top roaster not only in the Midwest, but nationwide. What started as a roasting company in an old train depot, has turned into much, much more.
Much of the pride in this roasting operation comes from a commitment to their supply chain, pursuing an effort to always keeping people first. No one person or organization knows to address the inequity embedded in the coffee supply chain, but Wonderstate is doing its part to make a difference. In 2006, the company became part of the world’s only coffee roaster-owned buying cooperative, called Coop Coffees. As one of the 21 members, they have the rare opportunity to vertically integrate with their supply chain and work directly with farmers in a way that is extremely personal, fair, and transparent.
But that’s not all. In 2017, Wonderstate committed to one of the highest minimum price guarantees to farmers in the industry, more than 80% above the Fair Trade conventional minimum and 50% above the Fair Trade Organic minimum. As of 2020, Wonderstate’s minimum price guarantee was $2.90 per pound, compared to a commodity price of $1 per pound. And, starting in 2015, the company became the first traditional coffee roastery in the world to run on 100% solar power. These efforts amongst many others have a major effect on the exceptional quality of coffee they’re roasting.
Behind the Roast
Brought over from Germany, the company roasts beans on two vintage 1930’s Probat roasters that have been upgraded to add even more capabilities. With each roast, they micro-tune things like airflow and gas to ensure optimal coffee quality is reflected every single time. But the commitment to quality doesn’t stop there…
Tastings and cupping sessions are happening every day to make sure that they’re creating the best cup with the most sweetness, complexity, softness, body, and weight. Every cup is approached with the same singularity knowing that they might have to adapt a given roast to create the optimal sensory expressions. And Wonderstate has always had an obsession with exceptional beans and terrior -- the way land features like soil, rainfall, sunlight, and elevation speak through a coffee.
While Wonderstate has had a successful journey in the specialty coffee industry, they are some of the most humble and down-to-earth people we’ve met. For them it’s not about becoming the biggest and the best. It’s about committing to making a difference that lasts as long as they do, starting with pursuing exceptional ethics across the supply chain and finally by providing a superior cup of coffee to everyone who enjoys it.
This is Wonderstate Coffee Company.