Milwaukee Roasters Are Donating Coffee to Hospitals and Shelters

How local coffee roasters are brewing up COVID-relief efforts.

Watch even a few minutes of a medical drama and you’ll quickly notice doctors and nurses sipping coffee on constant repeat.

These first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic need a coffee fix more than ever right now, which is why local coffee roasters are chipping in to make that happen.

“Within our employee base, we have family members who work in health care, whether they’re physician’s assistants or doctors,” says Stone Creek Coffee Roasters’ owner and founder Eric Resch. “We’re worried about them and we’re thinking about them.”

This realization prompted Stone Creek Coffee Roasters to, on Tuesday, announce it would donate 500 pounds of coffee this week to staff at area hospitals. These are hospitals where the roaster’s beans are already ground, brewed and served. 

Stone Creek Coffee Roasters is not the only local coffee roaster donating coffee. MKEing Coffee is donating coffee to the Milwaukee Rescue Mission over the next few weeks. “They are considered an ‘essential service’ by offering shelter and food to the homeless, impoverished and vulnerable communities in Milwaukee,” says MKEing Coffee’s co-founder and managing partner Chad Johnson. “Food Entrepreneurs at Upstart Kitchen will be volunteering to brew the coffee on our brewing equipment in the commercial kitchen space and deliver to the Rescue Mission. While this is an unprecedented time in our country’s history, it is affirming our faith in humanity and highlighting the core values and moral fabric of businesses.”

Hawthorne Coffee Roasters, which operates a South Side café that continues to offer carryout and curbside pickup, recently rolled out a COVID-relief blend. It’s called Solidarity Coffee. “We’ve had many customers wanting to ‘pay it forward,’” says Hawthorne Coffee Roasters founder Steve Hawthorne. “It is an $8 half-pound of coffee that our customers may purchase. These bags are then distributed to laid-off members of the service industry and frontline healthcare workers.”

Based in Viroqua, Kickapoo Coffee — which operates a Third Ward café — pledged to donate a kilo (that’s 2.2 pounds) of coffee per week to 10 Wisconsin non-profits, small businesses and other organizations working in health care. The give-back campaign starts this Saturday. Customers are encouraged to nominate non-profits by using #kilosforcommunity on the roaster’s Instagram or Facebook pages.

“We can’t make masks, but what we do have is coffee,” says Resch, who added that his 215 employees are just as much a concern. They continue to be paid during the cafes’ temporary closure. On the roaster’s website is this virtual tip jar, which he says many regular customers have been contributing to, even when they can’t say hi to their favorite barista in person.

Kickapoo Coffee is also committed to paying its workers emergency sick pay during a two-week shutdown at its three cafes—the other two are in Viroqua and Bayfield. 

Similarly, Hawthorne Coffee Roasters workers were given paid sick leave “so that they wouldn’t have to choose between risking their own health and the health of our customers,” says Hawthorne, “and getting a paycheck.”

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A seasoned writer, and a former editor at Milwaukee Home & Fine Living, Kristine Hansen launched her wine-writing career in 2003, covering wine tourism, wine and food pairings, wine trends and quirky winemakers. Her wine-related articles have published in Wine Enthusiast, Sommelier Journal, Uncorked (an iPad-only magazine), FoodRepublic.com, CNN.com and Whole Living (a Martha Stewart publication). She's trekked through vineyards and chatted up winemakers in many regions, including Chile, Portugal, California (Napa, Sonoma and Central Coast), Canada, Oregon and France (Bordeaux and Burgundy). While picking out her favorite wine is kind of like asking which child you like best, she will admit to being a fan of Oregon Pinot Noir and even on a sub-zero winter day won't turn down a glass of zippy Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.