We want to invite our Notes from Norge followers on a new journey...
Notes from Norge is not going anywhere - we will continue to share about coffee and cultural insights via this blog.
But if you have not already heard, we have started a new site, focused on storytelling. We are seeking to create a platform that has several purposes:
It allows us to get to know more people where we live in and work
It gives us the chance to help support local businesses
It tells personal stories that will encourage and empower those who follow along
It creates a place where people can connect and support one another
So we hope you will continue to follow along here, but will also join us as we share the stories of those around us - and a few of our own as well. We believe that everyone has a story. And everyone needs a chance for their story To Be Told.
We were searching for a lunch spot to meet up with my dad and step-mom. It really was more about location than anything else. Of course, the word coffee did appear in our search criteria...
Tucked away in the second floor of what was once a community bank building, Higher Grounds is not in the most prominent of locations.
And yet, the customer traffic suggests that location isn't a hindrance.
A cute breakfast and lunch spot, their menu offerings were fresh, creative, and enticing. I was definitely more interested in the food options than the coffee, at least initially.
But while ordering food, Zack asked the girl at the counter if they offered any sort of hand brewed coffees. She admitted her lack of coffee knowledge, but called her coworker from the back.
Out from the kitchen came a young man - emphasis on young. My first thought was, 'how can this guy know anything about coffee?' Seriously, I'm certain I'm old enough to be his mom. And I'm not THAT old.
Caleb smiled and offered to prepare a pour-over for us. We asked for a coffee recommendation. Turns out, the kid not only knows how to prepare coffee, but he also roasts his own beans.
Caleb De Avila and his brother Josh got the 'roasting bug' after watching the Travel Channel series Dangerous Grounds. So about a year ago, they began roasting their own beans. And in the last six months, Caleb has begun doing even more.
While most college kids spend their hours outside of the classroom in more traditional or conventional ways, Caleb spends the majority of that time with coffee. Whether he's perfecting his roasting game, preparing coffee at Higher Grounds, or working at the company's other shop 2 Ladies in the Attic, Caleb is all about the beans.
On the day we visited Higher Grounds, Caleb prepared two pour-overs for us: one Ethiopian and one Brazilian. Both were quite enjoyable.
His roasting skills are quite impressive, particularly given his age and the brevity of his roasting experience. And he's also expanding his skills through experimentation with nitro cold brewed coffee.
In addition to good coffee, Higher Grounds is worth a visit for the food: definitely as delicious as it looks.
If you happen to be driving on I-85 just north of Gwinnett County, Georgia, take a break at exit 129. Turn one way and you'll find Higher Grounds. Turn the other, and you'll get to 2 Ladies in the Attic. Either way, if you happen to meet Caleb, tell him his new friends in Norway said hi!
Some claim that after extended time together, a dog and its owner begin to resemble each other. I have to admit, I've seen photos, and the phenomenon does seem to exist!
But perhaps the same is true in the professional world. I wonder if maybe an entrepreneur or businessperson becomes more like his or her products the longer the two are together.
Case in point: meet Brian Holland, founder, president, and CEO at Phoenix Roasters. It could be merely coincidence. But just a few minutes with Brian, and you'll quickly see the similarities between the man and the coffee his company produces.
Highly caffeinated at all times, or merely abounding with endless energy, Brian rarely sits still. And even when his body slows for a moment, he's at warp-speed in conversation.
But when you spend a few minutes with Brian, you also quickly discover he is a man who is passionate. Passionate about helping those who are struggling or hurting. And passionate about coffee.
And what do you get when you put those passions together? Coffee that matters. It's the theme of Phoenix Roasters, and the heart of what they do.
Phoenix Roasters is a coffee roasting company operating out of Duluth, Georgia, and distributing coffee throughout the United States.
Phoenix's goal is to use the proceeds of their sales to support their community-related operations:
Phoenix Roasters operates in connection with Phoenix Community of Atlanta, which includes Sunday morning gatherings and weekday community groups taking place in various suburbs of metro Atlanta. These faith-based groups are designed as a place for encouragement, redemption, and transformation - particularly for people who are struggling or hurting.
Phoenix spends time in Central America, building relationships with and training coffee growers in several countries. Through their programs, they are teaching methods for growing and cultivating high-quality coffee beans. And by paying a better-than-fair wage, the growers can also better provide for the needs of their families.
Phoenix partners with such groups as the Atlanta Mission and in local prison ministries.
The Phoenix team can be found throughout the US serving up #CoffeeThatMatters at national conferences like Catalyst and If: Gathering.
During our recent time in Georgia, our family stopped by Phoenix's roasting facilities a couple of times. Their warehouse space is where all of their roasting, packing, and distribution happens, and also the home to one of their Sunday morning groups.
While there, we indulged in Phoenix's new nitro coffee.
Liquid energy. It's the best way to describe this coffee concoction. A cold-brewed coffee infused with nitrogen and dispensed from a keg, it offers intense flavor and a lightning-fast caffeine jolt.
And now that I'm back in Norway, I think I'm experiencing Phoenix Nitro withdrawal!
What a great concept: Coffee That Matters. As they state on their website, Phoenix is all about "life transformation through the sale of excellent coffee." It's all part of Phoenix's Cycle of Relief program. And it all points back to the legendary bird for whom the company is named, beautiful imagery that speaks to Brian's passion for reaching out to those who are broken up and burned up.
I tried my best to prepare for it. For everything that was about to happen as we headed to the states. But I knew we could't truly be prepared, that we couldn't totally know what to expect.
And especially when it came to our boys.
They had not been to the states in over three years. Norway has become home, probably more so for them than for us. Daniel has actually lived in our home in Sandefjord longer than he's lived anywhere else in his entire life.
They were super excited about going to America. But we didn't know what it would be like for them. I anticipated a mix of emotions, of highs and lows. And I imagined that even with all the excitement, at some point they would become homesick.
And as I thought about that a bit more, I realized that homesickness is actually a constant in this life we live.
We have experienced homesickness on a fairly consistent basis since probably 2007.
I remember being incredibly homesick our first time in Ukraine. It was our first time in a non-English speaking country. The availability of internet, even 8 years ago, just wasn't what it was now. There were so many unknowns and so much uncertainty around us (plus, we were about to become parents for the first time - yikes!).
And yet, when we arrived home with our first son a month later, we found ourselves feeling a bit homesick for Ukraine. Sounds weird, but it is true.
It happened again in 2010 when we adopted our second child. Homesick for America, then homesick for Ukraine.
We experienced it when we lived in Canada. And at that point, I started realizing that the homesickness we are experiencing is not necessarily about a place. It is more about family, friends, and familiarity.
We felt it it when we first moved here to Norway and made it through that initial 'honeymoon' phase.
And while I love our city and friends and life in Norway, we still experience it.
It seems there is always a lingering homesickness in me. It is there regardless of where I am.
After three years living outside of my home culture, I've come to realize that I might never feel totally at home again. There will always be something I miss from one of my homes.
It's one of those things you learn to live with, that you accept as a part of this cross-culture lifestyle.
And I also see now that it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative thing.
Instead, I consider it a reminder of the opportunities we've had in life, the people and places who've impacted and changed us, and the memories of the family, the friends, and the familiar.
So thanks to so many of you for making us feel at home in so many different places.
For making us feel homesick.
And for keeping up with us, through the crazy times, the boring times, and everything in between.