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Not Your Average Joe: 5 Veteran-Owned Gourmet Coffee Brands

Here are the military-linked companies taking it to the next level


spinner image Carl and Lori A. Churchill, owners of Alpha Coffee in Cottonwoods Heights, Colorado
Carl and Lori A. Churchill, owners of Alpha Coffee.
Niki Chan

The history of coffee in the USA has strong patriotic overtones and the drink has always been linked to military service.

After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when colonists dumped tea into the harbor, coffee became a national symbol of pride and defiance. It’s been a love (and addiction) ever since, as well as a staple military ration — starting with the Civil War and leading all the way up to the Global War on Terror.

spinner image closeup of a rusty dog tag with the text thank you veterans engraved in it, next to a flag of the United States

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

But while the United States was leading the world in pretty much everything else, we arguably lagged woefully behind in coffee until Starbucks took off in the 1990s, sparking a love affair with mocha lattes, baristas and gourmet coffee.

Soon, high-end coffee found its way into military culture. Black Rifle Coffee founders Evan Hafer and Mat Best are two of the most well-known faces of the caffeine warrior Java culture.

But there are also dozens of smaller veteran-owned coffee brands across the country. Here are five of our personal favorites:

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Aerial Resupply Coffee

Founded by disabled Army veteran Mike Klemmer, Charlottesville, Virginia.

What makes it special? “Our brand is about support. Period. It’s not about extreme marketing or tying the brand to a political ideology,” Klemmer told AARP Veteran Report. “Support doesn’t care about any of that — it just shows up when it needs to.”

Taste Factor: RC has 5 primary roasts, Lifeline Light Roast, Fire Watch Medium Roast, MOAB Double Caffeinated Medium Roast, Spectre Dark Espresso Roast, and 15W40 Dark Italian roast. They mainly use 100 percent Colombian Supremo beans. “It’s not bitter, and doesn’t have that acidic feeling from different types of beans.”

Got Your Six Coffee

Founded by Navy Veteran Eric Hadley, Springfield, Missouri.

What makes it special? Six years old, GY6CC is active on the ground, showing up for first responders in times of need and supporting numerous charities as well as troops stationed overseas.

“We’re a coffee company with a purpose,” Hadley told AARP Veteran Report. “That purpose is to help those who serve. We are dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, eliminating the veteran suicide rate, to helping those who serve to transition [to civilian life] and deal with PTSD, and to ensuring that those who watch over us have the tools they need.”

Taste Factor: Range of roasts to suit just about any palate. Unusual flavors include Maple Bourbon and Absent Without Caffeine (AWOC).

Invader Coffee

Founded by Marine veteran Wes Whitlock, Austin, Texas.

What makes it special? Invader coffee started under Wes Whitlock’s Rogue American Apparel store, based in in Austin, Texas. His coffee boasts a “Don’t Tread on Me” attitude matched by quality and exquisite taste. This is coffee for serious coffee drinkers –as Whitlock’s “Death Before Decaf” t-shirt and blends like “Wake the Bones” attest. Invader works with Move America Forward, allowing customers to donate bags of coffee to troops deployed overseas.

Taste Factor: Invader Coffee beans are hand-selected and air-roasted, removing much of the bitterness from the taste. Some of the flavors reflect South Texas cuisine, such as Mexican Chocolate and Pumpkin Pecan.

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Alpha Coffee

Founded by Army veteran Carl Churchill and his wife Lori Churchill, Cottonwood Heights, Utah.

What Makes it Special? The company started out in 2010 as Lock-n-Load Java, selling only online. In 2016, it rebranded as Alpha Coffee, also selling via retailers. In 2017, Carl, a former lieutenant colonel and combat veteran with 21 years’ service, and Lori opened their first coffee shop near their home and there are now stores in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Salt Lake City and Legacy West Jordan.

Taste Factor: Hand-picked, hand-processed Arabica. “I think a good cup of coffee feels like home,” Carl told AARP Veteran Report. “We have an obligation to honor all the effort and love and care that went into that coffee, from picking, processing it roasting it and then give a drink to someone where they’re like, ‘This is the best cappuccino I’ve ever had.” Lori chimed in, “We tell our staff, ‘Think about making a latte for your grandmother.’”

Victory Coffees

Founded by Navy SEAL veteran Cade Courtney, Austin, Texas.

What Makes it Special? Victory Coffees is one of the best choices for Veteran-owned and operated coffee companies that specialize in subscription-based home or business delivery. It also has hilarious marketing campaigns reminiscent of Tropical Thunder, and cool vintage WW2 packaging.

“As a former Navy SEAL, my teammates and I operated in some of the most hazardous places on the planet,” Cade says on his website. “No matter how dangerous or miserable the situation was; like those who served before us, we always had that warm cup of coffee. This became our sanctuary.”

Taste Factor: Organically grown Buttery smooth Arabica blends. Sailor blend has hints of cocoa and maple. Decaf varieties are available and Soldier Cup pods are single-serving size with 12 grams of the signature Battleship Blend.

You can subscribe here to AARP Veteran Report, a free e-newsletter published twice a month. If you have feedback or a story idea then please contact us here.

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