From touring art museums and breweries to walking around the world-renowned Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, it’s easy for visitors to find something to do in Grand Rapids. But sometimes visitors want more; they want to immerse themselves in the culture, cuisine and lifestyle of our city.
If that’s you, Experience Grand Rapids has cataloged over 100 Tours and Experiences that allow you to dive in and discover what makes Grand Rapids tick. For example, instead of just visiting our Downtown Market you might want to take a hands-on cooking class – there are plenty! Or maybe you love coffee and instead of just stopping by one of our local cafes, you’d like to know more about the production and the business – there are Tours and Experiences for that, too.
How It Works
To search for available Tours and Experiences, first visit www.ExperienceGR.com/Experiences. There, you can request a personalized list of tours/experiences based on your interests, the dates of your visit, price range and more!
An Inside Peek
What's happening at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters this month. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello
If you love the Tours and Experiences idea, but aren’t sure what to expect, we get it. To help clarify how it works (and because we love coffee), we searched Tours and Experiences for a coffee activity this month and two popped up: Coffee Roasting Demonstrations and Tastings at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters (called the Saturday Experience) and a Facility Tour of Ferris Coffee & Nut Co. We decided to check out the Saturday Experience at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, which is offered every Saturday from 11AM – 3PM, to give you an idea of what one of these Tours and Experiences is like.
The Saturday Experience at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters
You’re definitely diving into a delicious part of GR culture when you venture to Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters, located in a former warehouse a few miles west of Downtown. Primarily a wholesaler of specialty coffee, GR Coffee Roasters has a devoted following of coffee lovers who flock to the store to buy fresh roasted coffee of the highest quality, sometimes even creating their own blends.
Stroll through this unassuming entrance to Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters and make your way to the roasting/serving room. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello.
The free Saturday Experience is a way for you to learn more about coffee in their laid-back atmosphere, while sampling at least three of their coffees. Espresso shots and Americanos are available as well.
Coffee Roasters owner, Craig Patterson, roasting coffee beans. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello
When you visit Coffee Roasters, let them know you’d like to have the owner, Craig Patterson, walk you through what they do. His passion for coffee comes through loud and clear as he talks about buying coffee from around the globe. Patterson customizes his talk based on your interests and can walk you through everything from how and where they buy coffee beans, to why they buy the types of beans they do, to their roasting philosophy and more.
One of the things I learned during my Saturday Experience was how to read the label on the containers of the coffee beans he imports.
One of the many specialty coffee beans you can have roasted at Grand Rapids Coffee Roasters. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello
The beans in this container from Papa New Guinea are certified as “Shade Grown," one of many certifications that help environmentally-concerned consumers make purchasing choices. The “Sigri Estate” moniker indicates that these beans all came from one farm, the Sigri Estate. That’s less common, says Patterson, than buying from a cooperative that processes beans for many farmers.
Patterson can also educate you on the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans, the various grades of coffee, and how roasting time affects the final taste of your favorite morning beverage.
The Perfect Pour Pour-Over Station brews up a delightful cup of coffee. Photo credit: Kirsetin Morello
For a special treat, pay a nominal fee ($2) to try their Perfect Pour Pour-Over Station. The pour-over method allows you to brew one cup of coffee at a time for the perfect morning pick-me-up. They explain the technique during the demonstration, using freshly roasted coffee beans and purified water at a higher temperature to bring out more flavor. When they’re done, you get to savor a cup of pour-over perfection.
Tea lovers aren’t excluded at Coffee Roasters. With a generous selection of loose-leaf teas (I tried, and recommend, the lemongrass green tea), you can enjoy tea while learning all about coffee. Or you can just sit, relax and sip your tea while your partner enjoys the Saturday Experience coffee talk.
One of the things that sets Coffee Roasters apart is that you choose the coffee beans and they roast them while you wait. You can even create your own blend! The minimum custom roast is two pounds of coffee, which ranges from $25 to $27, depending on the coffee you select. You can also purchase gourmet flavored coffees for $27 for a two-pound bag. But if you’re just up for tasting and for the Saturday Experience education, no purchase is required.
Other Tour and Experience Options
Coffee lovers looking for another Tour and Experience can also get insight into Ferris Coffee and Nut Co. with their behind-the-scenes facility tours.
But, as we mentioned earlier, with over 100 Tours and Experiences to choose from, these activities go way beyond coffee. Foodies, wine lovers, art lovers, beer lovers and more can all find ways to experience Grand Rapids on a more thorough, personal level. Over the next couple of months, we’ll highlight other Tours and Experiences to give you a feel for what else is out there…stay tuned!