Noah Parenteau founded Higher Grounds Coffee with a few hundred dollars and a used cargo trailer when he was just 16.
Noah Parenteau stands next to Higher Grounds coffee trailer refurbished from a cargo trailer he bought in February 2022 and has sold his bags of coffee, along with piping hot lattes on Jan. 25 in Blaine. Credit: Paul Bagnall / The Star-Herald

BLAINE, Maine — A young entrepreneur from Blaine has turned a love of coffee into a full-time business.

Noah Parenteau, 19, founded Higher Grounds Coffee with a few hundred dollars and a used cargo trailer when he was just 16.

Starting a business in rural Aroostook County during the pandemic was risky. Businesses were closing or restructuring, and supply-chain hangups halted commerce. But Parenteau knew he had something people wanted and vowed to make it work.

“I started out with $300 and a few bags of coffee and a small little electric roaster that did about one pound at a time, and it was kind of fun,” Parenteau said. “Things were a little slow to start but it’s definitely grown from there.”

Parenteau first roasted beans for family and friends. He’s had a coffee roaster in his home for about two years and loves being able to control quality and freshness, he said. 

He uses all natural coffee and adds no artificial flavors, roasting the beans slowly for 8 to 10 minutes. Venting the equipment properly ensures a light roast, but he also has experimented with medium and dark varieties, he said.  

One of his best sellers is his Acadia Blend, which has natural notes of blueberry flavor, he said.  

Parenteau sources raw product from high-altitude farms in Ethiopia, Guatemala, Colombia and Sumatra.

Coffee grown above 3,000 feet can produce more flavorful beans, according to the industry publication Perfect Daily Grind.  

Higher Grounds isn’t a traditional brick-and-mortar store. Though he started out doing business online, Parenteau acquired a used trailer last February, taking out a loan to convert it into an insulated barista counter on wheels. It was licensed and ready to go in September.

Now he goes to farmers markets and community events, like craft fairs at the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle. He sells packaged coffee for home brewing and beverages like lattes, cappuccinos and hot chocolate, he said. 

He maintains social media pages, and has a website where he sells ground and whole bean coffee. The Higher Grounds trailer is parked at the Mars Hill Pharmacy parking lot on Thursdays and Fridays.

Parenteau wants to expand, but has faced challenges.

“When you’re a small [business] you don’t have access to better pricing on coffee, materials and different stuff like that,” he said. “Not having a brick-and-mortar [store], people don’t know that your business exists quite as much.”

Online sales were brisk at the height of the pandemic, but recently have decreased a bit, Parenteau said. To boost business, he has dabbled in selling wholesale to a Presque Isle grocery store and revamped his website. 

Parenteau wants to start offering organic coffee, but so far cost has been an issue because green, or unroasted, coffee is expensive to buy, he said.

For now, he’s the sole employee, but Parenteau plans to hire in the future. 

Parenteau encouraged other young entrepreneurs to start a business.

“It’s going to be harder than you’d expect, but don’t let that stop you,” he said.