Michigan's first 'Death Cafe' opens in Grand Rapids

Designed to encourage open conversations about death and dying

Photo of Angela Mulka

Have you ever heard of a death-centric coffee shop? 

Michigan's first one opened in Grand Rapids just in time for Halloween.

The Mortals Cafe describes itself as a death themed coffee shop giving rise to Vietnamese coffee, worldly teas and inspired flavors with a side of conversation around our own mortality.

The owner of the cafe, Abbey Hunter, says the thought process behind opening up a death-centric cafe started from an intrigue of death at an early age and wanting to be a mortician, along with having a strong passion for food and travel.

Hunter first learned about the concept for a "Death Cafe" while going through the death and dying theme at Grand Valley State University.

The "Death Cafe" is a social event that anyone can host and the location can be anywhere. Hunter took a more literal approach by creating a brick and mortar location that serves more of a function within the surrounding community.

The Mortals Cafe might be the first official "Death Cafe" in the state, but it's not the first one in the world. They originated in London in 2011. Over the past decade, they started gaining in popularity throughout Europe and Australia, before a few started popping up in the United States, according to WZZM

"It's my goal within the next year to build a solid database of death doulas, estate planners and hospice care centers on our website, as well as host monthly events that help people become more comfortable with their own mortality — whether it's planning their will or finding conversation," Hunter said.

The next event is focused on estate planning and is scheduled to take place on Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. More information on the event can be found on The Mortals' Facebook page.

For drink options, Hunter has brought in some favorites that are new to the coffee scene.

The Mortals Cafe

Located inside of the co-work environment known as Little Space Studio at 111 Division Ave S, Grand Rapids, MI 49503.

Follow the coffee shop on Facebook and Instagram.

"I fell in love with Vietnamese coffee when I was there a few years ago," they said. "What I offer in my cafe is made with as much authenticity as I can, from Vietnamese robusta beans roasted in Brooklyn from a woman and Vietnamese owned company. I source the sweetened condensed milk from our local Asian markets. Our other coffee is supplied here in town from Littlefoot Coffee Roasting Company. All of our menu is ethically sourced and most of them have the heart of sustainability in mind, from Fair Trade to compostable packaging."

The cafe offers monthly specials that allow Hunter to get a little creative with flavors that are globally inspired. For example, in September the coffee shop is offering a Salvadoran horchata that uses a blend of unique spices, seeds and nuts giving the chilled drink its distinct flavor.

The shop is open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In the future, Hunter hopes to be able to expand those hours for the late night crowd as the cafe grows some roots.