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My dear coffee friend, come, sit. It’s time for us to have “the talk.”

It may seem like we’ve had this talk before—the one that involves race and how it intersects with coffee culture, but trust me when I say we’ve barely scratched the surface. We’re living in a time where having difficult conversations about our social climate are becoming unavoidable. They shouldn’t be avoided to begin with; people in the United States and beyond aren’t being afforded the most basic of rights in 2018.

Nearly two years ago, I presented an examination of what this looked like as a barista through my personal lens as a Black woman. Many of the things I experienced still stick with me. Some of them are haunting and others, just pure annoyances.

Since first publishing The Chocolate Barista in 2016, the resulting ripple effect has been mostly positive. I have been able to connect with other Black coffee professionals who knew my experience intimately. They were living it themselves, but many had never vocalized it. There’s now a strong, growing community of us supporting each other through camaraderie and amplification of each other’s ventures. We now have a Black man on the Barista Guild of America Executive Council—an historic first. Groups like I See You and the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective are hosting events centering coffee professionals of color, driving home the point that we’re still fighting for visibility, representation, and access to opportunities in the industry.

Outside the theater. Photo by Shaunté Glover.

And I put a strong emphasis on still. While there has never been more dialogue surrounding social issues in coffee, race rarely gets much airtime. More often than not, the role of race in coffee culture goes largely ignored. And yet, we have such a rich opportunity right now to change all that. To examine the role that race plays in issues across the coffee industry, from gender discrimination—you can’t ask Black women to pick which identity to fight for over the other—to issues of gentrification, identity, and the creation of global coffee shop culture.

The microphone is far too often passed over us when the opportunity for dialogue comes.  We don’t want to be spoken for—we want to speak.

In a special live podcast event from yours truly, creative director Michelle Johnson(The Chocolate Barista) and produced by Sprudge Media Network, I invite you to come join a conversation about race and coffee culture.  The panel-style discussion will cover a range of topics from workplace dynamics to the Black consumer experience, and also dive into how we make coffee culture all our own, led by us, for us.

This is Black Coffee.

Michelle Johnson, March 28, 2018 originally published here.

Black Coffee PDX – April 24, 2018

The Black Coffee Live Podcast premiered at the Clinton Street Theater in Portland, Oregon. Hosted by Michelle Johnson, Ian Williams (Deadstock Coffee), and Gio Fillari (Coffee Feed PDX), this event centered the voices and experiences of Black coffee professionals and enthusiasts alike, all with unique perspectives that spanned intersectional identities and roles on the retail end of the value chain.

Special guests include D’Onna Stubblefield, Ezra Baker, Zael Ogwaro, Adam JacksonBey, and Cameron Heath with a live DJ performance by |Fritzwa|.

Black Coffee PDX was made possible by La Marzocco USA, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Oatly, NXT LVL, and The Ace Hotel Portland. Ticket proceeds are being donated to our charitable partners Sankofa Collective and Brown Girl Rise.

Listen to the Black Coffee PDX event here:


Black Coffee NYC – October 15, 2019

The NYC event was sponsored by La Marzocco USA, Revelator CoffeeOatly, Everyman Espresso, and Oren’s Coffee Co. and featured co-hosts Tymika Lawrence and Ezra Baker, alongside panel guests Lem Butler, Kristina Hollie, Winston Thomas, and Candice Madison. Ticket sales for this event benefitted Brownsville Community Culinary Center. Extra special thanks to the team at Everyman Espresso and Classic Stage Company for helping support this event onsite, and to Oren’s Coffee Co., Discovery Wines and Make My Cake for afterparty support. Live Instagram coverage and event photography was produced by Noemie Tshinaga.

Black Coffee NYC (Photo by Noemie Tshinaga)

“Black Coffee NYC and D.C. were special each in their own ways. In New York, we focused on career longevity for Black coffee professionals. It wasn’t just about the barriers that kept people from upward mobility, but also what one deals with when they stick around for a while. Many of the panelists have worked in coffee for quite some time or moved up quickly in their careers and had a lot to say. New York was deeply personal, cathartic, and soothing. Being in the presence of two legendary coffee professionals—Candice Madison and Lem Butler—was so moving, as they spoke candidly about their experiences working in coffee for over a decade.” – Michelle Johnson

Listen to the Black Coffee NYC event here:


Black Coffee DC – October 19, 2019

The DC event was sponsored by La Marzocco USA, Oatly, Revelator Coffee, and The Line Hotel, and featured co-host Adam JacksonBey alongside panelists including Aisha Pew, Candy Schibli, Reggie Elliott, Victoria Smith, and Donte Gardner. Ticket sales at this event benefited Collective Action for Safe Spaces. Special thanks to everyone at The Line Hotel for their incredible support and accommodation for this event—particularly Farrah Skeiky for her exceptional coordination and consideration—and to Gran Cata and Danielle’s Desserts for afterparty support. Live Instagram coverage and event photography was produced by Kayla Butler.

Black Coffee DC (Photo by Kayla Butler)

“D.C. was unique in that the conversation centered around its own community and the incredible amount of Blackness displayed on both sides of the bar. The audience was the majority Black and filled with new baristas, coffee consumers, and folks from the public who found this topic interesting enough to come listen. Since D.C. is my hometown, it was important to celebrate the amount of pride the area has in its coffee scene. But the realities of starting a business in an expensive city rapidly gentrifying still holds many back, a topic my co-host Adam JacksonBey and panelists like Candy Schibli spoke about candidly. One of my favorite parts from Black Coffee D.C. was Aisha Pew and her refreshing perspective on opening a cafe to take back our neighborhoods. Her spot in Baltimore, Dovecote Cafe, is an example of what a Black cafe can be and is for its community. ‘There are Dovecotes all over, you just gotta look for them,’ she says.” – Michelle Johnson

Listen to the Black Coffee DC event here:


Further reading:

Black Coffee: The New Event From Michelle Johnson Premieres April 24th

Black Coffee Is Coming April 24th

Black Coffee Is Coming To New York City And Washington DC

Coffee Sprudgecast Episode 61

In this episode, Jordan Michelman interviews Victoria Smith, Coffee Director of A Rake’s Progress and The Cup We All Race For at the LINE Hotel in Washington, DC. Victoria Smith is featured in the Black Coffee DC Live Podcast.

This episode is brought to you by OXO, Urnex, Swiss Water, and Hario.

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