For young coffee professionals, access is everything. There's a financial barrier to making your way in coffee, whether that's for a barista just beginning to hone their craft or a new cafe owner with dreams of growing a successful shop. Enter Getchusomegear, an organization putting coffee gear in the hands of marginalized coffee professionals around the country—for free! Whether you’ve seen their cute branding illustrations on social media, heard founder Chris McAuley speak from his idyllic Durham, North Carolina front yard during the 2020 edition of Re:co, a global coffee symposium, or donated your extra Acaia scale to their gear-exchange program. The fourth wave of coffee stands for accessibility and inclusivity, and Chris McAuley is a major player helping lead the way.
If the opposite of gatekeeping information is accessibility to it, then consider Chris McAuley one of the coffee industry’s great gatecrashers. His career began in 2005, and throughout was characterized by limited access to knowledge and resources, which to McAuley rings as systemic. “I have approached some cis white coffee dudes in power at companies that I’ve worked for and been like, ‘Yo, you are doing this really cool thing and I want to be able to teach people this thing that you’re doing. Can we talk about it?’ And I think that’s been viewed as a threat.” McAuley will tell you that Getchusomegear came to be by accident, but a look into his own ancestry will tell you that the brand is part of a much larger legacy of community service.
In June of 2020, McAuley lost his grandpa. “He was the kind of dude that was like an OG anarchist, but didn’t have the words for it,” McAuley explains. In addition to holding a position as a hospital orderly, McAuley’s grandpa farmed to feed and take care of his community Harnett County, North Carolina. “I remember driving with him in his station wagon,” he tells me, “and we’re going to see Mrs. Gracy up the road because she needs him to fix her plumbing and we have all this food for her. The church was right down the street. He took care of the people who worshipped there. Everybody on our street, that long country road, knew him for how much he took care of them.” After the funeral, McAuley and his family began hearing stories about the lasting impact of Grandpa’s acts of service; the way a meal or gift of $30 changed someone’s life. “He didn’t have a lot,” McAuley says, “but he made a way to have more so he could share it. He never asked for anything in return or told anybody about it. That’s in my soul.”
Since its inception in June of 2019, Getchu has secured some impressive partnerships with prominent brands like AeroPress, Fellow, and Mahlkönig, which happens to have a North American base in Durham. This was a particularly key early partnership, in which, after just one phone conversation, McAuley says the folks at Mahlkönig team made themselves available for more than just gear. “It wasn’t just a grinder; it was a relationship that was built. That’s worth a lot more than the grinder,” McAuley tells me. With the help of donations from sponsors and coffee folks around the country, Getchu has sent 125 boxes and counting, each estimated at around $100 worth of gear.
Though their name suggests that Getchusomegear is simply a gear-exchange service, in less than one year, McAuley has evolved the brand’s mission to include access to much more. McAuley answered Michelle Johnson’s Twitter call to action for increased access to the 2020 Re:co virtual symposium by securing 50 tickets for marginalized coffee professionals and putting the pressure on larger coffee companies to donate additional tickets as well. In light of COVID-19, McAuley launched Getchuajob, a partnership with writer and former cafe manager Sally Parlier to provide baristas with résumé and cover letter assistance. Getchu added two educators to the team this summer, Cydni Patterson and Erica Jackson. “The goal for Getchu since we started has been giving folks our own tangible materials along with the gear that we send out.”Patterson and Jackson are leading this initiative by creating recipe cards to be included in gearboxes as well as brew videos filmed in McAuley’s own backyard.
Whether it’s brand partners or members of the team, McAuley says, “I want the foundation of Getchusomegear to be with people I trust and that I can communicate with.” This has never been more important than the present when some of the industry’s biggest names are under fire for their treatment of marginalized employees.
McAuley’s relationship to access throughout his coffee career excluded more than just gear and information. A Black trans man living and working in the South, McAuley lacked access to safety. In early 2020, McAuley was assaulted by a customer (on his birthday) of the cafe he then managed. “My staff were the only ones in the entire company who worked to protect me,” he says. While McAuley describes his own cafe staff as being diverse—an intentional measure on his part to better serve the predominantly Black neighborhood where the cafe is located—he notes that he was one of two Black managers with the company and often the only Black person in the room, and the only trans person in the company.
Following this, McAuley traveled to the 2020 US Coffee Champs event in Nashville, which he considers a major milestone for the project. “As I’m connecting with more people, I’m realizing there’s more of us.” McAuley says, “But, we’re not really in positions of power where we can change policies and procedures at the companies we work at to make people safer. That’s what we need access to as well.”
Like his grandpa, McAuley doesn’t ask for anything from the recipients of Getchu’s services. “Getchusomegear is 100% about solidarity and it’s not about charity,” says McAuley. “If a non-marginalized person were to do something like this, they would ask more from people—more emotional labor: ‘What is your story? Tell us why you think you deserve this. Do you actually deserve this?’”
McAuley’s vision for the future of Getchusomegear speaks to a greater vision for the industry as BIPOC professionals are the ones making the decisions. “If you want to learn something, you can just do it,” he tells me “That’s one of the things that are holding people back. There are these people in power who are cis-het older white dudes and they only want to bring people to the table that look and think like them.” McAuley invites you to imagine a world where “leadership” isn’t synonymous with “white” and “male,” where information is openly exchanged, and where employees are viewed as humans first, in and out of the workplace. Sound like a world you want to live in? Welcome to the fourth wave.
Nicole Taliaferro is a freelance journalist based in Austin. This is Nicole Taliaferro's first feature for Sprudge.