Black-owned coffee businesses in LA do more than sell good brews

By Evan Kleiman

There are as many types of coffee roasts as there are personalities who sell coffee. Photo courtesy of Canva.

Many Black baristas and owners of retail coffee shops/roasting businesses are stepping up to remedy the lack of representation in the world of coffee and tea. The lack of diversity at all levels of the coffee chain is ironic given coffee's Ethiopian origins. The retail life is challenging, and for many Black coffee shop owners in Southern California, their businesses go beyond the beans. They are transforming communities by folding personal interests into retail activities. From an emphasis on beauty and lifestyle brands to community activism and events, there is more to appreciate in these spaces than simply the brew in your cup.

Bloom & Plume - Historic Filipinotown
-This Black family-owned business is a quirky expression of co-founder floral artist Maurice Harris. Watch an artful bouquet be put together while you sip on your favorite beverage. There is also fantastic merch to browse like the super colorful Moroccan kitchen towels sold in a bundle. 

Bohemian House of Espresso + Chai - DTLA
-Owner and barista Farah A. Hagar is a Somali immigrant and author of the book “Blackie Bohemian.” The little book is a compendium of questions meant to jump-start conversations over coffee and tea, and to get people to look up from their phones. His retro counterculture vibe runs deep and is in sharp contrast to the Starbucks next door.

Harun Coffee - Leimert Park
-Harun is focused on creating an active community with panel discussions and guest speakers in a space that serves as both an art gallery and a lifestyle clothing shop in addition to coffee.

Patria Coffee - Compton
-Owner Geoffrey Martinez had a home-based small batch organic bean roastery long before opening the storefront, which was the first coffee shop of its type in Compton. Aside from the high-quality roasts, they’re known for their cold brews and tea lattes.

Silverback Coffee of Rwanda - Echo Park
-The motto “born from adversity, cultivating unity” is founder Jack Karuletwa’s purpose. The goal of his enterprise is help rebuild Rwanda, his home country. A portion of profits is donated to organizations that support women and children affected by the genocide, plus organiztions that work to protect the Silverback gorilla and other wildlife. He does all this through sales of coffees superbly roasted to order. In addition to the cafe, you’ll find Silverback Coffee at Trader Joe’s.

Silverback Coffee of Rwanda sells its own roasts to support the rebuilding of founder Jack Karuletwa’s home country. Photo by Jack Karuletwa.

Sip and Sonder - Inglewood and downtown LA’s Music Center
-Amanda-Jane Thomas and Shanita Nicholas are the creative forces behind this Black women-owned roastery and two cafes. The first specialty coffee house in Inglewood is more than a place to order a latte. There is an onsite coffee roaster, as well as an event space that serves the community, encouraging people to connect and explore ideas.  

South LA Cafe - South Los Angeles
-Celia and Joe Ward-Wallace opened the family and community-owned cafe as a cultural hub for book readings, musical performances, and other cultural gatherings. In addition to coffee, they have a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as a small grocery. They take an activist role fighting food injustice with healthy, affordable fare for the neighborhood.

South LA Cafe broadcasts its mission proudly. Photo by Krystal Thompson.