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6 mins read

Black Owned Coffee Business Sees 350% Increase In Online Sales

With so many people forced to stay at home because of the pandemic, Red Bay Coffee, a Black owned coffee business with six retail outlets and a roasting plant, is seeing a huge spike in e-commerce coffee sales.

In fact, Keba Konte, the owner and founder of Red Bay Coffee, located in Oakland, California, said e-commerce sales have spiked a whopping 350% (not a typo). Previously, that was the smallest segment of its various revenue streams.

black owned coffee
Keba Konte

The spike stems from the fact that much of its Silicon Valley audience is now drinking coffee at home and having their coffee beans shipped directly to them.

“Then there’s another group who were drinking our coffee at our cafés, and we had to close most of them,” Konte added. They too have turned to having their coffee beans shipped.

Its six cafes normally generate about 35% of its overall revenue, but that has dipped considerably. Moreover, grocery sales are also up, though he laments that it’s always a challenge breaking into new supermarkets.

About 17% of its overall sales stem from supermarkets including Whole Foods and Safeway. It’s also sold on Amazon AMZN and CoffeeGoGo, and 95% of its sales stem from people from California.

Its six retail stores including three in Oakland, two in San Francisco, and one in Richmond, California, were all shut down for a time. But two in Oakland have reopened for curbside dining and mobile orders.

Its coffee is roasted in its plant, adjacent to one of its Oakland retail stores. Its two largest selling coffees are King’s Prize, a single-origin Ethiopian coffee and East 14th, a Tanzanian coffee named after a large street in Oakland in a tough neighborhood that was renamed International Boulevard.

At that retail store in Oakland, it also has a 7,000-square foot venue where it offered events such as live music, films, and held weddings, in what Konte described as an “industrial chic design.”

“We did 250 events last year,” said Konte, who is 53-years-old. All have been forced to close because of social distancing rules due to the pandemic crisis.

The pandemic has scaled back its business, other than e-commerce sales. “Our office coffee service shut down overnight, the events came to a screeching halt, and the cafes all shut down,” he noted.

One innovative move of Konte’s was introducing a mobile van coffee service, prior to the pandemic striking. “Half of that was luck,” he acknowledged, “and half of it was having the foresight to understand the value of a mobile option.”

He’s been parking it near heavily trafficked supermarkets such as Costco and Trader Joe’s and business is booming there. “It’s been a lifeline and great brand exposure,” he said.

Moreover, he expanded what it sold on the van beyond coffee to include cases of its tea products and cartons of oat milk. “We sold it through six-foot distances and cashless transactions on the van, “he said.

He’s already acquired a second van and is looking into launching it this summer.

He’s also introduced bulk sales via e-commerce. For example, its five pound-bags of coffee are selling very well as people stock up with groceries at home.

Konte has a varied coffee background. He founded Guerilla Café in North Berkeley, California in 2006 and spearheaded serving Blue Bottle Coffee, now a well-known national chain.

But what Konte really wanted to do was start his own coffee company. He launched Red Bay Coffee in 2014 because he wanted to bring “specialty coffee to a more accessible, broader, more diverse audience previously not catered to.”

Konte thought it was important for an African-American-owned coffee company to thrive. “Coffee is Africa’s gift to the world. It originated in Ethiopia. Coffee is, in a sense, our heritage,” he pointed out.

Red Bay Coffee, he noted, is one of the few coffee companies in the U.S. that is “marketing to African American people.” On its social media sites, about 60% of its followers are African-American women, and approximately 50% of its traffic at retail stores is African-American customers.

Raising enough money to start it required ingenuity and fortitude. Eventually, Konte raised $7 million through a combination of bootstrapping, crowd funding through Kickstarter and WeFunder, convertible notes from angel investors, and most recently, venture capital funding.

At its height, Red Bay Coffee had 70 employees, but when the pandemic curtailed business, it cut back to 20 employees. When the pandemic hit and stores closed, retail sales plummeted 85% but with some reopened, it’s down about 40%, he said.

The pandemic has forced it to become more efficient than in the past. “In the future, we have the muscle to push ourselves into various channels, and yet we’re still small enough to be nimble to adapt to the current environment,” he said.

Source: FORBES


Related: Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses


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2 mins read

How This Black Owned Coffee Business is Thriving Through a Pandemic

Red Bay Coffee is a Black-owned, wholesale specialty coffee roasting company based in Oakland, California.

They import and have direct relationships with coffee farmers in Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia, Guatemala, Brazil and Colombia.

The company was founded by Keba Konte, who launched it out of his home back in 2014.

Keba Konte

Pre pandemic, Red Bay served as a community hub hosting events, including food popups, concerts, magazine releases, panel discussions, and self-care festivals.

During the first few months of the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent “stay-at-home” mandates,  business slowed dramatically. Red Bay experienced a drastic reduction in their wholesale office service and cafe service. This prompted the decision to refocus on selling via their website and doing more social media marketing.

Before the pandemic, e-commerce was the smallest segment of Red Bay’s various revenue streams. Now, as a result of so many people being forced to stay at home, online sales have grown 350%.

The increase stems from the fact that much of its Silicon Valley audience is now drinking coffee at home and having their coffee beans shipped directly to them.

“Then there’s another group who were drinking our coffee at our cafés, and we had to close most of them,” Konte added. They too have turned to having their coffee beans shipped.

The pandemic has forced it to become more efficient than in the past. “In the future, we have the muscle to push ourselves into various channels, and yet we’re still small enough to be nimble to adapt to the current environment,” he said.

Visit Red Bay coffee online and subscribe to their monthly service.
5 mins read

This Ethiopian Coffee Brand is Opening 100 cafés in China

Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu has a dream: that everyone should one day taste hand-roasted Ethiopian coffee. As many caffeine enthusiasts will be aware, Ethiopia is often credited as being the home of coffee. Coffee lovers may want to look into a site like Neptune Coffee to check out some of the most caffeinated coffee brands. You will definitely love it. Considering there are so many brands out there, you’ll have so many choices and you’ll never get bored with coffee.

Widely acknowledged as the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest coffee bean producers and Africa’s top grower of the plant. Coffee is also brewed and drank in the Horn of Africa nation in elaborate ceremonies, often using crafting techniques passed down from generations over centuries. As an entrepreneur, Alemu always wanted to replicate this dynamic experience—what she calls “the magical process”—to coffee lovers worldwide.

Ethiopian Coffee Brand
Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu, founder of Garden of Coffee

And so was born in 2016 the idea for Garden of Coffee, an Ethiopian coffee brand that uses artisanal methods to source, process, roast, and package Ethiopia’s legendary beans. Twenty workers at the company’s atelier in Addis Ababa currently oversee this activity, roasting five types of coffee beans only for individual orders and shipping them to over 20 countries including Russia, Sweden, Germany, and the United States.

This personalized roasting, Alemu says, helps preserve the quality of the coffee for the final customer, reduces the ecological footprint associated with factory roasting, and creates a business model that values local manufacturing. This is especially vital as Ethiopia takes crucial steps in improving governance and accelerating poverty reduction and economic growth through job creation.

The 2015 Quartz Africa Innovator also employs similar ethical practices with her shoe brand SoleRebels, which are made by locally-trained artisans in Ethiopia and shipped all over the world.

Alemu is now venturing out of Ethiopia. In August, Garden of Coffee launched in China, a tea-loving market that is increasingly turning towards coffee. Starbucks, Coca-Cola, e-commerce giant Alibaba, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, and local Chinese start-up Luckin Coffee have in recent years all bet big on China’s nascent coffee scene. Java House, East Africa’s largest chain of coffee shops, also said in August it would capitalize on this increased demand for specialty coffee to supply the Chinese market.

Ethiopian Coffee Brand

Through a deal with Suzhou Reyto trading company, GOC says it will ship 12 tons of hand-roasted coffee to China in the first year. The company has also launched advertisement and marketing on the multi-purpose messaging and social media app WeChat, will soon place its product on the shopping site Taobao. But it’s big plan is to open over 100 café roasteries across China by 2022. Through a subscription service, customers will also be able to receive their favorite coffee of choice in one, two, or four-week intervals.
By embracing traditional Ethiopian roasting methods and taking them globally, Alemu says she hopes to shape the “fourth wave” that is defining coffee’s evolution. The first wave involved the mass drinking of the brew, the second grew with the rise of a coffee culture through brands like Starbucks, while the third focused on artisanal coffee making.
The fourth wave now focuses less on commercialization, more on long-term sustainability, besides promoting and preserving local ways of farming. Placing Ethiopian coffee at the heart of this movement is only pragmatic, argues Alemu. But it is also a judicious growth strategy: because of demand, Garden of Coffee is set to increase its hand-roasting artisans to 300 by 2021.
“We are doing this not only because hand-roasting coffee is an ancient art that we strongly feel is worth preserving and promoting, but because we believe this method of coffee roasting is the key to unlocking Ethiopian coffee’s true magical tastes,” Alemu tells Quartz. “That’s the critical distinction.”
7 mins read

Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses That are Great Alternatives to Starbucks

In 2018, a Philadelphia Starbucks employee called the police on two Black patrons. Their crime? Waiting for a friend. The cops still arrested them.

More recently, Starbucks sent an internal memo to its employees banning them from wearing accessories or clothing that shows support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

BuzzFeed News obtained the memo, which reminded staffers of the company’s accessories policy that forbids accessories that “advocated a political, religious or personal issue.” A number of employees told the outlet that the company commonly permits and even advocates that employees don pro-LGBTQ+ pins, particularly during Pride Month in June.

When next you feel the need for some Starbucks, you may want to consider these Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses instead.

Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses

South LA Cafe (Los Angeles, CA) provides coffee, tea, and healthy and affordable food options to the South LA community.

Northwest Coffee Roasting Company (Clayton, MO) is an artisan coffee roaster that embodies the legacy of coffee by unifying communities, stimulating dialogue, and providing hand roasted and brewed full city coffee.

Teatopia (St Louis, MO) offers 70 different teas as well as other small food items that will leave you amazed and wanting more.

TeaLee’s Tea House & Bookstore (Denver, CO) provides high-quality loose leaf teas, food, and specialty drinks, including beer and wine in an afro-centric atmosphere.

Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books (Philadelphia, PA) is a cool coffee shop and bookstore that also hosts live events like book signings and movie screenings.

Sip & Savor (Chicago, IL) offers the finest certified fair trade coffee from around the world, as well as a wide selection of teas, mochas, lattes, and blended drinks. They also serve delicious pastries and small bites from local bakeries.

Black Swan Espresso (Newark, NJ) is Newark’s first Specialty Coffee and Tea Shop. They specialize in using the highest quality international coffee beans in all their roasts.

Red Bay Coffee (Oakland, CA) is building a global community through our commitment to sourcing, developing, roasting, and delivering the best and most beautiful coffee to the people.

Upper Cup Coffee Co. (Columbus, OH) offers house-roasted espressos & creative pours are the focus of this brick-walled cafe with sandwiches.

Whittier Cafe (Denver, CO) is an artsy coffee shop with a lending library & a cozy patio serving espresso-based drinks & cafe fare.

Black Owned Coffee and Tea Businesses

Sankofa Video Books & Cafe (Washington, DC) is a relaxed coffeehouse offering light cafe bites plus African-focused books & film screenings.

Cuples Tea House (Baltimore, MD) is a family-owned and operated tea business offering featuring premium loose leaf teas, tea accessories, and culture in a socially connected atmosphere.

Kaffeine Coffee Internet & Office Cafe (Houston, TX) is a relaxed, funky cafe featuring coffee, sandwiches & baked goods, plus Wi-Fi & printing services.

Not So Urban Coffee & Roastery (Oxford, GA) is a small batch micro roaster specializing in responsibly, ethically & sustainably sourced coffee from Africa, South/Central America, and Asia.

Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe (St Paul, MN) is an easygoing place with a warm vibe offering a variety of coffee blends named after your favorite jazz artists, bagels, cakes, and many other delightful treats.

More Than Java Cafe’ (Laurel, MD) is a vibrant outpost featuring classic cafe dishes, espresso drinks & ice cream, plus live music nights.

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse (Philadelphia, PA) is a comic book store and coffee shop hybrid that offers everything from comics, toys, games, and figurines, to coffee & espresso related beverages, and baked goods.

Ain’t She Sweet Cafe (Chicago, IL) is a casual, cozy eatery offering counter-serve sandwiches, smoothies & house-baked desserts.

Cafe Dejena (Oakland, CA) is a local Eritrean café that offers dine-in meals all day, grab & go for those on the run, and catering for small events.

Beyu Caffe (Durham, NC) is an upbeat, bohemian hangout offering coffee, all-day American fare, a full bar, live jazz & free WiFi.

Boon Boona Coffee (Seattle, WA) sources the finest coffee, from the birthplace of coffee, East Africa.

DC Conscious Cafe (Washington, DC) is “more than a cafe”. They offer good food, dialogue, entertainment, civic engagement, and advocacy for the good of our community.

Rise and Grind Café (Milwaukee, WI) offers hot and cold sandwiches, soups, breakfast items. They also offer catering and meal planning services.

Calabash Teahouse & Cafe (Washington, DC) is a popular teahouse ready to help you with foods & teas for dynamic living.

Urban Grind Coffee House (Atlanta, GA) is a hip coffeehouse with cafe menu & free WiFi holds film screenings, poetry slams & other arty events.

Just Add Honey Tea Company (Atlanta, GA) is a sophisticated twist on a southern tea tradition we offer thoughtfully blended loose leaf teas made in small batches to ensure the perfect cup cheers!

Tsion Cafe & Bakery (NY) is a petite, stylish cafe featuring contemporary Ethiopian cuisine in a warm space with patio seating.

Culture Coffee Too (Washington, DC) is a coffee shop, art gallery, live performance venue, and event space, with a mission to bring delicious coffee, and diverse culture to the Washington, DC community.

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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1 min read

Marc Lamont Hill Opens a Coffee Shop & Bookstore in Philadelphia

Marc Lamont Hill introduces us to his new business, Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books and explains why we should all Shoppe Black.

Visit Uncle Bobbies online or at 5445 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144

-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG @thebusyafrican)