7 Thriving Coffee Community Organizations


In the 2017 coffee world, the story of the year was community. From a local to a national level, so many of the individuals that comprise the coffee industry spent their time and energy investing in organizations old and new that represent their specific and varied interests, both personal and professional. Now that we’re fully into 2018 and working on the year ahead, let’s look at and celebrate seven local coffee community organizations that worked hard, pushed the boundaries, and gave back to their coffee communities in novel and meaningful ways.

DMV Coffee, Washington, DC

In 2011, Counter Culture power couple Christy Baugh (then at Big Bear) and Bryan Duggan worked with Philz’s Judith Mandel (then at Peregrine) to found DMV Coffee. DMV took on the mantle for organizing Thursday Night Throwdowns (TNT), but wanted to find a way to take events to the next level. With hard work, they were able to set up running sponsors to take the burden off local cafes and worked with local companies to provide libations and prizes. They took TNTs to a new level by organizing the District Cup, where every competitor accrued points over the course of the year based on their rankings, with the winner awarded the District Cup.

These days, Adam JacksonBey of The Potter’s House, Reggie Elliot of The Line Hotel, and Daps Salisbury of Blue Bottle Coffee run the show and have taken it far past the original TNTs, making it one of the most dynamic events groups in coffee. They keep the competition spirit alive, but they’ve also expanded into non-competitive events to create new ways for baristas to get together, from happy hours to multi-roaster cuppings to local roaster showcases, all the way to occupational pilates training for baristas and bystander training to teach baristas how to deescalate harassment.

Looking toward the future, JacksonBey wants to bring back the District Cup, create an America’s Best Coffeehouse competition for DC, and organize a resource bank for barista competitors. He and his co-organizers also want to work toward creating educational curricula and panel discussion events. DMV, whose board and leadership center non-white and queer coffee pros from diverse backgrounds, always works to cultivate and support diversity in the local scene.

Charlotte Coffee Collective, Charlotte, NC

Charlotte Coffee Collective has been growing the Charlotte coffee community since 2015, when Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, owner of Undercurrent Coffee, created the Facebook group “The Charlotte Barista Exchange.” The forum grew over time and renamed itself Charlotte Coffee Collective at the beginning of 2017, and the group was born in its current form.

Mnatsakanyan-Sapp started coordinating gatherings in cafes, which turned into cuppings and events, including palate development sessions and roastery tours at local companies like HEX Coffee and Summit Coffee. In May, Ian Kolb of CupLux Coffee, Caitlin Davis of Amelie’s French Bakery, Coléa Henderson of Summit Coffee Hendersonville, Brady Butler of Dilworth Coffee, and Matt Yarmey of Pure Intentions Coffee joined Mnatsakanyan-Sapp as organizers.

Mnatsakanyan-Sapp is passionate about social and political issues and has been most excited about events that touch on those issues, including an ASL for Baristas class organized by Claire Lucas, a Meet a Coffee Farmer highlighting the global realities faced by coffee farmers every day, and an Intersectionality Panel organized by Henderson. “I’m ready for our community to have these kinds of important, tough conversations so we can continue to build a more equitable and thriving coffee culture in Charlotte,” says Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, who remembers the feeling of being a baby barista in a city without a strong coffee community. “The only way we can move forward is if we do it together, and I am grateful that we have people involved in our community that are willing to put in the work to have something like this happen.”

Moving forward, Mnatsakanyan-Sapp wants to continue to provide free educational opportunities for coffee professionals, including creating a communal training lab where Charlotte Coffee Collective members could go to tinker, learn, and hang out. You can read all about the fruits of that effort—the POUR Coffee Festival—elsewhere here on Sprudge.

Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective, Boston, MA

Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective is new to the game and coming in strong. Officially founded just a few months ago by Intelligentsia‘s Kristina Jackson, it’s already created meaningful space in the greater Boston coffee community. Jackson, who brings about 15 years in the hospitality industry, started BICC as a way to grow the coffee community, especially the segments of it that are non-white, non-cisgender, and non-male. Jackson, a black queer woman, saw the urgent need for a group created to center people of multiple marginalized identities in a coffee community that was majority white, cisgender, and male, and created BICC as the rising tide that would lift all ships.

The group was born out of a panel discussion on issues faced by non-men behind the bar that took place in 2016. With their official launch in 2017, they followed this with a Ladies Night latte art throwdown, the proceeds of which went to the first women’s shelter in the US, Rosie’s Place. Going forward, Jackson wants to host more panels, create more opportunities for community service, find ways to address gentrification in Boston, and get people to step outside their comfort zones by holding events outside of the areas white coffee people frequent. “I really want to see it be truly intersectional in that it not only serves as a resource for those who want a career in coffee, but also for those who just want support,” says Jackson.

Read an in-depth interview with Jackson here. 

Coffee Friends, Philadelphia, PA

A relatively recent addition to Philadelphia’s burgeoning coffee scene, Coffee Friends launched at the beginning of 2017 with the goal of promoting marginalized coffee workers of all varieties in the City of Brotherly Love, which, like many coffee communities, is still largely represented by cisgender white men. Started by Joe Coffee’s Kendra Sledzinski, Counter Culture’s D’Onna Stubblefield, and Halfwit Coffee’s Mandy Spirito (now in Chicago), the group has already had some major hits: in addition to promoting diversity in the TNT scene, they’ve hosted cuppings to get marginalized coffee folks out of competition and into collaboration, led coffee crawls to encourage workers to see rival businesses as allies, hosted a town hall to make their voices heard around the SCA’s controversial Dubai decision, and circulated a wage survey to increase transparency and equity in the local labor force.

According to Sledzinski, Coffee Friends started in 2017 but was a long time in the works; the creators had all been participating in male-dominated coffee scenes for their entire careers, and all three had been thinking about what impact they could have. “We wanted to create a group not only for women, but also POC, transgender, gender-nonconforming, and nonbinary folks. The coffee industry is heavily saturated with white men, and we wanted a way to bring everyone else to the front.” While Coffee Friends is about building community, their wage survey was also the first step to a greater focus on workers’ rights, and they want to follow it with more surveys to gather and share data on what Philadelphia coffee workers are actually experiencing in their workplaces.

New Gotham Coffee Collective, Chicago, IL

New Gotham Coffee Collective, founded in 2012 by Talya Strader and Brent Hall and currently run by Eric Perez, has consistently provided the Chicago coffee community with creative new coffee events for over five years.

Latte art throwdowns have always been a staple, but they’ve moved far past them to triangulations, cuppings, socials, tech trainings, and job fairs. In 2018 and beyond, they hope to continue offering a wider range of classes, seminars, and gatherings. “It’s important that New Gotham exists as an outlet to bring the coffee community in Chicago together,” says Perez. “We want to break down the shop and company barriers to highlight that we’re all together to making something we love, coffee.”

BACC, Bay Area, CA

BACC (Bay Area Coffee Community) was originally formed in 2012 by a team including Richard Sandlin (Royal Coffee), Molly Gore (Dandelion Chocolate), and Nathan Weiss (Contraband Coffee), but when freelance marketer Jenn Chen moved here in 2016, the group was on hiatus. Chen, working with a group of dedicated coffee pros including Equator’s Talya Strader, Barista Magazine’s Ashley Rodriguez, and Ritual’s Jasper Wilde, revived it and brought community-centered coffee events back to the Bay.

In its two-year tenure under current leadership, the group has hosted countless throwdowns, two Taste Fairs, an origin spotlight event, and even an espresso pressure profiling event where participants got to experiment with and assess the results of pressure profiling. In addition to coffee-centered events like these, they’ve also hosted health-centered events like yoga classes designed specifically for baristas and a Mental Health First Aid Training. They’ve even held two community service events with Bay Area park services.

BACC has been incredibly prolific as well as creative, bringing ideas like the Coffee Nonfiction storytelling series to life while always prioritizing member safety through a robust code of conduct (introduced by Chen). They’re currently in planning for the 2018 roster, assessing which events had the best return for their community.

Portland Coffee Social Club, Portland, OR

Portland Coffee Social Club, founded in February 2017 by Elizabeth Chai and Thor Himle, is another recent addition to the coffee world, but in their short tenure they’ve hosted one novel, ambitious event after another. Starting with the goal of a consistent events calendar that the scene could rely on, the group focused on creating a roster with a diverse range of representation from different companies, so that all would feel welcome to share in the common goal of building Portland Coffee.

Like so many other community groups, PCSC started with TNTs, taking over the monthly #PDXTNT and branching out from there. Their monthly schedule rotates between a TNT and an alternative event, but even the TNTs aren’t your average throwdown: they’ve done a camping-themed Oatly milk throwdown with a s’mores popup, a WINCC fundraiser with an all-women judging panel, and a Spirit Tea matcha latte throwdown. For Coffee Fest, they collaborated with Black Rabbit Service Co. to do an enormous 64-person Modbar throwdown with a Linea Mini for a prize; in line with Black Rabbit’s style, there were three tattoo artists giving coffee tattoos on-site, with attendance at a whopping 400. Non-TNTs include the adaptation of Portland Coffee Book Club, a Coffee Championships preliminary, a triangulation event, and the PNW Aeropress Competition, for which they created their own judging criteria and calibration procedures.

Looking to the future, the group has a Coffee Cocktail Competition in the works and is also hoping to bring more content-based experiences to the community. Most of all, they want to keep bringing together Portland’s diverse workforce, especially giving those who are newer to coffee a chance to collaborate with those who have been around longer.

RJ Joseph (@RJ_Sproseph) is a Sprudge staff writer, publisher of Queer Cup, and coffee professional based in the Bay Area. Read more RJ Joseph on Sprudge Media Network.

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