WELCOME TO THE FUTURE OF COFFEE, IT’S BEAUTIFUL
By Keba Konte
It’s amazing the way life can come to form full circles, how the seeds of our past blossom to light up our future. For me, coffee was just that. A fruit originating in Africa, it was a gift to the world and a gift to me.
As a child, I was a curious, inventive and mischievous soul. I was raised by my father who was a carpenter and my mom who was a portrait photographer. Both were fantastic home cooks. It was impossible for me not to catch the creative bug and later, I went on to study photojournalism at San Francisco State University. Not being able to shake my adolescent curiosity (or mischief), I decided to invest my student loans into travel and with my newly honed photography skills, I set off through Cuba, Senegal, South Africa and Europe documenting the wonder I saw.
Fast forward and after a brief career as a photographer in the exploding mid-90’s Bay Area music scene, I discovered coffee. In 2005, my wife and I opened Guerilla Cafe an art café in North Berkeley. It was originally created as a platform for me to showcase my artwork but the seed that was planted evolved to become much more.
I came to learn some things about coffee during that time that I hadn’t really appreciated before. Like, that coffee originated in Africa, I love Africa! Also that coffee is a culinary delight, simple and complex. And I came to understand that at it’s foundation, coffee builds community and is truly an economic powerhouse. I discovered all these things while purchasing produce from California black farmers and bakers and hiring folks of color in a specialty world that rarely does. That was one of my greatest rewards. I came to work with some of the finest minds and brands in the specialty coffee movement and soon opened my second café on the campus of City College of San Francisco, Chasing Lions Café.
In 2014, I launched my most ambitious, mischievous and inventive project yet. Backed by a band of inspired coffee whisperers and brilliant designers I established Red Bay Coffee Roasters, a wholesale specialty coffee roasting company in Oakland, CA. We are young, hungry and ready to take the coffee game to a place it’s never been before.
So, what does the future of coffee look like to Red Bay Coffee? This summer, we will build a crowdfunded, worker profit-sharing coffee bar in the heart of The Hive where employees will split all the profits. All of them. This alternative model is not philanthropy, we are in fact in business to build wealth. But, Red Bay Coffee Roasters will expand by selling coffee to these profit-sharing cafes. The goodwill generated by community growth and economic empowerment will expand and build our brand. So, a measure of success for instance, will be when more wholesale manufacturing companies see the wisdom in profit-sharing and follow suite.
We believe deeply in the need to transform low-wage jobs. We also believe in our community and in our capabilities to support one another and share. If you are interested in becoming a backer of our vision, we could use your help on our Kickstarter campaign to lay the foundation for our first profit-sharing coffee bar.
For more information or to show your support please visit our Crowdfunding Campaign.