A community-led renaissance is brewing at Black-owned coffee shops
When Watts Coffee House first opened in 1997, it was the only Black-owned coffee shop in L.A. Today there are more than 20 across L.A. and Orange counties. According to coffee expert LaNisa Williams of Barista Life L.A., this sudden growth is no coincidence.
“They’re creating these spaces so that we feel safe,” she said. “We need these spaces for us to be able to express ourselves in our own communities. ... We are empowering ourselves through ownership and breaking generational curses, showing what happens when we take pride in our Black history.”
The best brews from L.A.’s Black-owned coffee shops include drinks that celebrate Black culture, like lattes named after Cardi B, Barry White and Slauson Avenue.
Williams started #BlackInBrew in June 2020 to raise awareness of Black coffee professionals and build community in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Today she consults and provides education and training for many of L.A.’s coffee shops, with an emphasis on uplifting those who have not historically been represented in the industry.
“[These] are not just coffee shops,” Williams said. “These are spaces where amazing things happen. We’re giving back to the community through coffee shops.”
Compton local Geoffrey Martinez of Patria Coffee Roasters sought to center the surrounding BIPOC-majority neighborhood when opening his specialty coffee shop in 2018. A sign near the register reads: “Patria Coffee is a space intended for Communities of Color to share a safe place, free of criminalization and punitive treatment, that is relational and not simply transactional. We aim to uplift the beauty and richness of our cultural identity while offering a dignified coffee experience and quality, respectful of the existing Compton community structure and understandings.”
Given that coffee is historically grown by Black, brown and Indigenous people, Williams said there’s an element of reclamation at many Black-owned coffee shops, with an intention of using that foundation to move the industry forward.
Jonathan Kinnard, founder of Coffee Del Mundo in South L.A., places a heavy emphasis on coffee origin education. “We want you to be very aware that coffee is not a European thing. It’s an Ethiopian thing. It’s a Colombian thing. It’s a Guatemalan thing. We take a lot of pride in that, and we need to honor that if you understand the difficulty of labor that goes into these things.”
Find the best cafes, freshest brews and your favorite beans in the coffee-shop capital of the world.
“I hope that we continue in this positive direction of inclusivity [and] making sure everyone is seen and heard,” Williams said. “It’s a trillion-dollar industry — there should be no reason why Black people only have 1% of this. This is a way of expressing ourselves and bringing our culture to the forefront.”
Presented in no specific order, here are 20 Black-owned coffee shops to support across L.A.
Watts Coffee House
Sip & Sonder
Here, you’ll find staple coffee drinks and a variety of beans, all grown on small farms in Rwanda and roasted sustainably in Northern California.
Obet & Del's
Hot and Cool Cafe/Crenshaw Coffee Co.
Patria Coffee Roasters
The shop features art that highlights the diversity and legacy of resistance in Compton, hosts community events, sells items from local artisans and has partnered with the Free Black Women’s Library as a place where people can donate and borrow radical texts. Located across from Renaissance Plaza and the Compton Towne Center and right next to Wilson Skatepark, it’s the perfect place to stop for energy to start your day.
Coffee Del Mundo
Super Domestic Coffee
Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen
From the straight-up Slauson Drip to the complex Matcha Chata, Hilltop has an extensive drink and food menu to give you fuel to climb that hill and reach your goals. At any Hilltop (there are also locations in View Park-Windsor Hills, Eagle Rock and downtown L.A.), you’ll find people in business meetings and interviews and students giving virtual presentations, making it a prime destination for remote workers. Soon, patrons will be able to get their favorite Hilltop items at LAX Terminal 7.
Bloom & Plume Coffee
L.A. Grind Coffee & Tea Bar
Coffee and Plants
Live plants and flowers adorn the pink shop walls, and succulents are available for purchase. On the menu, you’ll find the Rose Bowl latte, a floral nod to the neighborhood. Rose-hibiscus, lavender and vanilla syrups are made fresh in-house with minimal ingredients, in line with Lewis’ promise to not serve anything she wouldn’t consume herself. For every 100 cups of coffee sold, Coffee and Plants plants a tree in partnership with the National Forest Foundation.
Lou, the French on the Block
Bohemian House of Espresso + Chai
Tribute Coffee House
Lazy Rose Cafe
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