1951 Coffee Employs Refugees in New Berkeley Cafe

1951 Coffee trains new refugees how to make coffee and find jobs, and will be opening their first brick and mortar location in Berkeley, California this January.

As a refugee, leaving your home country is frightening and overwhelming. However, what can be more problematic is what happens when you arrive to a new country without a professional or social network. 1951 Coffee, a non-profit based in the Bay Area in San Francisco, California, helps refugees develop job skills and provides them a coffee platform for them to network and find employment. Started only as a training center in 2015, 1951 Coffee, named for the year that the United Nations convened to establish the meaning of and rights of refugees, will be opening its first retail location in North Berkeley in January 2017.

“1951 Coffee provides a platform of self-assistance. Through training, refugees become connected to a specific industry, which gives them a competitive edge that general job training classes don’t always offer,” says Rachel Taber, Co-Founder and Director of Operations. Currently, 1951 Coffee trains refugees how to make coffee, and helps them find jobs in cafes all over the Bay Area. Graduates of the program have found employment at places like Blue Bottle and Dropbox, and looks to expand its training program by providing hands-on experience in a retail setting. “The new cafe will complement the barista training program, creating a self-sustaining cycle that builds our participants’ expertise, as well as funding. It’s a self-sustaining cycle that is scalable in any city.”

Although there are real struggles many baristas face in the coffee industry, barista work provides refugees a unique set of skills that are both relevant to the landscape of the Bay Area and transferrable across the country and world. “The coffee industry, especially in the Bay Area, provides forward facing positions that pay better and come with opportunities for growth without expensive certifications,” notes Doug Hewitt, Co-Founder and Director of Coffee and Programs. Instead of being hidden, refugees are featured front and center in a café by engaging with customers and making their drinks. Coffee also provides valuable work without expensive barriers or qualifications that make it easy for anyone to enter the field.

Likewise, coffee prides itself on representing people of all backgrounds, from farmers to baristas, and 1951 Coffee makes sure that narrative includes refugees. “Additionally, coffee culture is inclusive and welcoming—there are no cultural exclusions,” Doug shares. “We know that refugees bring with them many experiences and skills that are needed in the United States job market, but there are few options for immediate placement when refugees don’t have local references. 1951 Coffee is working to solve this problem in the Bay Area.”

The 1951 café will be designed to highlight the pathways refugees go through when they flee their home countries and look to resettle. 1951 Coffee worked with Montaag, a Norwegian-American research and design agency, to help shape the space and ensure that the stories and struggles their employees go through is communicated to customers. The intent is not just to provide employment opportunities for refugees, but create a dialogue between patrons and employees to share and build greater understanding.

1951 Coffee will be opening its doors in January of 2017, and will be serving coffee from Verve Coffee Roasters in Santa Cruz, along with cold brew from local roaster Algorithm, based in Berkeley. The storefront will be located at 2410 Channing Way in Berkeley, and will be open from 7-7 Monday through Friday, and 8-7 on weekends.

About Ashley Rodriguez 413 Articles
Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at ashley@baristamagazine.com.