As COVID cases rise once again, these U.S. groups are energized and optimistic about the future (with added safety protocols).
BY MIRANDA HANEY
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
When COVID-19 cases dipped earlier this summer, coffee collectives across the country came out of the woodwork to plan their first in-person events in over a year.
Almost exactly 365 days after virtually launching the Barista Coalition, LaChrista McArthur (she/her) finally saw her first IRL event come to fruition.
Road to the Other Side was a three-part celebration of specialty coffee in her home state of North Carolina, complete with a coffee crawl, latte art competition, and open discussion. Coffee people from near and far joined forces on August 1 to try new flavors, pour rosettas, and dream up a vision for the fourth wave of coffee.
“It warms me to my core just thinking about the level of support that the local community brought, but also that the industry brought,” LaChrista said. “I cannot wait to get working on the next one.”
Austin Coffee Collective
A thousand miles west, the Austin Coffee Collective (ACC) also emerged from an essential hibernation. The group organized two throwdowns in July and August, but is currently reevaluating a planned third event as cases continue to climb in the city.
Sylvon Stevens (he/him) was elected as ACC president in the midst of the pandemic, so he’s no stranger to the challenges it poses to event planning. Many of his ideas and projects simply weren’t feasible due to safety protocols, including one plan to visit and speak about the coffee industry at low-income high schools in East Austin.
After working in coffee for the better part of a decade, Sylvon noticed a lack of diversity in the coffee community of his rapidly gentrifying city. With this project, he hoped to challenge that.
“We need to actually interface with these people that are in the same city,” he said. “Let’s bring another life experience to the forefront. Let’s work with these kids and see if we can make something happen.”
Impacting the Coffee Community
As a Black woman in a predominantly white community, LaChrista also sees an opportunity for improving diversity in coffee collectives. With both the Barista Coalition and her popup café, Hello Love, she hopes to create environments where people with marginalized identities can feel safe and comfortable to interact, she said.
“I’m going to do it so that other people that look like me or live lifestyles similar to mine can see that this is for you as well,” she said.
Although the future may be uncertain (and increasingly anxiety-inducing), both leaders see their positions as a way of sharing levity and joy with their coffee communities for the long haul.
“I think we’re all hurting, life looking completely different,” Sylvon said. “In the meantime, we make the best of it and we keep talking and learning.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miranda Haney (she/her) is a coffee educator, freelance writer, and musician based in Austin, Texas. She’s currently working as the head trainer and events coordinator for Greater Goods Coffee. Miranda was a contestant on The Barista League: Online Season 2 and a competitor at the 2019 U.S. Barista Championship in Costa Mesa, Calif. When she’s not doing coffee things, she’s probably running a marathon (or something crazy like that).