Founder Neichelle Guidry explores the Black coffee experience through culture and community.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Neichelle Guidry
Coffee has been a part of Neichelle Guidry (she/her/hers) for most of her life. She has traveled across the world and through Ethiopia to experience some of the best brews out there. However, as a daytime professional in higher education in Atlanta, Neichelle’s passion for coffee was a secondary thought until the pandemic hit. When Neichelle started the coffee Instagram account @blackgirl.blackcoffee, she had no idea that this page would expand to become the community powerhouse that it is today—and she’s just getting started.
Black Girl Black Coffee is an account that celebrates the Black coffee community (with an emphasis on Black womxn in coffee) through storytelling, culture, and brewing knowledge. Within this account’s posts, you’ll find thoughtfully crafted images of books, music, coffee roasters, and Neichelle herself—all intended to celebrate and uplift Black folks in coffee and other parts of society.
“I think about all the different sorts of ways that Black folks have touched the cultural landscape,” she explains. “And that is through music, art, and literature. That’s through fashion. In many ways I want to highlight, for lack of a better word, our swag, and the ways that we have facilitated culture making in this country and beyond.” Some ways Neichelle does this is through Sermon Sundays, in which she features a book paired with coffee and a quote from that book. Another way is by including music with video posts by Black artists.
Another prominent focus of Black Girl Black Coffee is Neichelle’s own presence in her posts, with the intention of highlighting the face of a Black womxn in coffee. “That idea is just really having to do with the whiteness of the coffee industry,” Neichelle says. “At the time, my perspective was really shaped as a consumer of walking into these coffee shops and being treated unfairly and rudely, being spoken to as if I didn’t know what I was talking about, and just experiencing what many of us as Black folks in this country know, whether it happens overtly or covertly, is racism.”
When Neichelle began Black Girl Black Coffee in the summer of 2020, she simply wanted an outlet to document her coffee journey, but intentionally told from the eyes of a Black coffee lover. “I felt like I really needed to cultivate a practice of joy and curiosity in my life, and that’s where coffee came in the way it’s in my life now,” she explains. However, after winning first place in the Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON Brewers competition this past autumn, a whole new world opened up to her, one full of like-minded folks passionate about coffee and the people behind it. After this experience, Neichelle realized that she would be more intentional about shifting coffee into a central part of her life.
Although coffee was not initially Neichelle’s full-time job, she has spent years traveling, reading, and studying about coffee. A formative experience that has shaped much of her coffee journey was a summer spent in grad school working for a church. During this time, an Ethiopian family welcomed her into their home, where the practice of coffee drinking and spirituality truly came to light for Neichelle, and eventually motivated her pilgrimage to Ethiopia.
“Every night we had Bunna, the full-on ceremony where his wife would roast the green coffee right in front of us and brew it by hand, and brew it over the flames, and we would participate in the ceremony, just drinking the coffee,” she recalls. “ … It was the first time I recognized the intrinsic spirituality of coffee when it is in Black hands, and sort of the spirituality that more than likely was entwined and infused into the original sort of consumption of coffee before it was exported. I was really intrigued by the ritual aspects of coffee preparation in Ethiopian culture, in addition to just how delicious the coffee was.”
Moving forward, Neichelle continues to dive deeper and deeper into the world of coffee, and the world of opportunities waiting for Black Girl Black Coffee. There are two coffee roast collaborations currently in the works, plus more themed posts for the Instagram account ahead. In addition to January’s focus on brewing equipment, February will feature the story of a lesser-known historical figure for Black History Month. There is also a product launch for Women’s History Month lined up. If the COVID-19 vaccine distribution in her home base of Atlanta is successful, Neichelle is also hoping to bring coffee education to Black communities there in collaboration with Atlanta-based roasters. “It really is about community, accessibility, showcasing the beauty of Black culture and heritage and history, and how Black people are a part of that,” Neichelle says.
Be on the lookout for a website launch soon, as well as new, exciting projects beyond the virtual landscape!