LGBT Baristas Create an Inclusive Community in the U.K.

A new London-based LGBTQ+ network supports baristas through unification and education.


Cover photo courtesy of Thomas Clare

There’s a new network for LGBTQ+ baristas and allies in London. Simply known as LGBT Baristas, the group is gaining traction as a resource for coffee education and community. 

“I wanted to do something to give back,” says its cofounder Thomas Clare. “There’s a lot of LGBTQ+ people out there who feel lonely and isolated, and I wanted to find a way to bring us all together. So I thought creating a small community based around coffee would be perfect!”

Thomas Clare has worked at various cafes since he was 13, and saw a need to create a network for gay, lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, and transgender baristas. Photo courtesy of Thomas Clare. 

Thomas began his career in coffee at 13, working at various companies, and is now a trainer for Lavazza. In his years within the industry, one thing he found lacking was a community for gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, and trans baristas. In his experience, the gay community in London revolves around dating apps or going out to clubs or bars. Thomas reached out to his friend and former manager, Assunta Dogali, head of catering at the Hampstead Theatre in London, with an idea about creating a coffee-centered community.

Assunta Dogali is a cofounder of LGBT Baristas. She has had generally positive experiences within the U.K. coffee industry, but notes that “there are still places where members of the LGBTQ+ community might not feel appreciated and valued.” Photo courtesy of Assunta Dogali.

“The idea of creating an LGBTQ+ coffee group sounded brilliant when Thomas shared it with me a couple of months ago. I stopped him immediately and said, ‘I’m all in!’” says Assunta. “We did some research and found out there was no similar community in the London (and U.K.) coffee scene. We started discussing topics, created an Instagram and a Facebook account, and spread the word as much as we could. And it’s working! We are receiving many positive reactions from people working in the coffee industry.” 

LGBT Baristas’ first meeting was on February 29. Attendees shared their needs and expectations of the group, and planned for future events. “One thing we will be implementing is creating a buddy system, so if you want to go to a coffee event, but you’re scared to go alone, then put it to the group and we can go together,” Thomas says.

LGBT Baristas welcomes coffee workers of all levels of experience, as well as allies. Photo courtesy of Thomas Clare.

Their next scheduled event will be a Bring Your Own Beans cupping coinciding with London Coffee Festival (the festival has been postponed until July due to COVID-19 concerns). Participants will bring their own coffee to cup and taste with everyone else. “For experienced baristas it’s a chance to share a coffee that they love, and for new baristas it gives them the opportunity to find out what they like and partake in a cupping,” Thomas says.

Other meet-ups in the future will include education, such as tastings and coffee cocktail workshops for baristas of all levels. Assunta encourages allies to get involved as well; she also points out that while London is generally accepting of gay, lesbian, bi, and trans identities, there is work to be done to create a more equitable coffee scene. 

“There are specific issues and challenges we would like to tackle,” she says. “To give an example, in the hospitality industry there are still certain rules and behaviours that are not inclusive and impose a strict binarism in the way people are expected to dress and behave. We discussed the topic during our first meet-up, and it is clear that this is a pressing matter for many of us when it comes to (adhering) to company rules and uniform policies, for instance. Also, customers and members of the public might display a homo-bi-trans-phobic behaviour, so it is important for members of our community to feel supported and be able to share their sexuality at work freely and proudly.”

Follow LGBT Baristas on Instagram for updates and more information.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is IMG_0373-2.jpg

Mark Van Streefkerk
is Barista Magazine’s social media content developer and a frequent contributor. He is also a freelance writer, social media manager, and novelist based out of Seattle. If Mark isn’t writing, he’s probably biking to his favorite vegan restaurant. Find out more on his website.