Cxffeeblack: From Memphis Rap to Specialty Coffee Innovator - The Story Behind This Tennessee Roasters Award-Winning Flair


Cxffeeblack received the inaugural "Innovator of the Year" Award from the prestigious Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity last week in Chicago, and words can’t describe the feeling we experienced in that room.

For context, we didn’t come from your traditional coffee route. We didn’t start as baristas, roasters, or in a shop at all. We began at rap shows, in the back rooms of homes, recording studios, churches, and schools.

To be honored among some of the most inspiring and groundbreaking voices in this industry like @phyllisjohnsonsstuff, @michellethaghost, @ghostownoats, @prophiphop, and @stiverscoffeeinc was a watershed moment.

To be honest, we never really knew if what we were doing had a place in the “specialty” movement in coffee. We didn’t start because we wanted to brew the most notable coffee in the industry, though we did receive an award for that earlier this year. Cxffeeblack started as an offshoot of a hip hop club we used to run in Orange Mound with middle school students because we felt like kids in Memphis, TN never got to see the true beauty of their roots, and therefore didn’t get the nourishment they needed to truly bear the dopest fruits. And even though the community we were building never really felt like we fit into the “specialty coffee industry”, there were voices along the way that inspired us to continue to dial into our own unique notes, and that what we had to brew had a place in the world. One of the most prominent voices was @phyllisjohnsonsstuff and @prophiphop.

There was no traditional track for our baristas in Memphis to enter the specialty coffee industry, at least not for our neighborhoods. To be honest, we weren’t even sure if the industry deserved access to the genius we see in our hood on the daily. Not because of any inherent lack, but because we weren't sure if there was a palette there to appreciate the complex beauty we saw daily. But there was a precedent for unique notes to be valued when dialed in properly, and some of the greatest of those were on the stage with us as we received this award.

When we moved back to Memphis from undergrad in Wheaton back in 2013, we wanted to share what we had fallen in love with about this seed from our motherland with our neighbors around us, and at that time, there was no specialty coffee presence in our hoods besides the gentrified energy of what would become an unfortunate norm of erasure later on. The passion of the members in the movement grew not because of beautifully built bars, minimalism, and Edison lights, but because this seed formed a portal of sorts to something our people have been missing for a long time. Coffee was calling us to a peace we didn’t see at the shops popping up in our hood, something that was growing in our hearts and homes that was yet unseen in public spaces around the city.

And it was that gap between what was happening in our spirits and what was missing in the 3rd wave spaces that led us to imagine a different multiverse in coffee. And it means the world to have our community come along.

In the words of our cousin Brandice Daniels, we were outsiders. And it’s moments like this that remind us that that isn’t a bad thing. In fact, everyone who was in that room with us started the same way. Because in that beginning, it was that innovative spark that led us to create the “Cxffeeblack Barista Exchange Program."

Being honored among some of the most inspiring voices in this industry like @phyllisjohnsonsstuff, @michellethaghost, @ghostownoats, @prophiphop, and @stiverscoffeeinc was a watershed moment for our movement. It's a testament to everyone who's felt like they were too country, too black, too uncouth, too "whatever" to achieve their God given purpose. Don't believe the lies. What makes you "unqualified" is your superpower. It's what empowers you to truly drink your cxffeeblack, and believe us, that can change the world. 

If you’d like to be a part of the next wave in coffee, check the link to find out more! Barista exchange phase 2 coming this fall to a city near you!


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