When Watts Coffee House first opened in 1997, it was the only Black-owned coffee shop in L.A. Today there are more than 20 across L.A. and Orange counties. According to coffee expert LaNisa Williams of Barista Life L.A., this sudden growth is no coincidence.
“They’re creating these spaces so that we feel safe,” she said. “We need these spaces for us to be able to express ourselves in our own communities. … We are empowering ourselves through ownership and breaking generational curses, showing what happens when we take pride in our Black history.”
Williams started #BlackInBrew in June 2020 to raise awareness of Black coffee professionals and build community in the wake of the George Floyd protests. Today she consults and provides education and training for many of L.A.’s coffee shops, with an emphasis on uplifting those who have not historically been represented in the industry.
“[These] are not just coffee shops,” Williams said. “These are spaces where amazing things happen. We’re giving back to the community through coffee shops.”
Compton local Geoffrey Martinez of Patria Coffee Roasters sought to center the surrounding BIPOC-majority neighborhood when opening his specialty coffee shop in 2018. A sign near the register reads: “Patria Coffee is a space intended for Communities of Color to share a safe place, free of criminalization and punitive treatment, that is relational and not simply transactional. We aim to uplift the beauty and richness of our cultural identity while offering a dignified coffee experience and quality, respectful of the existing Compton community structure and understandings.”
Given that coffee is historically grown by Black, brown and Indigenous people, Williams said there’s an element of reclamation at many Black-owned coffee shops, with an intention of using that foundation to move the industry forward.
Jonathan Kinnard, founder of Coffee Del Mundo in South L.A., places a heavy emphasis on coffee origin education. “We want you to be very aware that coffee is not a European thing. It’s an Ethiopian thing. It’s a Colombian thing. It’s a Guatemalan thing. We take a lot of pride in that, and we need to honor that if you understand the difficulty of labor that goes into these things.”
“I hope that we continue in this positive direction of inclusivity [and] making sure everyone is seen and heard,” Williams said. “It’s a trillion-dollar industry — there should be no reason why Black people only have 1% of this. This is a way of expressing ourselves and bringing our culture to the forefront.”
Presented in no specific order, here are 20 Black-owned coffee shops to support across L.A.