• Allison Russom

Small Business Highlight: Anti Gentrification Coffee Club

The Anti Gentrification Coffee Club, located at 761 National St. is a coffee shop owned by a husband and wife duo Bartholomew Jones and Renata Henderson. It’s more than just a coffee shop, however, it’s a learning ground about the coffee industry and where coffee originated. Bartholomew and Renata’s goal is to “make cxffee black again”. The x in cxffee represents “what black people have historically used to replace the sugars and cream they were given as a last name during slavery.” The couple wants to bring coffee back to its people and as Bartholomew states, “the primary issue for why a lot of folks in our communities don’t get a chance to get involved with coffee shops when they come is because of a lack of education about this connection to our roots”. They want to make a space for black and brown people to learn about coffee and drink coffee the way that their ancestors roasted and brewed it for thousands of years before anywhere else in the world knew what coffee was.

I asked Bartholomew about what made him start the Anti Gentrification Coffee Club, and he said that “When we began looking at our friends who we wanted to introduce to coffee and realized that they were never going to the shops that we were finding out and falling in love with because those shops, often time, didn’t create a hospitable place for our community, for black folks, for melanated people in general.” So Bartholomew and Renata decided that they wanted to create that for their community with Anti Gentrification Coffee Club. If you can’t find it, you make it yourself. They brew all of their coffee in house, which is done by Renata, who is the head roaster, and they sell their own lines of coffee called Guji Mane and Black on Both Sides. If you want to check out either of them, you can buy them on their website: cxffeeblack.com, where they also have merchandise and other resources where you can learn more about their journey of educating people about the origin of coffee and more!

Guji Mane is one of the coffees that is served at AGCC, and is Bartholomew’s favorite. He said this about the brand, “Guji Mane is an experiment. It’s the first step in our curriculum to teach people about the black history of coffee. That's the way they understand it is just to taste it, so we start with Guji Mane to illustrate that coffee was discovered in Africa, in Ethiopia…the name is a perfect connection to show the connection between black folks on both sides.” Bartholomew and Renata pride themselves by using an all black supply chain, from farm to table. As it says on their website, the Guji Mane coffee is “Grown by black farmers in the town of Uraga in the Guji Zone of Oromia in Ethiopia, exported by Black community leaders Ture Waji, aka the ‘King Of Guji’ and the big homie Mike MAMO of Bmore and Ethiopian acclaim through their collaborative effort Greenspring Coffee, and imported through the homies at Equatorial Coffee Consultants.” Guji Mane has notes of fruit, like passion fruit, strawberry, guava, and concord grape, as well as hints of chocolate and caramel. The way Bartholomew talks about Guji Mane, you know it’s experience to try.

The Anti Gentrification Coffee Club is based around community and the understanding that they want everyone to be able to see themselves in the world of coffee, so I asked Bartholomew what he thought was the most important aspect of a community. He said, “the most important thing to do is listen because you can have the best plan, but at the end of the day, if the implementation of that plan is harmful or if it’s not something that the community wants, then you to be able to listen, regroup, and reorganize with the community.” We also talked about how education is a massive way to empower and involve the community. This stems from both of their backgrounds in education, almost twenty years combined experience. They know first hand what education can do and what the lack of it looks like. They want to do everything they can to educate themselves about coffee, and bring that education to anyone who wants to learn about coffee, especially the population who were pushed out of the white-washed coffee culture. “I’d like to see young black and brown baristas working in a shop that they live in and creating art for their community…and connecting with people and our various motherlands because of coffee.” Coffee is more than just a drink, it’s a tool, and Bartholomew and Renata want to use it to change people’s viewpoint of how to drink it and who it’s for.

Just by speaking with Bartholomew, I knew that he and his wife had to have plans for AGCC’s future because, no doubt, it’s bright as the sun. He told me, “we want it to spread into different communities that are currently being affected by gentrification in coffee where those communities can start their own coffee spaces and begin to empower themselves.” He even talked about making the Anti Gentrification Coffee Club into a non-profit organization, so they can create charters and build their curriculum even further. They teach all of their baristas about the coffee industry and about what coffee they serve so that when they are serving that coffee to their customers, they are able to spread that knowledge to them as well. If you would like to check out more about their curriculum, you look at their YouTube channel where they have videos like “History of Indigenous Black Women in Coffee” and other videos about the black history of coffee.

Lastly, I asked Bartholomew what he loves most about operating in Memphis. He said, “it’s kind of like the wild, wild west, like there’s nobody who's really going to stop you if you have an innovative idea. And on that same note, there’s generally no one who will help you either, but I think you have an opportunity to achieve an idea if you see it because for the most part, if you’re in Memphis, that idea hasn’t been done yet, which is one of the things that we love.” Memphis is known for its music and BBQ, but maybe the Anti Gentrification Coffee Club will be able to put it on the map for coffee.

I would love to thank Bartholomew for talking with me. It is an absolute honor to be able to highlight AGCC and its amazing story of how it came to be. You can follow them on Instagram and YouTube, as well as check out their website.

If you are a small business in the Memphis area and would like to be on our blog, you can contact us at blog@theprofitlink.com. Thank you for reading!

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