MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis couple turned their love for coffee into a business, hoping to “reclaim the Black history of coffee and reimagine its Black future.”
Maurice and Renata Henderson created a six-figure business called Cxffeeblack, located at the Anti Gentrification Cxffee Club in Highland Heights.
While Cxffeeblack may be a coffee brand, it’s also a movement.
Maurice says when he walks into traditional coffee shops, he notices he stands out. So, he started doing some research.
“I started looking into more of the history, and I said, ‘Why do I see all these African countries on there too?’ That led me to fall down the rabbit hole that colonialism played a big role in the spread of coffee around the world,” said Maurice.
Maurice says he learned coffee originated in Ethiopia, but today there is a lack of diversity in the industry socially and economically. He and his wife want to close that gap.
“We imagine what can a world be once Black people reclaim the thing that was originally ours and how can we use that in a way that inspires not just the black community but the world in the future,” said Renata.
Just knowing the origins of coffee was not enough for the Hendersons. They needed to see it for themselves. Over the last three years, they have made multiple trips to Ethiopia and other parts of Africa to meet the people behind the product.
These encounters have even inspired how they run their business. Renata is the head roaster, in honor of the first roasters and baristas being Ethiopian women.
“Coffee for Ethiopia is not this commodity. It’s a part of a community. It’s like a community glue,” Renata said.
The first trip was highlighted in their award-winning documentary “Cxffeeblack to Africa.” Maurice said that they “want to see coffee being represented not exclusively by people of African descent but inclusively by people of African descent.”
The Hendersons say their brand is provided through an all-black supply chain. Their coffee “Guji Mane” is grown by farmers in the town of Uraga in the Guji Zone of Oromia in Ethiopia.
A percentage of the proceeds for every bag goes back to the community it’s harvested in. “We don’t claim to be the experts in what we’re saying. We’re just amplifying voices,” said Renata.
The Henderson’s mission doesn’t stop with coffee sales. Right now, they are operating a fundraiser called the Barista Exchange.
“We’re trying to raise $40,000 dollars to bring four African baristas to America to actually see how the process goes on this end of the supply chain. Then, we want to bring four African-American baristas to Africa to see what it looks like to be able to connect with the roots and origin and the soul of this thing to see where it comes from,” said Maurice.
The Hendersons designed a shoe to help fund the project.
Their desire to reclaim the black history of coffee has captured the attention of coffee enthusiasts across the world.
However, WREG still had one question. Why the “X” in coffee?
Maurice explained, “For us, it means reconnecting back to the places and people who have historically grown this plant and learning a connection to them beyond just expressos and cappuccinos.”
For more information about Cxffeeblack and their Barista Exchange, head over to https://cxffeeblack.com/