Keep calm, drink on: Best of POC coffeeshops South Central region

5 mins read

“Sweet dreams turns into coffee in the morning,” croons singer Miguel when he gave a new meaning to coffee, in his song with same name. Coffee, without a doubt, gives people the energy that they need after hard nights and deep sleeps, but who supplies this legal high?

The US is the world’s largest single buyer of coffee with a strong growth in the demand for certified coffee over the years, but the south has always had an intimate relationship with the coffee bean. During slavery, coffee poured into the New Orleans ports by way of Cuba in the seventeenth century. Added to the sugar plantations that dot Louisiana, coffee culture in the Gulf has percolated for centuries.

Here are some of the top, black-owned coffee shops across the deep South:

Backatown Coffee Parlor: New Orleans, LA

Co-owner Jessica Knox. Photo from Facebook.

New Orleans, known for its chicory-spiced coffee and sweet bread called, beignets, is home to Backatown Coffee Parlor. The cafe, located in historic red-light district in the “backatown” section of the city called Storyville, opens its doors to customers seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.

According to the manager, Alonzo Knox, Backatown is one of the few black-owned coffee shops in Louisiana.  Being a roomy cafe decorated with a vibrant red and white mural that serves as an ode to jazz, it pays homage to the city as the birthplace of a musical genre cultivated in the back streets of the Black sections of “The Big Easy.” Not to mention, the café also has both indoor and outdoor with seating options for customers to relax and enjoy a cup of richness.

The price for an average cup of coffee is a little over three dollars, a little pricey for a city with a high poverty rate; however, it does not break your pockets. The cost of the coffee is due to Backatown’s commitment to source in the area. All coffee is made locally from New Orleans coffee roasters, and regionally from Bean Fruit Coffee in Mississippi.

Besides coffee, there are other beverage choices like tea or hot chocolate. In terms of food, Backatown serves breakfast, brunch and dessert. For customers who have dietary restrictions, there are also options of vegan, gluten free, nut free, dairy free and sugar free.

This New Orleans coffee shop is actively engaged with the community, having held events for organizations such as the Youth Activities – Youth Allies Network, and Big Class, which is the largest publication for youth in New Orleans. Backatown also hosts fun events for customers, such as One Mic (an open mic), and Art Fusion (art, music and fashion show). Soon they are going to be launching a freestyle rap and trap opera.

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Kaffeine Coffee – Internet and Office Cafe: Houston, TX

Located southwest of Houston, Kaffeine Coffee is a relaxed and trendy cafe that offers not only food and beverages, but provides free Wi-Fi and printing services; making it the perfect place for any student.

Operating since 2013, the midsized café is decorated with self-portraits reminiscent of 70s disco era. In contrast, the java dive plays 80’s alternative rock. Customers can relax in snug chairs or couches, and if prefered, high stools, with the option of being able to enjoy their snack or drink while taking in the Houston sunshine on the patio.

“We have specialty coffee and the breakfast sandwich is popular,” says cafe manager Christopher Bookur. The owner, Orgena Keener, is the youngest African-American proprietor of a coffee shop in Texas. 

Kaffeine will host “ coffee with a cop” JUNE 25th .. this is a great opportunity for our Houston residents to meet Sgt…

Posted by Kaffeine Coffee at Museum Park on Tuesday, May 22, 2018

All coffee is locally sourced, with an average cup costing between $2 to $3 bucks, and a specialty beverage between $4 and $5. If you are craving something other than coffee, they have many different options on the menu, including mouthwatering breakfast sandwiches; or other items such as crepes, iced tea and lemonade to satisfy your sweet tooth. In terms of dietary needs, Kaffeine Coffee also provides dairy-free and sugar-free options.

They also accommodate the needs of the community by being wheelchair accessible and sponsoring local charitable events, such as the Millennials Group and the Greater Houston Black Chamber, an organization that supports African-American small businesses. Have a business meeting? Customers can conveniently reserve a table online. Unlike Starbucks, you won’t get kicked out.

Throughgood Coffee: Houston, TX

Coffeehouse Thoroughgood owner Pastor Ramus spins on vinyl. Photo from Facebook.

Hands down, H-Town has some of the most satisfying, sumptuous, southern BBQ, but it also holds a foodie reputation as cultivating down home, good mud octane.

A state known as, “The Big Heart,” Texas-based, Throughgood Coffee, carries the mission to improve the lives of people through good coffee. Founded by Beyonce’s spiritual advisor and pastor, Rudy Rasmus, the shop works tirelessly in the community via their organization called, Temenos Community Development Corporation, which provides housing to the homeless and contributes a portion of proceeds to individuals transitioning from difficult lives to stability.

This moderate sized establishment is surrounded by unique artistry, and paired with paintings displayed from local artists. To give depth to the already chill vibe, music played from vinyl records, welcomes customers in an environment where “good happens”.

Seating options are inside at the coffee bar and tables, the tea room, and outside under the umbrella tables. All coffee and tea are sourced from local roasters, one being the Amaya Roasting Company in Houston. An average cup of conventional coffee costs around $4.25. As for food, a taste of Mexican culture is served from the shop’s onsite taco trucks. Throughgood Coffee also offers delicious desserts and pastries such as vegan donuts and “Big-Ass” biscuits – which explains it all in the name. It’s true, everything is bigger in Texas.

The Community Bakery: Little Rock, AK

For over 70 years, The Community Bakery has been offering an array of desserts and coffee flavors in the heart of Little Rock. Now that’s true Southern hospitality. This diversely managed normal sized restaurant is surrounded by local art, with seating available both inside and outside.

Customers can enjoy both classical and jazz music, while sipping a cup of coffee averaging around two dollars. Besides serving food, desserts and coffee, the Community Bakery has a mixture of non-coffee specialty beverages such as Italian soda, smoothies and milkshakes. For those with dietary restrictions, the bakery also has nut free, dairy free and vegan options.

Hence from the name of the eatery, the neighborhood staple is actively involved in the community. Its most recent shop owner, John Brandenberger says that the bakery supports several shelters and organizations through various donations. Being active workers for social change, they also work with various organizations that feed and support the homeless. All you need is love and some good coffee from this Little Rock bakeshop.

Honorable Mention

Although this shop didn’t make it to the top, they are still worth checking out.

The Library Coffee & Wine House: Houston, TX

There are few places where you can get a pick-me-up or a soothing buzz. The Library Coffee & Wine House in Houston offers a variety of drinks, including coffee, lattes, smoothies, organic tea, soda and wine. While enjoying a nice cup of joe or glass of vino, customers can relax to the sounds of classic soul from artists like Amy Winehouse, The Delfonics and Anita Baker.

If customers don’t feel like drinking inside, there is an outdoor patio with an exquisite bar. This black-owned coffee shop welcomes the community, allowing college students to host events free of charge. The cost for a medium coffee is around 2 bucks, perfect for the tight budget of any college student. Lactose Intolerant? Dairy milk can be substituted with coconut, almond, or soy milk.

For food, The Library Coffee & Wine House offers something savory and sweet. On the menu for food includes burgers, quesadillas, veggie wraps, and one of their most popular dishes: chicken wings. Not a fan of white bread? There is an option to substitute white for wheat bread. For dessert, options include pecan chocolate brownies, lemon bars, carrot cake and muffins. Best of all, customers can stop by any day of the week, since it’s open every day.

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Claretta Bellamy is a junior report for Ark Republic.

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