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4 Black-owned coffee and tea houses in NYC to support this Juneteenth and beyond

in Arts & Culture/Food & Drink by

As NYC works to recover and slowly reopen from being the world’s hotspot for Covid-19, here are some coffee and tea shops to support if you’re on the area.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, more black businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. So much so, it’s estimated that more than 40 percent of Black business owners will never reopen or recover from the shutdown. That’s why I’ve decided to write about four small black-owned coffee and tea houses in New York City that you could support this Juneteenth. They’re all open for takeout and/or delivery at the moment.

SERENGETI TEA AND SPICES: Central Harlem

Photo courtesy of Serengeti Tea and Spices’s Facebook page

This quaint little tea room in East Harlem uses ancient African techniques to make its teas and spices. Its founder, Liberian-born Doughba Hamilton Caranda-Martin, is a world-renowned expert on African herbal teas and medicine and has traveled across Africa, Asia, and North America.

Launched in 2013, Caranda-Martin hoped that his shop would bring Africa’s best herbal teas to a wider audience.

“The global marketplace does not realize the amount of tea that Africa produces,” Caranda-Martin said to Huffington Post. “Often the stigma around Africa keeps people from promoting its agricultural goodness – tea, cocoa, coffee – everything we do here at Serengeti is based on these principles and honoring the farmers that produce it.”

All of Serengeti’s products are crafted by hand and its curated selections allow shoppers to choose from a wide selection of tastes and blends.

BROOKLYN TEA: Bedford-Stuyvesant

Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Tea’s Facebook page

This tea room launched in 2017 as an online retailer. Its founder, Alfonso “Ali” Wright has been interested in tea since he was a kid when his Jamaican mother introduced him to tea culture.

Tea culture, he says, is much slower than what Americans are used to; especially loose-leaf tea drinking culture, which he describes as more of a steak as opposed to bagged tea which is more like hamburger meat.

Now with a brick-and-mortar,  Wright  sells over 60 varieties of organic tea, coffee, and pastries. Half of the teas are curated by Ali himself and the other half are curated from tea experts around the world. Its menu is also vegan-friendly and includes breakfast options like vegan waffles, cakes, and breads that are sourced from local Black owned bakeries.

Wright and his business and life partner, Jamila McGill, have worked on making the space interactive for customers as well. Adjacent to the front door of the shop, you’ll find a “smelling wall” with tea-packed jars that customers can open and smell. There are also fresh pots of tea that line the counter for customers to sample. Book lovers will also be pleased to find a community bookshelf where they can take and give a book.

CAFE C: Crown Heights

Photo courtesy of Cafe con Libros’ Facebook page

According Cafe con Libros’ manifesto, it is “an intersectional Feminist community bookstore and coffee shop” that aims to “create a vibrant community space where everyone, specifically female identified folx, feel centered, affirmed, and celebrated.”

The bookstore and coffee shop was founded in December 2017. Its founder, Kalima DeSuze wanted to create an explicitly feminist space and has handpicked books for kids and adults alike that focus specifically on female narratives. She also lists books at affordable prices to make them more accessible to women who are statistically paid less than men. The bookstore also takes suggestions for new releases or titles they would like to see sold in the store.

In addition, DeSuze hosts a Feminist Book Club each month that focuses on reading, analyzing, and critiquing different Feminist texts. Each month focuses on a different title. Donate to the bookstore here.

BUSHWICK GRIND: Bushwick

Photo courtesy of Bushwick Grinds’ Facebook page

This space used to sell sustainable, handcrafted coffee and tea, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, its owners, Kymme Williams and her husband Raymond Davis, decided to turn  the space into a sea moss shop. The owners decided to rebrand  two weeks into the shut-down to meet the demands of locals who were looking for ways to stay healthy during the pandemic.

“The products that we sell are all health products that people are looking for to heal themselves up,” Mr. Davis said. He says that the pandemic has raised awareness of the benefits of sea moss with people quickly turning to it for a quick fix and good results.

“Sea moss is one of the most powerful substances in the world,” Davis said. “It has 92 minerals that your body needs. It helps boost your immune system. In the Caribbean, it was the thing that your grandmother gave you when you were sick.”

According to Mr. Davis, in addition to its surplus of minerals, sea moss gets rid of excess mucus in the body and in turn boosts immunity.

But, if you’re still looking for your coffee, don’t worry, they’ve still got it. “We still have a little iced coffee and things like that for the people who used to come in here and liked to get their coffee,” Davis said. “But a lot of people have switched from that. They say forget the coffee. Lemme get a smoothie, some moringa.”

The shop also has plenty of vegan options too.

Sara Elroubi

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