South LA

L.A. coffee connoisseurs celebrate community

In honor of National Coffee Day, L.A. coffee entrepreneurs celebrate more than a good cup of joe.

"A photo of a barista whipping up a beverage at Nimbus Coffee."

The cool fall mornings have us reaching for our steaming mugs of coffee to get us started for the long day ahead. It is only fair that this beverage gets to have its own day. After all, a cup of coffee feels like a warm hug when our nightly slumber tries to lure us back to bed.

On National Coffee Day, when you can get a free cup of coffee at Starbucks and Dunkin’, it is imperative to remember why this day is important. This day is used to commemorate fair trade coffee and spread awareness about the challenges faced by coffee growers. This, in turn, leads to conversations on attaining equitable international trade in coffee and forging partnerships that provide better and more sustainable working conditions for coffee farmers.

Jon Kinnard, CEO of Coffee del Mundo, in South Los Angeles, said helping people who work in coffee farms is of utmost importance.

“I always knew I wanted my own business. The opportunity came where I visited my first farm in El Salvador and fell in love with what was going on. I heard about all of the problems they were facing and I wanted to help,” he said.

For some coffee lovers, coffee is the secret ingredient to bring people together. Beverly Fuscus, manager of Nimbus Coffee, a wizard-themed coffee shop in downtown L.A. takes pride in educating her customers.

“A lot of our customers, for example, come from either drinking coffee and the third wave coffee world or the usual coffee experiences, like Starbucks, where they don’t really know a lot about coffee,” she said. “So we like to make that middle ground where we educate people about what kind of coffee there is with the different tastes.”

Coffee beans unite people from all over the world. At independent breweries like Hot & Cool Cafe in Leimert Park, or Silverback Coffee of Rwanda in Echo Park, coffee enthusiasts can gather over drinks both indoor and outdoors.

Cordelia Martinez, an industrial engineering major at USC, shared that a coffee date can be a social activity and that the drink plays a role in forming personal relationships.

“I feel like it makes you connect more to that person, talk and get to know them,” she said. “Sometimes, saying ‘let’s get coffee’ does not necessarily mean getting coffee. It is a form of expression.”

Kinnard echoed Martinez’s thoughts about coffee helping unite people.

“It’s just such a connector of communities, of people with different backgrounds and places,” said Kinnard. “It brings people together because everyone wants to drink and taste something warm and you’re normally sitting at a table that is not normally built for one person. So, it really provides a soft way to engage other people and really disarm people because everyone can relate to enjoying a cup of coffee.”

As an owner, Kinnard also feels that educating people on where coffee can grow and usually comes from, is crucial to the tradition of coffee drinking around the globe.

“We work directly with small farms around the world. The perception in America is more of a Eurocentric view of coffee, like a latte, a European espresso,” he said. “But what we really pride ourselves on is to showcase that coffee is not a European thing, it is actually a Central American thing — an African thing. That’s where it can even grow.”

"A photo of customers in a South L.A. coffee shop."

Kinnard shared that everything on the menu at Coffee del Mundo is plant-based and made for the diets of people of color. His aim is to change the narrative in a market that is predominantly dominated by a white population, while most coffee is grown where people of color are.

While every L.A. coffee shop brings something new and unique to the brew that fuels so many Angelenos’ lives, Fuscus said that the most “magical” part about the drink is that it can be enjoyed by all.

“Coffee could be simple, but it could also be made really complex and anyone can enjoy it. I think it’s an element that can be key in a community,” she said.