Oakland Coffee Shop Creates Community
Coffee is a staple of most American’s days. Whether you take it black in the morning, or iced in the afternoon after work. Oakland has a unique take on the ancient drink that is aiming to help build a community and provide good jobs to Bay Area residents. Bay area native Keba Konte co-founded Guerilla Café in North Berkeley in 2005. He has a background as an artist and an activist. The focus was to source coffee from Blue Bottle and produce from local farms. Being a very compassionate man, he also wanted to make sure that he was providing good jobs for young and diverse employees.
He was successful enough to expand his concept to San Francisco in 2012, with his new venture, Chasing Lions Café. It is located on the CCSF campus. Soon that was no longer enough for Keba. He wanted to open a roastery in Oakland. The focus was the same, social justice, and good work for good people. Keba jumped into the fray like a student in college, or perhaps a mad scientist. He took classes, he watched videos, he built a lab in his garage. All of this was to hone his skills as a coffee roaster. He started with small batches until he could perfect his craft. A crowdfunding campaign helped him open Red Bay Coffee in 2014. The company has grown to 17 people. They have a warehouse in Fruitvale, and shipping container café in Uptown Oakland, and growing retail distribution.
He sees Red Bay as a culmination of all his previous ventures. He wanted to make a specialty coffee that was delicious and sustainably sourced. Keba worries about the history of coffee and how at times the practices employed in the industry have bordered on social injustice. Red Bay practices direct trade. This means they deal directly with the farmers that grow and harvest coffee beans. Too often, money doesn’t trickle back to farmers once coffee enters the system.
Red Bay is a company that is driven by its employees. 10% of profits go to employees. Keba sees this as a way to help keep natives in the area by providing them good jobs. Gentrification is becoming a concern for Oakland residents, and jobs like Red Bay allow them to stay in the area. Keba’s recommendations for flavors would be an Ethiopian blend, King’s Prize. He also suggests a darker roast, East Fourteenth. Whatever you taste, Red Bay Coffee provides a coffee that tastes good and helps you to build a community in the Bay Area.