Black Coffee: Black Entrepreneurs Brewing Up Coffee and Beer

MochaBox co-owners and native Detroiters Harlin Thomas. left, and Floyd Sartin, right, want to change the face of the coffee business where even more Black proprietors are in the mix.

Photo provided by MochaBox

 

Whether it’s coffee or beer — these Black-owned companies are bringing the liquid goods that we have been waiting for, so let us sip on for the culture.

 

Detroit resident Derek English, 43. owner of Faust Haus Roasting Co., a newly launched online coffee company, wants to bring Ethiopian flavors a little closer to home.

“It’s an exciting time, we are just getting started,” English said.  It started, he added, because for a while he’s been making his own coffee. Then, one day a family friend tasted it and said, “Oh my God, you all should share this.”

 

Throughout 2020, English “put in the plans” and created his business led by himself and his two daughters, Alyssa, 25, and Sophia, 14.

 

“We started putting our daily family recipe together and equipment in order so we could start,” he said. “We just started this month opening up our coffee for sale. We’ve been through a bunch of trials and tastings and the feedback has been great. We’re encouraged in starting this … it’s been good so far.”

 

The online-based company is selling on Instagram under the handle: FaustHausRoastingCo. Their website is slated to launch soon in time for their coffee subscription-based service they have brewing.

 

The coffee company uses traditional Ethiopian spiced recipes and infuses the beans with flavors of ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, and turmeric.

“That lends itself to very distinct flavors in our coffees — our coffees are unique in flavor profile and spiced coffees,” English said, adding that it’s not just about the taste.

 

A significant portion of their proceeds goes toward charities around the world, including helping Ethiopian refugees in crisis.

 

“The big thing with us and what we are doing is we want to create a company that has an impact in the world and community,” English said.

 

Over 10 years ago, Floyd Sartin and Harlin Thomas, hailing from the eastside, attended Western Michigan University together when one New Year’s Eve, they decided to develop a business.

Through their different ventures, Thomas landed on the idea of selling coffee.

Not long after that, the duo attended a coffee convention—Coffee Fest in New York. That is when they discovered that they were one of the very few Black people at the event.

 

“We stayed because we stood out—we knew we could be special in this industry,” Sartin says.

 

There were Black coffee brands available then, but friends and business partners felt they could “champion the industry” in the D.C. area where they now reside.

 

According to the International Coffee Organization, the annual growth rate of global coffee is about 1.3 percent. Millennials fuel the coffee culture. A Bloomberg report shows that this age group consumes 44 percent of all coffee in the United States.

Sartin and Thomas started MochaBox Coffee Company in 2015 and got in at the right time.

MochaBox pulls its name from the place in Yemen where coffee was first traded. At first, customers received a monthly trio sampler from growers within the U.S. After trying their own hands at roasting coffee, Thomas was convinced that he and Sartin could learn to cut out the middleman. From there, they purchased equipment to roast their own coffee. The coffee entrepreneurs grew in the coffee game.

 

“You have to drink the coffee to know what you’re getting in your cup. “We’re not coffee snobs,” Sartin said. “But we can tell the difference between a good cup and a bad one.”

 

They both like their coffee black.

Over the last five years MochaBox has developed into a full micro-coffee company, offering online commerce to consumers and wholesale to businesses. They also sell merchandise. Some of their most popular shirts combine culturally relevant coffee terminology. A grey crew neck reads “come through drippin’” with a coffee pot pouring out. They also still have full-time jobs that help fund MochaBox.

 

“We are getting closer to being solely entrepreneurs with MochaBox, but for now it does allow balance,” Thomas says.

 

“At the very least, we are setting up generational wealth. … We want to have a legacy,” Sartin said. “We have seen our business pick up; in fact, 2020 has been one of the best years for us.”

 

MochaBox offers single-origin coffees with original flavors that are all locally roasted in Prince George’s, Md.

 

Customers can select 12-ounce resealable packages or whole bean, medium, or coarse grind. MochaBox’s signature coffee is Colombiana, a medium roast with hints of cherry and sweet pecan. Dark sugar sweetness and caramel aromatic spices are in their Black Bottom coffee, named after the historical Black neighborhood in Detroit.

 

“People love it. They say they can smell it in the mail and get really excited,” Sartin shares.

 

Sartin and Thomas are hoping to solidify a partnership with a major grocery retailer in 2021. Sartin said that having an important partnership comes with playing off of one another’s strengths.

 

“We know that this is a blessing to have a relationship, a brotherhood like this where we’re able to do something and build this business that we’re doing,” he said.

 

Follow Sartin, Thomas, and MochaBox on social media and find them at https://www.mochabox.com/.

 

Their motto, they will tell you, is simple, “Make Dope Beer for Dope People.”

And co-owners and -founders Terry Rostic and Jamaal Ewing continue to be dope pioneers with Michigan’s first Black-owned brewery, Black Calder Brewing Company in Grand Rapids.

“I’ve been thinking about starting a brewery for a long time,” Rostic said. “I’ve been homebrewing … since 2010 or so, and I would support local breweries.”

 

Rostic said that he loves the atmosphere of breweries and “loved the people making some really cool beer” with great stories that went along with them.

 

“I would always think the stories around certain beers were tastier than the brews,” he said, adding that in his support of the breweries he didn’t see a lot of diversity, and he wanted to change that narrative.

 

“That is how the seed got planted — how the hop got planted,” he said laughing.

 

Rostic met Ewing, both based in the Grand Rapids area, in 2017 at a minority subcontractor workshop where at the time Rostic worked at a large construction company in the diversity, equity and inclusion realm.

 

After the meeting, Rostic went up to him and asked him if he wanted to start a brewery together.

 

“I didn’t know him, never met him before,” Rostic said, adding that Ewing looked at him strangely for a second and said without missing a beat, “‘Why did you ask me that; because I do.’”

 

Over time, they honed their business plan, which Rostic says garnered positive reception, including support from Detroiters (who have driven to west Michigan to purchase their beer) and local brewers, among others. “I didn’t realize how many people were wanting something like this.”

 

Rostic said what’s next up is their February 19 release of a Bougie Sweet Potato Pie Stout, in honor of his grandmother’s classic sweet potato pie.

 

“You’re going to taste subtle sweet potatoes, vanilla, a little ginger, cinnamon — all of those flavors hit your palate,” he said.

 

Rostic added that beer connects people in a special way, because a glass of milk never truly brought anyone together.

 

“What we want to try to do and what we want to be known for [is] making great beer and connecting folks, that is what I want our narrative to be at the end of the day,” he said. He added that also introducing people to Black culture and history while making great beer — “you can’t really ask for something better.”

 

For more information find them at https://blackcalderbrewing.com/.

 

 

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