First Thing in the Morning
Coffee has been the core of my existence since I was born. It wasn’t considered a “grown up” drink in our house. Instead, it was a shared beverage that was altered to suit the consumer. For my father, it was black, Folgers from a can that was percolated on the stove. For my mamacita, it was cafe con leche, a sweet mix of warm milk, freeze dried Nescafé and sugar, lots of sugar. This would be my introduction to the beverage that still has its grip on me.
My mother’s style of coffee was distinctive of her childhood in Arequipa, Peru, home to her family. Nescafé was imported as a standard product while the milk was delivered in giant metal cans straight from the farms. There was no lid to the can, only a thick layer of cream sealing in the liquid.
My earliest memory of making my own concoction was figuring out what I wanted more of, the coffee crystals or the sugar. I don’t recall anyone watching over me as I went heavy on the coffee. This probably explains why my body relies on it so much today.
I had my moments of black coffee in college as an attempt at maturity. But, upon landing my first job in San Francisco and settling into the Italian district of North Beach, I soon turned to cafe lattes to lure me from bed. Something about the methodical steaming of milk gave me time to truly wake up and appreciate the first sip.
When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I relied on triple lattes in order to keep up with her older sister. There is no rest for the mother of a restless toddler. Yes, caffeine was supposed to be off the nutrition diet. But, it was either create another coffee drinker in utero or misplace my first born.
Women Owned Coffee Businesses
In developing the podcast, advisors told me that I should have a catch to my brand. Something that would unite the listeners beyond the topics. Never one to promote myself, let alone a product, ( yes, another no-no) I struggled with the concept. Until, the day I realized that my love of coffee is not a push of product. Rather, it’s a ritual that I have experienced around the world, in the true sense of community.
So, coffee became the shout out for the podcast, the unpaid advertising to support women owned coffee businesses, especially women of color. Again, not being a marketer, I didn’t do my homework to ensure that there was such a thing. But thankfully, women have become the soulful contributors to an ancient ritual.
There are over 50 in San Francisco alone. That’s an entire year of chatting it up with the ladies over the one thing we all love. Last week, (Episode 36) I mentioned the new coffee store in San Francisco, ‘Flour and Branch’. Calling it a coffee store is like calling Yosemite a park. Flaky pastries fill their counters and more so, their signature filled cookies. Something about the Salty Sombitch gets me every time.
Throughout the cafe, specialty items are displayed, selected from women-owned small businesses in the area. Woven scarves, handmade candles, screened prints all fashioned to support women by women. And the world just became a little better.
In this week’s episode, I call out Ayesha Curry’s flagship store and coffee cafe, ‘Sweet July’. She named it after the month that all three of her children are born. I had been wanting to visit the beautiful storefront the moment it opened. Then, the pandemic hit and I lost my chance.
Ayesha Curry’s Coffee Paradise
It’s difficult for me to look up places in hopes that they survived the shut-down. I hadn’t dared checked on ‘Sweet July’ since most of downtown Oakland remains shuttered. But, after a soul-filling Palm Sunday mass at the Oakland Cathedral, I was feeling the heavens intervene. Not only was the store open, it was only a couple blocks away. Sweet Jesus!
Entering the vast, all window storefront, I forgot coffee was my focus. The tall ceilings fed my engineering mind as my gaze perused the artistic lights that hung like angels on high. The first wall inside had beautiful framed graphics of black women, from floor to ceiling. There was a larger communal table with mid-century chairs, surrounded by loungers for the more independent.
Along the window front were rows of children clothes, from baby to young person. Soft palettes in sustainable fabrics with simple prints. Naturally, bedding and towels meeting adult expectations were next along with natural cosmetics. One could sense that Ayesha’s goal is to bring healthy comfort to anyone she meets.
The last section actually was my hook: homewares. On the walls, counters and tables were neat stacks of heavy ceramic tableware and earth toned glassware. The organic style of the pieces gave an illusion that Ayesha had made them herself. The tableware is made in Thailand but glazed in Oakland.
I finally made it back to the coffee counter where her signature bread puddings were waiting for me. The main event is the vegan Chocolate Pumpkin bread pudding, one of many recipes found in her two cookbooks, ‘Seasoned Life’ and ‘Full Plate’.
As I sipped my cafecito at the communal table, I focused on all the amazing products that Ayesha personally culled to ensure that women, especially women of color, were fully represented. It’s easy to see, Ayesha loves leaving the door wide open for entrepreneurs that have been locked out for far too long.