New Black-owned coffeeshop looks to end ‘whitewashing’ of coffee industry

“Can you tell me how much caffeine you require?” Felton Kizer enjoys questioning clients at Monday Coffee Company. Kizer then sets out to create something unique, based on their response: a cold brew, a latte, or a chai tea.

Monday Coffee Company debuted in October of last year, appearing at pop-up events such as Compop at the Ace Hotel and Sauced Sundays in Logan Square. Kizer and his partner Amanda Harth had been talking about starting a coffee shop for a year and a half before then. In the midst of the pandemic, they thought it would be a good approach to promote community.

Harth, 33, said, “We wanted to design something that would keep people linked at a time when they couldn’t meet.”

They also wanted to start a Black and queer-owned firm that would help other businesses at a time when calls for social justice were being heard across the country.

Kizer explained, “I’m not the marching-and-burning-buildings type of guy.” “I’m an anti-establishment kind of guy.”

For Kizer, a queer Black man, that meant confronting what he called the coffee industry’s whitewashing. He claimed that no matter how many coffee shops and cafés he visited, he rarely encountered someone who looked like him behind the bar.

“Can you tell me where folks buy their coffee? Costa Rica, Ethiopia, and Brazil are all Black and Brown countries, according to Kizer, 27. “However, I walk into a café that is very white, very strange, and very forceful. Someone is basically selling your culture back to you, while also telling you that you aren’t good enough to have something that belongs to your ancestors.”

Now, through Monday Coffee Company’s new location at 305 E. Garfield Blvd. in Washington Park, Kizer and Harth are fighting back against the whitewashing.

The Rebuild Foundation’s Retreat at Currency Exchange programme offers the residency. Theaster Gates, an artist and University of Chicago professor, launched the non-profit Rebuild. The Retreat programme, which includes residences all over the South Side, helps Black artists and food entrepreneurs.

“I could see their love for their business when I met them,” Gates remarked. “Their friendliness, mixed with their work ethic, beauty, intention, and readiness to innovate with their products, is fantastic for small businesses.”

Harth and Kizer produced and priced a menu as part of the residency, providing tea and coffee throughout the day and drunken latte drinks in the evening. The grounds for Monday Coffee Company are roasted in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then brewed on site at their new location. Other entrepreneurs can use the Wi-Fi and gather in the conference rooms.

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