5 Minutes With: LaNisa Williams, Barista Life LA

Photo of LaNisa: @baristalifela

Earlier this month, Barista Life LA creator LaNisa Williams launched the #BlackinBrew Instagram campaign, which features Black coffee industry professionals from around the world. It has since garnered the attention not only of many in the industry, but media outlets including various podcasts and even the Los Angeles Times.

Initially created to highlight Los Angeles-area baristas, Williams pivoted to take it “a step further” to feature Black people in the coffee industry as a whole.

“In March, right before the pandemic hit, I had the idea of highlighting local baristas in the L.A. area,” says Williams. “But stuff happened, and I didn’t get to devote enough time to that.”

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Up next on #BlackinBrew we have twin brothers David & Duane Hogg @hoggbatch ☕️How long have you been in coffee? Experientially, almost a decade, however, as a connoisseur and roaster it’s been about 4 years or so. ☕️What is your current role in the coffee community? What company do you work for? We’re the owners of Hogg Batch Coffee, a premium experimental coffee roasting company that specializes in barrel-aged coffee. In the coffee community we like to consider ourselves students, facilitators and most of curators. We’re constantly exploring coffee from its origins, the various ways it can be consumed to the social impact it has on community. Coffee connects people in ways that nothing else does. It motivates and inspires creativity, conversation and awakens a sense of optimism and drive within. Coffee gives hope – that you can get through this moment. ☕️Have you experienced racial injustice in the coffee industry? We’ve been fortunate enough to travel throughout the country and even outside, experiencing coffee culture in various destinations. In our time as coffee explorers we haven’t experienced direct racial injustice. Of course, there have been a select few times, where we were felt ignored and misunderstood even but nothing so transparent that we would tie it to discrimination by race. Our desire to bring more diversity to the coffee culture came from a general lack of self-representation. We acknowledge our ability and responsibility to drive that diversity, not only of race, but of thought in order to affect change in a space that can have such a huge social impact on humanity. ☕️What is your company’s Mission? [To create a unique, delightful experience with every sip.] We’re focused on creating unique coffee experiences that inspire Creativity, Adventure, Freedom, and Excellence. Coffee + represents two things that fuel our passions and cultivate the community around us. Through the art of experimentation, we are able to create coffee with a delightful surprise to wake up your daily routine. #baristalifela #lanisathebarista #blackcoffeecommunity #blackcoffee #blackexcellence✊🏾

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However, once the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum following the murder of George Floyd, Williams returned to the idea, broadening the concept to focus on Black people throughout the entire coffee community. During a brainstorming session with her partner, she casually tossed around the name “black in brew.”

“It was the perfect fit, it just rolled off my tongue,” she recalls.

And so, at the start of June, Williams put out a call on her Instagram page for Black coffee professionals to reach out and share their stories on her platform.

Since launching the campaign, Williams has interviewed Black baristas, café owners, communications managers, and more from California, Texas, South Carolina, and even the United Kingdom. With each Instagram post, followers gain a unique insight into the challenges these professionals are facing, their coffee career history, how they are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, fighting racial injustice, and what progress they hope to see within the industry.

“I’ve met some amazing Black people in the coffee community,” she says. “I just feel like we don’t have enough representation….You don’t usually find people like me in coffee.”

A 2020 Sprudge Twenty honoree, Williams has been in the industry for more than a decade, starting out as a barista at Starbucks and then at Peet’s Coffee, where she worked her way up to district trainer. 

“Then I felt like there wasn’t anywhere else for me to go,” she says. “I’d apply for a higher position, but I never got that promotion that I was looking for….I got looked over. So I decided to step away.”

That’s when Williams created Barista Life LA—“so I could train anybody and everybody who wanted to learn about coffee,” she says.

Williams continues to fulfill that mission of inclusivity and representation throughout her work with Barista Life LA. And with the #BlackinBrew campaign, she is working to raise awareness of racial injustice within the industry.

“People have been really receptive,” she notes. “I’ve definitely connected with some pretty awesome roasters, green sourcing people, baristas, people all around the world that I wouldn’t have ever known. But through this, I’ve given them the opportunity to…share how they feel.”

Follow the #BlackinBrew campaign on the Barista Life LA Instagram page.