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It’s getting chilly outside as fall comes through and sets the South ablaze with colors.
Now is the time to cuddle up in our sweaters and blankets along with a nice beverage of your choice. Whether you like to mellow out with your tea or enjoy a little espresso buzz, I wanted to introduce y’all to some interesting Black-owned brands. This is our way of applauding the Black changemakers in our communities, especially since National Entrepreneur Day took place on Nov. 16.
If you know of any Black Southerners who are making ish happen with their own businesses, send this newsletter their way. Not only will they be inspired by fellow Black entrepreneurs, but there’s also a special opportunity for them at the end of this newsletter. 😉
Black coffee. Black power.
There are certain things that just go together: Peanut butter and jelly. Mac and cheese. Lavender and lemonade (a must-try for my fellow anxiety peeps).
How about Black coffee and Black history?
The first Black-owned coffee shop in Opelika, Ala. adds a splash of Black power along with your latte. After about a year of hustling as a mobile coffee service, 33-year-old entrepreneurs Catrice Hixon and her husband, Jakyra, opened Melanin Café in September. Each of their estimated 50 coffees, teas, smoothies and food items is named after a Black historical figure, place or fact.
“Everyone has melanin,” Catrice said. “It doesn’t matter how little or how much the amount is, we all have it. It’s a feature that makes us the same yet different and we want to celebrate that. Our melanin brings us together.”
Running her own café has been a long-time dream for Catrice. She was once barista in college who found herself hectically running a coffee shop inside a Books-a-Million after her manager suddenly quit one day.
But Catrice – a biology major – found comfort in the science of espresso-making while getting to know customers. The environment inspired Catrice to open her own shop.
“It was kind of nerve wracking at first, but I got into the groove of everything,” Catrice said. “I wanted to create an atmosphere where people can come in and work, or study or just, you know, have a place where they can sit down and relax.”
When the pandemic shut everyone in their homes last year, Catrice used the slowdown to put her dream into motion. She started hauling a small, portable espresso machine to small functions and later expanded to include cold, bottled lattes.
Her most successful event happened this year during a Black History Month-themed pop-up shop, a perfect venue for her brand. Catrice and her husband were pushing out coffees and lattes out of the home of Dr. J.W. Darden, Opelika’s first black physician who ran his medical office out of the residence.
“We had a lot of people come through and say, ‘Oh, this is great. You need a place of your own,’” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m working on that.’”
A couple months later, sis brought her vision to fruition. Now she has a space where she can get to know the customers as they learn their local and national Black history facts behind their drinks. A green smoothie called “Kowaliga” was named after a thriving Black town that was flooded to create Alabama’s largest man-made lake, Lake Martin. The Hixon’s children helped create a raspberry and strawberry smoothie topped with whip cream as a nod to Jackie Ormes, the first successful Black female cartoonist.
Catrice started her business at a time when multiple deaths caused by police brutality sparked conversations about race. Catrice believes learning Black history can help create a better community. She hopes that by educating locals at her shop, they will be inspired to research further.
“There were a lot of different debates between Black and white people about different issues, and I was thinking about how much a lot of people don’t know. So, I wanted to educate people about the black history that we didn’t learn about in school” Catrice said.
“When you start learning more, you start understanding more, and once you have an understanding, you start treating people differently,” She continued. “You understand what they’ve been through and what their people have been through. Then you have more empathy for them.”
Both Catrice and Jakyra have enjoyed learning more about their own history since opening the café. Here are two of their drinks of joy that they have created so far:
- Blood Bank: Catrice’s drink of choice is a caramel and vanilla latte named for Dr. Charles Drew, a Black physician who developed a process for storing blood plasma in blood banks. A current Auburn grad student, Catrice is interested in all things science. Along with opening the coffee shop, she also wants to open a research lab to study why Black women are more susceptible to Lupus, an inflammatory disease that Catrice herself lives with. Catrice said learning about Black history boosts her sense of pride in herself and her work, “Learning about the accomplishments of Black people, it motivates me to want to do different things, get my education and to go after something I was passionate about.”
- Lolita: Along with their original drinks, Melanin Café also makes seasonal beverages. The Hixons came up with a white raspberry mocha for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October. They named the drink after Jakyra’s mother, Lolita, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year. “She has always been a very strong-willed woman,” Jakyra said. “I look up to her because she always makes the impossible happen out of nothing. And she never let anything break her disposition.”
Pour up with these Black brews
Now, I know that not everyone is a coffee lover. So for those of you who prefer the non-espresso life, here are some Black-owned drinks to sip on:
- Tea Please: Known for her dessert-flavored teas, Jasmine Oliver in Irving, Texas started Tea Please as a way to help millennial and Gen Z folks become more health conscious. Oliver is a certified tea specialist who studied under the World Tea Organization. She told Voyage Dallas she learned how to use different fruits to get the flavors for her teas. I’m eyeing her Cinnamon Roll and Candied Almond blends!
- Melanated Wines & Spirits: If you want a little bit more fun with a buzz, look over at Durham, N.C., where LaShonda Fort-Modest opened the city’s first Black-owned winery. She created Melanated Wines & Spirits as a way to “uncork” the culture.
A nod to our Black businesses
Now that you’ve read about other Black entrepreneurs. We want to give a big shout out to our Black businesses out there, especially with our next issue of Black Joy publishing on Black Friday.
So, if you are a Black Southern business owner, please fill out this Google form by Wednesday, Nov. 24th with your information so you can be included in our directory of Black businesses that we will publish next week!
Drink ya’ water and spread the Black joy! See you next time!