Where are James and Dawn? At 1951 Coffee Company
“1951 Coffee offers refugees the opportunity to find a job and engage with the community around them. Most other companies only look at your resume, references, and years of working in the United States. But refugees are starting from scratch, having to learning a new language, finding a home, community and jobs…. Every refugee deserves a chance to build a new life, and 1951 Coffee Company provides that opportunity.”
–Batool from Syria, barista at 1951 Coffee Company
Named after the year that the United Nations established guidelines for the protection of refugees, 1951 Coffee Company is a nonprofit specialty coffee organization that provides job training and employment to refugees and immigrants seeking asylum. It started with a barista training program, teaching new refugees how to make coffee and helping them find jobs in cafés, like Blue Bottle and Peet’s Coffee. PVF provided the organization with funding last year to help expand their program and open a coffee shop in Berkeley, CA. Now in its sixth month of operation, 1951 Coffee Company’s café provides graduates of their training program with real-life, hands-on experience in a retail setting.
PVF Executive Director James Higa and Chief Operating Officer Dawn Hawk recently met with Rachel Taber and Doug Hewitt, co-founders of 1951 Coffee Company, to hear about new developments and possible plans for further expansion.
“We’ve for sure had our fair share of startup struggles, but overall, it’s been a lightning rod of support for the community at a time when the place of refugees in our society is in such flux,” Rachel said.
“At 1951 Coffee Shop, people care about you…. Caring about another person is not a small thing. It’s what allows me to see a vision for my future.”
–Tedros from Eritrea, barista at 1951 Coffee Company
1951 Coffee Company also educates the community about refugee life, cultures, and issues. Week by week this summer (June and July), the cafe featured special food, drinks, and cultural presentations designed by the baristas themselves, from and about their home countries. For example, barista Peter from Burma (Kachin State) made fresh teh tarik, a type of milk tea, Monday-Wednesday mornings one week in June; baristas Liebe and Tedros hosted a few traditional Eritrean/Ethiopian coffee ceremonies during “Eritrea Week”; and barista Nazira from Afghanistan served green tea, homemade Afghan sweets (sheer pira), and frosted almond candy (nuqul) every afternoon during “Afghanistan Week” in July.
1951 Coffee Company has recently been invited to open a kiosk, which will offer more barista positions and the visibility will provide more opportunities to share about relevant refugee issues. Additionally, they are working with Starbucks to launch their barista training program in other cities.
We at PVF are proud to support the work that 1951 Coffee Company is doing and inspired by their passion for growing their advocacy.
“There is a saying in Syria, ‘When you lose something, you want to give more of it to other people.’ So I always want to give peace to others. At 1951 Coffee Company, the baristas, customers, and community are able to share peace.”
–Mouayad from Syria, barista at 1951 Coffee Company
“When I saw the idea for 1951 Coffee, it gave me hope for a community of people who care. At first, 1951 might only help a few people, but it could give others even more ideas on how to come together and help those in need.”
–Mona from Iran, barista at 1951 Coffee Company