National Coffee Day with Keba Konte of Red Bay Coffee
We fully support the idea that coffee day should be every day. However, we have waited for a full 365 for this one particular day, the best day of the year, National Coffee Day. And to celebrate, we connected with Keba Konte, Founder and CEO of Red Bay Coffee. Keba is an artist, food entrepreneur and connoisseur, and significant player in the San Fran specialty coffee industry. He’s also leading a very important charge for diversity and inclusion in the specialty coffee industry.
So Keba, give us a look into why and how you started Red Bay Coffee.
To combine all of the things I love into a single company in order to bring more soul into the specialty coffee industry. My love of community building, art & design, traveling, eating, drinking, problem-solving, and competing.
My aim was to solve the lack of diversity and inclusion in the specialty coffee industry. In my observation, this industry has historically suffered from a sameness and has underserved many communities, including African-Americans. This is particularly ironic because coffee originated from Africa and Africa is still where most of the world’s coffee is grown and produced. However, when it comes to equity, Africans and all of the coffee-growing origins do most of the back breaking labor while sharing the smallest piece of the dollar.
How has your background as an artist and food entrepreneur influenced the founding of Red Bay? How does it continue to influence?
The administrative lift of running a company is one of my biggest ongoing challenges. I do the best I can by surrounding myself with people smarter than me. This may sound simple, but many leaders fail here because they feel too insecure or intimidated to do so. The ego that gives one the courage to put themselves out there to compete in public is the same ego that will be one’s demise if not kept in check. This is something I had to manage as a young person struggling with a learning disability. That journey taught me to be humble and receive tutoring, lessons, and conditioned me to ask for help.
Okay, this is a fun one. You have to drink only one of your coffees for the rest of your life, what do you choose?
This is a mean question, but to play along, I will say… King’s Prize and I would drink it as a pour-over black.
What does “Beautiful Coffee to the People” mean to you and Red Bay?
Our motto is “Beautiful Coffee to the People” That means we strive to make specialty coffee more accessible to the community. It also means that beauty is about more than just good looking drinks and places, it is about fair relationships from the farm to the streets.
Do you have a favorite mug? Why?
Easy, my favorite mug is my Bayganda Mug. A special collection made specifically for Red Bay Coffee by a ceramic collective in Uganda.
We have talked about the different coffee waves before, and I think it’s important to get major player’s opinions on the future of the industry, so how would you describe the fourth wave of coffee?
I would say that the fourth wave of coffee is one that prioritizes centering impact, purpose, and inclusion to the specialty coffee industry.
Thanks Keba, this has been awesome. Before we close, do you have any final thoughts?
I always encourage people to support their local businesses or their favorite BIPOC entrepreneurs. The organization I would like for people to support is the Teen Dream Clinic of Oakland. To learn more, contact us here.