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In Black America: How history and culture are steeped into Ezra Coffee's products

A photo of Jessica Taylor smiling at the camera while holding a mug that reads "Ezra Coffee." She is surrounded by five bags of coffee on a kitchen counter.
Courtesy of Jessica Taylor
Jessica Taylor's love of coffee began when she was 9, thanks to her grandfather.

On this edition of In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Jessica Taylor, a former educator and policy advocate, reality TV cast member and the founder and CEO of Ezra Coffee.

Ezra Coffee was founded in 2021 out of Taylor's passion for storytelling, coffee and African American culture. Taylor said her mission is to connect community, culture and history over a flavorful cup of coffee without the need for milk-based creamers.

Taylor spoke with In Black America about how she fell in love with coffee, understanding the significance of developing products that cater to a specific audience's needs, and the importance of balancing business and love for overall well-being and happiness.

An excerpt of this conversation can be found below.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

John L. Hanson Jr.: How did you come up with the different blends of coffee that you had initially have [your friends] sample?

Jessica Taylor: I knew that I loved Ethiopian coffee. That's my favorite blend. If you notice with any of Ezra it's the main blend that we use, and then we do mix origins with the other ones. So that was the first thing I wanted do. Then the next thing I needed to find was a roaster who had access to a variety of different blends. And so one thing about Ezra you'll notice, we don't carry any single origins, all of ours are mixed origin and flavor blends. So I met with him and I started doing pairings to see which ones worked better, so we did Ethiopian and Sumatra; we did Ethiopian and Colombian; we did Ethiopian, Colombian and Costa Rican ... and from there we narrowed it down to seven [blends] that I really liked, and those are the ones we sent out. Based on the reviews of those seven was how we got to decide on the six that we do have.

We also want to say, “What are we missing?” So Ethiopian is very balanced. It's a full body roast, but it's not as fruity as sometimes people want. So that's when I knew we had to go to the Caribbean area, to Costa Rica, those areas to kind of mix those blends with it. We're trying to create a palate that provided people with a holistic blend of coffee and gave them a good sense of what coffee tastes like around the world.

John L. Hanson Jr.: Now, besides coffee, there's a message in the packaging. Talk to us about that. And how did that come about?

Jessica Taylor: I'm a former educator, very deep in Black culture, Black history, and I really want to make sure that our stories are being told. So every blend is named after a significant event or individual within our collective American history. So our "64th & Tulsa," how like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then also allows us to reflect on Tulsa Black Wall Street. In addition to that, you'll see that that bag is green because when you think of what was taken from us in that particular space, it was generational wealth.

We also have our "Lorde Baldwin" blend which highlights Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, both writers, both activists, both LGBTQ, both really out to eradicate any of the isms, both loved America, but had no problems telling [the country] how they truly felt about [it]. That bag is orange—when you think about the love and intersectionality of the communities and gender equality and sexual orientation equality.

I really wanted our bag to be representative of the culture, so on the back of the bag all of them have different Bahamian intricate symbology and they change. ... Also in the front bottom corner, you'll see the sketching out of some of the print, and that is really the inside my thumbprint because I really, truly believe that African Americans, our thumbprint is on everything.

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT at 10 p.m. Tuesdays and 6:30 a.m. Sundays — and weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast Black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.
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