Decolonizing Coffee

I’ve enjoyed the gentle, entertaining, informative videos from James Hoffmann about coffee over the past year, but his last couple of videos have been a bit of a departure that have been no less informative and entertaining than the norm. Just today, for example, a video about cultural appropriation, colonization, inclusivity, and some oft-overlooked ways to make coffee better for everybody, and not just white folks in Europe or North America:

Hoffmann doesn’t even show up in this video except as mentioned by Ārām Se’s Raghunath Rajaram to thank him for including the video on this channel. It’s an excellent video about what Westerners often take for granted, the hegemony of US/UK influence on the world of specialty coffee, and how colonization and exclusion need fixing in more than just the farming and production side of the industry.

Last week’s video also kept Hoffmann out of the picture by sharing a production from Gilly Brewing Co. in Stone Mountain, GA about their mostly coffee-based mixed drinks (non-alcoholic, I believe). These drinks are meant to tell stories based on a combination of the writings of James Baldwin and the book of James from the Bible:

It’s been nice to see Hoffmann showcase people in the coffee world that represent non white and/or European populations, and to essentially sideline himself. I don’t think he’s a hero, or anything, but I like seeing somebody use the platform they have to shine a light on folks with no platform or at least a smaller one. White male YouTube channels dominate in so many topics (photography, maker channels, etc.), and I’d like to see similar actions from other creators to redirect attention toward and showcase people that don’t usually get equal representation.

I hope Hoffmann himself shares more videos like this, or at least continues to direct his considerable audience to other specialty coffee folks (or at least YouTubers) outside the dominant white male cohort.

P.S. There are YouTube channels out there in a number of topics run by women, Black folks, non-US/EU people, but you have to actually look for them (most of the time – Marques Brownlee is pretty easy to find because he is a FORCE). Sometimes that can be dispiriting given just how many mediocre white dudes think people want to hear/see their work in video form. Like, seriously, the number of white guys with half-researched tips-and-tricks-based photography channels makes me want to yell. But if you actively look to expand the makeup of the producers you follow, you can find great stuff (e.g. Jess Hobbs).