These coffee enthusiasts are motivated by more than their obsession for quality coffee. Here’s some of what each is passionate about.
Lindsey Pitman of Suffolk Punch’s coffee bar and Trade and Lore
Pitman has been involved in the coffee industry for more than a decade. She began at her uncle’s coffee shop in high school, at her mother’s suggestion. “She gently suggested it as a way of helping me interact with people better. She thought that it would be a good way for me to develop kind of more social skills and to kind of interact with my community.”
Since then, Pitman has been working hard to make everyone feel as welcome in a coffee shop as she does. “I think that’s a fantastic thing about the coffee shop, it should be an accessible and equalizing environment for everybody … Everyone’s paying the same amount for a cup of coffee and everyone has the right to be in that space.”
Trade and Lore opened June 3 and is the third coffee shop Pitman’s involved in. She began it as The Daily Press inside the Evening Muse, then moved across the street to the second floor of Salud. This is the second Trade and Lore in North Carolina; the first one’s in Asheville.
Bryce Laguer of Basal Coffee
Laguer was a creative consultant before he decided that it wasn’t enough for him. The death of his grandmother forced him to come to terms with mortality, he says. He realized that he needed to dedicate his time on earth to something he truly loved: coffee and his roots.
“I found that my passion for coffee was actually me. It’s French, it’s Latin, it’s African. And as a person who's struggled with his identity for most of his life, it felt really good to not second-guess it.”
People of color are not typically seen as the face of the coffee industry, yet they are the ones harvesting the coffee, says Laguer. He wants to change that, and pay homage to where coffee truly comes from. “Basal literally translates to ‘foundation.’ So the foundation of coffee is literally ethnic roots.” Most of Laguer’s staff and partners are people of color from around the world, and most of them are women, he says. His shop will be “raw,” he says, where thought provoking discussions will be had and James Brown will be playing in the background.
Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp of Undercurrent Coffee
Mnatsakanyan-Sapp has been a barista educator and consultant at coffee companies around the Carolinas. In 2015 she founded the Charlotte Coffee Collective, a club where those interested in the specialty coffee industry come together to learn from each other.
A passion she has within the coffee industry, however, is social justice. “I’m really excited to see a lot of dialogue ... about creating a more equitable and more sustainable and more inclusive industry,” Mnatsakanyan-Sapp says, pointing out that wealthier, mainly white, baristas can win national competitions because they have the means to get better quality beans and equipment. For an industry that prides itself on being progressive, she says, baristas have noticed that competitions don’t convey how diverse the coffee industry is -- which is why she’s excited about baristas working to change that.
Todd Huber of Undercurrent
Huber became involved in coffee after fearing he’d lose his wife. In 2015 Erin Huber was diagnosed with cancer. To help take care of her and their children, Todd took months off from his job in banking, then decided that “ I didn’t want to stay in something I didn’t care about.”
His wife “saw how much I loved coffee shops. How important I thought they were to my life, to communities … To be able to walk into a place to sit, to relax, to engage with people socially, professionally, personally. To sort of get a sense of what the soul of an area can be about.”
He admits that he does not have as much experience as his partner, Mnatsakanyan-Sapp, but he has been busy learning and is excited for others to learn at his shop, too. (His wife has fully recovered, and has been alongside him throughout the building of the shop.)
Ian Kolb of CupLux
Kolb runs CupLux with his brother and dad. After working in the Midwest, Kolb decided he wanted to be closer to his friends, family and girlfriend, doing something he loved. So why not start a drive-through quality-coffee shop?
CupLux has partnered with Trees Charlotte, a nonprofit organization dedicated to planting trees around Charlotte. “We want to make a difference and contribute, and not just exist here as a business,” he says. Kolb says that right now, 47 percent of Charlotte is covered in tree canopy, and Trees Charlotte’s goal is to get it to 50 percent by 2050, which could take planting up to half a million trees. Customers can help reach this goal when they buy the membership card; the $5 annual fee goes to the nonprofit.