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Red Bay Coffee Founder Keba Konte: “Coffee is Africa’s Gift to The World”

For Keba Konte, coffee is a work of art.

The Bay Area-based photojournalist started Red Bay Coffee in 2014 after he saw an opportunity to fuse his passion for photography and roasting to create a space for all people to consume art experiences over a carefully brewed cup of coffee.

Red Bay’s headquarters, or “Coffee Dojo” as Konte calls it, is located in Oakland, CA. There he and his team roast small batches of coffee and run a wholesale business importing and supplying coffee to other cafes, restaurants, grocery stores, and tech businesses.

“We have cafes, but 75 percent of our revenue comes from our wholesale program,” explained Konte.

The company has supplied coffee for numerous tech giants in and around San Francisco including Salesforce, Twitter, Airbnb, and most recently, Facebook.

“We’re fueling the tech industry,” he said with a laugh.

While big tech clients are great for business, selling coffee is just a piece of Red Bay’s story. It’s become a pillar in the community.

In the Fruitvale neighborhood — where Red Bay is based — the company opens the space for the community to host events, which are often produced by local residents who use the 6000 sq ft warehouse roastery to screen films, launch products, host lectures, and even put on ballet performances.

“My home is Oakland,” said Konte. “The spirit of Oakland is in line with Red Bay Coffee’s mission. There is an entrepreneurial and artistic spirit in the water here.”

According to the National Coffee Association, the coffee industry is responsible for more than 1 million jobs in the U.S. economy. Konte wants Black people to be a part of that economic opportunity.

He founded Red Bay on the mission of creating the best coffee and empowering people to become excited about pursuing careers in the coffee world. Konte said the company is also dedicated to supporting coffee entrepreneurs and mentoring aspiring coffee shop owners.

“We try to encourage more Black people to enter the space of coffee,” said Konte. “I evangelize for Black people to participate in this industry in everything from education and tech to equipment and marketing.”

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