Gay Coffee?

Too bad I don’t wake up to him too…

I absolutely love coffee.  I love to wake up to the smell of coffee in the morning, and I almost always go by Starbucks for a cup of coffee before I teach my night class.  It always gives me that extra pep which helps me keep my students engaged in the classroom.  I have always believed that an enthusiastic teacher is one who has the best chance of keeping students interested, but I digress from my original topic which is coffee.  There is a new coffee company catering to the gay coffee lovers, and quite honestly we know that many gay people love coffee, just walk in any Starbucks or coffee shop and you should know what I mean.

The Gay Coffee story begins in 2004, in Northampton, Massachusetts – a small, progressive college town. After working in coffee shops throughout her undergraduate career at Smith College, coffee aficionado Melissa Krueger opened up a tiny cafe in a former ATM kiosk, on a quiet downtown street adjacent to campus. She called it the Elbow Room.

One of the first 100% fair trade coffee cafes in Northampton, the Elbow Room filled up daily with thirsty students, professors, staff, and folks visiting from the all over the world. The cafe soon became a local landmark, the ideal place to meet a friend, take a one minute vacation over an espresso, and chat about the events of the day. The Elbow Room Cafe patrons grew into a family, and word spread about the tiny cafe with the best coffee in town.

Melissa ran the Cafe each day, often from morning ‘til closing, and after two years cranking out locally roasted java, became interested in taking the quality of her coffee one step further. She purchased a small commercial drum coffee roaster and set about learning the craft of coffee roasting herself. Each night after the Cafe closed, she disappeared into the small roastery behind her house and, like a mad scientist, roasted late into the night perfecting each bean.

The Elbow Room’s reputation grew, and patrons lined up down the street and around the corner as word spread about Melissa’s fresh and vibrant hand-roasted coffees. As her business grew, Melissa maintained her commitment to 100% fair trade coffee purchasing. With her partner Mary, she traveled to rural Nicaragua to meet coffee growers and hear their stories. And four years later, unable to keep up with demand for her coffee, Melissa sold the little Cafe to purchase bigger equipment and pursue a new career as a full time coffee roaster.

A few months after launching her new coffee roasting company in early 2011, Melissa and Mary were musing one morning – over coffee, of course! – about the recent legalization of gay marriage in New York. Watching the images of couples marrying on television, Melissa and Mary toasted the screen and smiled at one another with their cups raised. With a clink, the idea for Gay Coffee was born. At the intersection of a historic moment in gay civil rights, and over the morning ritual of sharing a cup of exquisite coffee, Gay Coffee was conceived as the perfect integration of these two powerful themes. Gay Coffee celebrates ourselves, our history, and our unique contribution to the world.

Melissa’s passion for roasting the very best coffee is reflected in every cup of Gay Coffee. All of their coffees are fairly traded and organically sourced, respecting their coffee growing partners, and our planet’s health with 1% of all profits donated to the LGBT Task Force. Melissa continues to roast each batch by hand in her Williamsburg, Massachusetts studio and cups every roast of Gay Coffee before it is packaged. She, Mary, and the crew at Gay Coffee hope you enjoy these unique, vibrant coffees as much as they enjoy bringing them to you, one cup at a time.

Gay Coffee debuted at the Castro Street Fair in San Francisco, California on October 2, 2011 with five new hand-roasted coffee blends. Each named after various aspects of queer culture, Stone Butch Breakfast Blend, Good Morning Mary!, Red Hanky Roast, Second Date, and Weekend Pass mix humor with history to create a product that is both educational and enjoyable. Rather than simply tap into queer culture for the camp value, each package of Gay Coffee is also informative. Every blend named after an aspect of gay culture also includes a description of its place in LGBT history.

“One part of our branding is to take some stereotypes and themes we are all sort of familiar with, take ownership of them in what we hope is a fun and funny way, and then compliment the wink and chuckle with a piece of something more meaningful and thoughtful,” said Krueger. “I have actually learned quite a bit about gay history during this project. I’m always particularly delighted when someone reads the back of one of our coffees and says, ‘Oh cool, I didn’t know that!’”

A brand name with such obvious ties to the LGBT community might have made some entrepreneurs nervous, but Krueger says the idea that her coffee could be controversial was never an issue. “My main concern launching Gay Coffee was more that people would take the time to interact … and really enjoy the whole product – our branding, our sense of humor, our mission and, of course, our coffee.”

Aside from perpetuating the unique legacy of queer culture, a percentage of all profits from Gay Coffee are also donated to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. However, it was also important to Krueger that her company be mindful in another way as well.

“Unlike the vast majority of coffee companies out there, 100% of our coffee is sourced fair trade and organic. We think the fair trade price and mission should apply to all of the coffee farmers we buy from, not just a couple,” Krueger said. “I have travelled to coffee producing areas and spoken with coffee farmers, stayed at their houses, and feel very strongly about our commitment to being a real fair trade company.”

Melissa Krueger’s commitment to fairness and quality has earned Gay Coffee high praise since the brand debuted earlier this month.

“The response to the product has been incredibly positive,” Krueger said. “I am personally in awe of the tremendous positive feedback we have received, and inspired to continue to create something that does good, tastes great, and makes people happy.”

To order your own batch of Gay Coffee, visit the company’s website.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

5 responses to “Gay Coffee?

  • Loki's Log

    I love the topics of your blogs and the time and thoroughness with which you share your insights. Well done. And I love coffer too!

  • silvereagle

    A real success story..independent thinking, hard work, and success….and apparently no government handout money involved! Amazing!!!

  • GVP

    Nice post! The coffee culture in Melbourne is prominent, and last time I stepped into Starbucks was 3 years ago. So I was quite worried about satisfying my coffee addiction, as I will be externing in US next year. Now I can't wait to try the coffee.It is refreshing to hear a success story like this.

  • fan of casey

    Joe: That guy pouring a cup can fill me up any day. I like my coffee with cream, can I "squeeze" some out of him? 😉

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting article, and as someone else said, this is truly a great success story.Oh, and by the way, the guy in the picture would be very nice to wake up to. He could fix my coffee anytime!

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