Like many good ideas, Red Bay Coffee started out in a garage.
“We built a little coffee lab, developed a signature flavor and company, and we’ve kind of built it from there,” said founder and owner Keba Konte.
Since those beginnings in 2013, Red Bay has expanded to a wholesale retail business based out of its Fruitvale roastery at 3098 East 10th St., a few blocks from Fruitvale BART.
Tomorrow, Red Bay opens a café at its roastery that offers all the amenities of standard co-working spaces— a quiet atmosphere, fast wifi, and of course, plenty of coffee.
Konte also owns San Francisco’s Chasing Lions and is a co-owner a Berkeley’s Guerilla Cafe. Though Red Bay sells brewed coffee out of a shipping container at 2327 Broadway in downtown Oakland, the company has focused primarily on wholesale, what Konte calls “a step back in the value chain.”
What Willy Wonka’s factory is to chocolate, the roastery is to coffee. The 7,800-square-foot warehouse features immersive tours where visitors can witness the entire roasting and brewing process from bean to cup.
Visitors can also learn about cupping—the coffee equivalent of wine tasting— or enjoy a freshly-brewed cup in the coffee yard before heading home with a bag of freshly roasted beans.
Soon, Konte hopes to experiment with a coffee garden. “It’s both literal and figurative,” he said. It would work like a beer garden, but with cultivated beds where visitors could see live coffee plants and learn about industry agriculture.
“We really go to great lengths to quality control our coffee,” said Konte. “That is really on display at our roastery.”
Konte said the company's mission is to promote inclusion and diversity in the coffee industry, "and do it in a way where we’re really providing equity and dignity for our workers.”
Historically, the coffee industry has "been pretty homogenous," said Konte.
“Women and people of color have been grossly under-represented in the specialty coffee industry,” he added. “So we make it a priority to hire, train, and elevate women and people of color.”
Red Bay has the same expectations of its growers that it holds for itself and sources coffee from twelve different farms on three continents.
“We expect our foreign partners to be participating in progressive mission-driven practices on their farms as well,” said Konte.
Having an open dialog is key to a successful partnership. “We have direct trade relationships with all of our farms,” said Konte.
“We are able to influence the way that they process it so it can be more ecological and environmentally sustainable. It allows us to select partners that are really producing a high quality coffee,” said Konte.
The Red Bay co-working cafe has its grand opening tomorrow from 4 to 8pm. Business hours thereafter are 7am to 4pm Monday through Friday and 9–4 on weekends.
Never miss a story.
Subscribe today to get Hoodline delivered straight to your inbox.