1951 Coffee Company in Berkeley to expand barista training for US refugees, asylees

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Berkeley’s 1951 Coffee Company has been awarded the “Opportunity for All” grant by the Starbucks Foundation, allowing it to expand its barista training program for refugees to other cities in the United States.

The grant awards the coffee company $63,000 to serve an additional 85 refugees, asylees and Special Immigrant Visa holders, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the company. 1951 Coffee Company was one of 41 nonprofit organizations selected by the Starbucks Foundation because of its approach to helping refugees obtain the skills required to succeed in a “rapidly changing global economy,” the press release stated.

Doug Hewitt, co-founder of 1951 Coffee Company, said he and co-founder Rachel Taber were very pleased to learn that the nonprofit had been approved for the grant. According to Hewitt, the grant will allow the company’s two-week barista training program in Oakland — which takes place every other month — to increase its services to monthly.

Hewitt added that, in terms of expansion, 1951 Coffee Company is looking to first take its training program to San Diego. Depending on how that effort goes, the nonprofit will decide where else to take the program. According to Hewitt, in order for a city to have potential for expansion, it must have a refugee population being resettled there, as well as a strong coffee industry.

“Our mission is to help people find a job in the speciality coffee industry,” Hewitt said. “We want to provide the type of employment people would want to stay in.”

Since the 1951 Coffee Company barista training program first launched in Oakland in June 2016, the nonprofit has produced 51 successful graduates composed of Bay Area refugees, asylees and Special Immigrant Visa holders. According to Hewitt, with the shift from a bimonthly program to a monthly program, the organization will have to double the amount of resources — including milk, coffee and building utilities — that it uses.

The nonprofit has also hired an additional instructor, one of its very own training program graduates, Hewitt said. Meg Karki, who came to the United States from Nepal in 2011, was a senior barista at 1951 Coffee Company before being promoted to the title of program instructor.

“He was a refugee, and now he’s going to be training others,” Hewitt said.

Mouayad Alhabbal, 29, a barista at 1951 Coffee Company who came to the United States from Syria eight months ago, said he was excited to hear about the expansion of the training program, adding that he believed the expansion could significantly impact refugees nationwide.

“Some of them, because they don’t have good English, they don’t have a good experience here. No one accepts them,” Alhabbal said. “Nonprofits, they can really make a change.”

Contact Harini Shyamsundar at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hshyamsundar.