When I first walked into Berkeley's newest cafe, 1951 Coffee, I immediately noticed the beautiful, intelligently designed space, the wide variety of coffee, tea and food offered, and the friendly faces of the baristas. It is these baristas and the mission of the cofounders that make 1951 a heartwarming and groundbreaking coffee shop.
The cafe, which celebrated its grand opening on Sunday, January 22nd, is a non-profit providing employment and a free barista training program for refugees for whom it is difficult to find jobs. The name comes from the United Nation's 1951 Refugee Convention, which first defined the term "refugee" and outlined their rights and the legal obligation of the State to protect them.
Cofounders Rachel Taber and Doug Hewitt took their experience working with the International Rescue Committee and sought to find a productive way to give refugees a "boost toward employment." A mission to fill the gap in refugee services coupled with a passion for the coffee industry led Taber and Hewitt to bring their idea to life.
They are committed to producing the "best cup of coffee on this side of campus," and sell Verve Coffee, Blue Willow teas, and locally made pastries and sandwiches. Given the Bay Area's growing coffee industry and socially conscious consumers, choosing the location wasn't hard. The aesthetic of the cafe also aims to tell a story with their mission statements and maps displaying their partners decorating the walls.
What the cofounders hope to provide is a "convergence point for the refugee community and larger community." They hope the community will interact with staff and see that they can produce an incredible product.
In a horrifyingly uncertain time for the future of refugees in this country, Taber and Hewitt have experienced an overwhelmingly positive response. If you are going to spend money on coffee in Berkeley, why not spend it somewhere that fosters inclusiveness and social consciousness...and makes the best cup of coffee on this side of campus?