Sustain Coffee cultivates a love for coffee through education
Sustain Coffee’s goal is to meet you where you are. Joseph Jenkins is the mastermind behind the non-profit, and Dante Baker is his right-hand man. Their vision is “to promote higher quality coffee by educating on better brewing practices, advocating for sustainability practices within the coffee supply chain, and providing resources to the community that serves those purposes.”
Through events, pop-ups, and podcasts, they aim to educate their audience to the point where they look at coffee through a different lens. They want everyone to be empowered and smarter about coffee than they were before showing up or tuning in.
“When you fully understand something, you love it even more,” Joseph explains.
Joseph is a barista by day and a musician by night. Although he got into the coffee business for many reasons, he stayed because he loves to learn and teach new things. “It’s really fulfilling to see others create new passions,” he says. “Plus, coffee is a very human endeavor. It’s a people-handled product.”
Dante is a freelance barista and a lover of the food and beverage industry.
“Hospitality is my passion, and coffee is a great way of showing that,” he says.
Joseph started Sustain in 2017, during his freshman year of college. He had to prepare a business idea and present it to his class. He chose coffee education, and it quickly took on a life of its own. “I started coffee education workshops in my mom’s kitchen and would charge $5 at the door,” he recalls. “It really took off, so then I had to set up at different cafes and satellite locations.”
Dante’s introduction to Sustain was as a participant. “I was always there at the workshops and wanted to learn. Soon, Joseph and I were hanging out, listening and exchanging music and drinking coffee,” says Dante.
You can find these two educational coffee wizards at Boycott Coffee downtown every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Alexander “Zan” Roach, co-owner of Boycott, wanted to do more with his space—to make it a place for others to present and share ideas.
At their Boycott pop-ups, Joseph and Dante discuss topics such as taste water formulation, grind size tests, and coffee scores—all while pouring some of the best coffee in the city.
(Joseph’s wife, Raegan, makes vegan sugar cookies with sesame seeds, pink salt, and a hint of dark chocolate for the pop-ups.)
While “sustainability” is a buzzword, it’s embedded in Sustain’s mission. Their coffee is equitably sourced. At their pop-ups, they use ceramics or BYOC (Bring Your Own Cup). They believe in recycling, composting, and reducing overall waste.
Sustain’s education platform doesn’t stop at public and private workshops. They also have a podcast—C.A.R.T. (Coffee and other Related Topics)—which began airing in March 2020. Topics range from basic coffee knowledge to the science of coffee, and they bring in experts like farmers and importers.
Dante is the more philosophical voice on the podcast. “My favorite podcast episode is the one about burnout. I spoke from experience and shared a lot of emotion in that episode,” he says.
Joseph brings his own perspective. “My favorite episode is the one on TDS (total dissolved solids) and extraction yields! It’s a very nerdy episode, but very good,” says Joseph.
When Joseph thinks of coffee, two words come to mind: “True love.” Through Sustain’s mission of education, he and his team hope to cultivate that “true love” in other coffee drinkers throughout Memphis.
Patricia Lockhart is a native Memphian who loves to read, write, cook, and eat. Her days are filled with laughter with her four kids and charming husband. By day, she’s a school librarian and a writer, but by night—she’s asleep. @realworkwife
Joram Averell Mondie is a community development specialist, utilizing design, construction, and the human experience to create spaces with integrity and earnestness. Averell (often called Ave) has spent the past 12 years working concurrently in community development, construction, and the arts. He is co-owner of Boycott Coffee.