Conversations with an Artist: Cute Coffee
In the beginning of the year, before the world turned upside down, a friend of ours in the tea biz introduced us to Bianka Alloyn and Sabreen Naimah, the owners of Cute Coffee. Their story is important: their mission is to bring single origin coffee, direct to us consumers, through cultivating relationships with growers where the growers get the most financial benefit versus working with brokers. "We ask how can we get more money to the farms, the farm manager, the mill manager, the pickers, and the families involved. It’s about cutting out the middlemen who do not believe in the humanity of the exchange." With an ethos we can get behind, a new relationship began... fast forward to the delays in shipping from COVID and Cute Coffee is now back in business. They hand select growers, rigorously review their practices, taste their beans and when a batch is bought, it arrives to Cute Coffee in a raw state. Having been trained in roasting by some of the best in the business, Bianka and Sabreen then roast in small batches to bring the freshest coffee to you... and available through Poet and/the Bench. Get to know the women behind Cute Coffee and learn more about purchasing here.
Describe the moment you realized art fed your soul.
Sabreen: Between the two of us, there are quite a few mediums that we are passionate about: acting, music, video production and photography, graphic design, jewelry making, painting, dancing and the most recent one, coffee roasting.
For Bianka, realizing the moment that art fed her soul happened when she was very young in life with a mother who was very supportive of anything she wanted to do. So, at the age of 18 when returning from her first year of a full ride on a Division 1 All American Basketball scholarship, she explained to her mom that the love was completely gone and there was no fun in playing basketball at this level. She'd prefer to focus on her creative self and expand those dreams, and her mom fully supported the decision.
Bianka: Although we didn't know each other then, we lived somewhat of parallel lives at this time. Both NCAA Division 1 athletes at the same time, Sabreen was a former UCLA volleyball player and played just one year on the team as well. Having much fun with and excelling at the sport in her youth, by the time she got to the college level, the joy was zapped. Sabreen realized she disliked the cut-throat competitive environment and most important of all– it was simply not fulfilling.
Sabreen grew up in a household that let her dabble in the arts, but certainly didn't emphasize pursuing the arts. After that first year, she took a leap of faith and decided to unleash and reveal the creative energy that was building up inside. It began with the fun, new and exciting world of acting, and then continued on to be an 18 year journey of modeling, headpiece making, dancing, painting and now coffee roasting.
Bianka: The beauty of arts and crafts is interjecting your essence, your spin, into each one and truly making it your own.
What themes do you pursue in your craft?
Love, joy, kindness, uniqueness, free thinking, challenging what are considered facts, free spirit flow, uplifting content, spiritual freedom, supernatural realities, faith, dreaming, believing, and achieving.
Tell us about what influences the direction for your coffee roasting business?
Our business is influenced by love, passion, having awareness of the inequalities and discrimination in coffee, and knowing that specialty coffee needs to be enjoyed by all, not just one demographic.
How has your craft developed over time?
Whew! This craft has seen many evolutions in development for us. While roasting our own coffee was always our main focus we once upon a time sourced coffee from a roaster to provide at our store front in LA. Then we did private labeling of coffee for our Creative Community Space Coffee Bar/Store Front in LA. We started to try and build more relationships with folks to help us get the necessary funding to build out our own space for a multitude of things including coffee roasting.
Sabreen: Next thing you know and after telling ourselves for almost 3 years at that point we would never work for anyone again we started looking at jobs that would enhance our coffee knowledge. So, we moved to the Bay Area to take a job that we thought would be a good stepping stone for our coffee business.
Bianka got a gig with a coffee importer from an old customer of hers from when she used to live in San Francisco and worked at a coffee shop in the Mission District, circa 2012. She worked there for 6 months, making some connections with industry professionals we are still friends with today. One being Mayra of Catracha Coffee in Honduras. She’s now a life long friend :) and has helped us a lot to get to today. She most recently donated 300lbs of coffee to us since all our coffee was halted at borders due to COVID shutting everyone down. Mayra just happened to have coffee in Oakland at a coffee storage warehouse. We started roasting and selling her coffee and it was a big hit for our business. We finally got to put the pedal to the metal and we’re now cooking with gas. :)
What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
Sabreen: Ooooooo! That’s a tough one because we have so many items that we feel are indispensable. We work in so many mediums and that only makes this decision harder. We would have to say our tape deck radio. We’ve been listening to a bunch of music that Bianka created over the past 12 years. Bianka finally started sharing some of the songs with the world through Cute Coffee as the platform. Music is the backbone to roasting delicious coffee!
Do you collect anything?
Haha! You better believe it! We collect all kinds of things!
Bianka in particular collects all kinds of stuff. Records, tapes, sheet music, wood, plants, seeds, sticks, rocks, sea shells, fabric, old cameras, roasted and un-roasted (green) coffee, all kinds of art, yo-yos, random found objects, furniture that she repurposes, and the list goes on!
What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen, read, watched or listened to recently?
The most inspiring thing was the first week when the WORLD came together and protested for the Black Lives Matter Movement.
What advice would you give to your younger self about your artistic/maker journey?
The advice we would give is that you are always winning and evolving. Keep yourself reminded at all times what your goals and desires are, no matter what is going on. That way you stay in alignment of where you are supposed to be. Also, discern everything and everyone. Be open.
It's our joy to bring you a tasty addition to our Ethical Pantry in Cute Coffee where appreciating next level artisanal craft, ethically grown, sensorially experienced and high-quality coffee is paramount. How amazing to support both the Cute Coffee entrepreneurs as well as the benefactors of their keen palate in the farms they work with. How lucky are we?
Want to order Cute Coffee? Check out the current offerings here.
When you love coffee,
~ Bonnie & Jeffrey