The innovative Akat Café Kalli is a community-based café in Oakland, California. They are expanding their vision by directly sourcing coffee from Zapatista growers. To support the project you can pre-order coffee online at www.sinfronterascoffee.com. If you pre order now the coffee will likely arrive by Mid August. Donations will also be accepted to help Akat Café Kalli purchase its own roaster.
Co-owners of Akat Cafe Kalli Rocio Cervantes Garcia and Jose Rodriguez, answered some questions below about their vision and work.
1. How did you get connected to growers in Chiapas?
We had been to Chiapas a number of times before. This time it was through the context of coffee that we wanted to connect. We reached out and eventually had a chance to go visit the Zapatista cooperative. This past January we had the privilege to work part of the coffee harvest and learn first hand about the coffee and how it relates to autonomy. We have been doing coffee talks called, Cosechando Autonomía in public spaces such as libraries, flea markets and farmer’s markets with the goal of further connecting a solidarity economy
2. As Oakland is becoming increasingly impacted by gentrification how does this cafe respond to that?
We moved to Oakland in 2012 from across the bay in San Francisco. As migrants/xicanos and community/cultural workers there, rents became less affordable and we were not able to stay. We found ourselves in a situation where, as working class migrants and xicanos/Mexicanas and as newcomers to our neighborhood, we had to be part of the solution. We hosted workshops that shared skills, music, art and events that informed of the empowering actions happening in the community. The community also organized their own events and gatherings at the café. Akat Café Kalli became a place of connection for us and our community. We have been about creating positive impacts and relationships in the community since day one. Now we aim to create sustainable incomes with opportunity for growth.
3. Have you met many Latin American coffee growers in Oakland? That is to say folks that have migrated and grew coffee in their native lands.
Yes, we have met folks from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras. Some are working in coffee and others in different industries. We are working to connect more with those folks who have had a connection to growing coffee and now find themselves in other industries. There is a growing opportunity for them to share their coffee experience and directly impact their communities back home. It is also key to build a stronger community together here as well.
4. What does it feel like to be in your cafe?
We have been told many times that folks feel inspired by what we have built so far. Not by any measurement of economics, but by the fact that we have been about building this coffee space in a good way, one based on collaboration and participation. We call this an autonomous coffee space. It is safe, rebel, dignified and community-oriented with so much to learn and contribute.
5. How has working directly with growers changed your perception of coffee?
Its all about the relationships. When we worked part of the harvest, we saw a dedication present in the coffee growers and all their relations which includes but is not limited to the land, community, the struggle, autonomy, self-determination and tradition. Applying those values to our own geography, we see that coffee can be shed of its colonial legacies and be used to benefit the people working the land and the coffee shops. It starts with shifting the value back to the relationship.
6. What does "Akat Café Kalli” mean?
Akatl is Reed in Nahuatl, awareness, flexibility and perceptive of energy and the deep root which connects the earth and the sky. Kalli in Nahuatl means a space for learning or creating; a foundation or house.
-Filiberto Nolasco Gomez