At The Chocolate Barista, our mission is to cultivate a space that expands and disrupts the idea of what is possible.

Our vision is to:

  • Develop coffee professionals that embrace and share the fullness of who they are in personal and professional settings.
  • Challenge cafes and brands to provide the necessary tools for autonomous, confident coffee professionals.
  • Tug on the coffee thread that runs around the world, bridging culture and coffee.
  • Acknowledging and bringing under appreciated providers and cultural influences into prominence.
  • Re-examine coffee and its influence outside of the whitewashed, Americanized lens that it currently is viewed through
  • Serve as a reminder that coffee is an international phenomenon that belongs to the world— not a select few.

Meet The Team

Michelle R. Johnson (she/her)


Michelle has been at the forefront of the Black coffee experience since the founding of The Chocolate Barista in 2016. A ten-year specialty coffee veteran based in Los Angeles, Michelle has worked in marketing, sales, education, and retail for coffee companies in Washington DC, Phoenix, AZ, Los Angeles, and Melbourne. She is one of the most recognizable figures in specialty coffee having spoken at Re:Co Symposium, written, hosted, and podcasted for Sprudge, and appeared onstage as the first Black woman to compete at the national level of the US Barista Championships. For The Chocolate Barista, Michelle produces educational and creative content, consults on various coffee projects, and sets the cultural tone as the Martha Stewart of Coffee.

Ezra Baker (he/him)


Ezra has worked in specialty coffee in New York City for the past 13 years.  His focus is on project management, operations, and Team organization.  He is a licenced Q Arabica Grader. With the Chocolate Barista he is in charge of strategy and is on the editorial board. Ezra co-hosts the Sprudge podcast “No Free Refills”.

Eric J. Grimm (they/them)


Eric is a thirteen-year specialty coffee veteran based in Los Angeles with focuses in mobile events, catering, retail management, and community events. Their work with The Chocolate Barista includes content development, contributor management, and brand identity. As Director of Positive Outcomes at Glitter Cat Barista, they manage several projects that reimagine coffee competitions and hospitality.