Before I knew that coffee existed, I loved it. I always had, which is why I began to submerge myself into the industry as soon as a door opened. I eagerly applied to shop after shop, offering to work twice as hard and not caring about the pay. At the time I wasn’t sure what all came with being a barista; I just knew that I had to be one. Coffee is the only thing in America that isn’t hated for being black. I wanted to feel what it felt. Subconsciously, I tricked myself into believing that I would receive that same love and I quickly learned that just because the door opened for me to enter the industry, didn’t mean that there weren’t still plenty of doors that needed to be kicked down, and I couldn’t do it within the same minimal decor shops. I couldn’t do it working alongside the cis-white spro bro baristas who argued with me that if black people didn’t want others to say the n word then they shouldn’t say it themselves. I couldn’t do it working for managers who harassed me and punished me for not returning their affections. I couldn’t do it their way. I had to do it my way because I know how they saw me, I know how they saw people like me. “Poor us,” I thought when I realized that we weren’t people to coffee shop owners: we were machines generating profit. “Pour us coffee,” is what rude customers demanded and we had to do so with a smile. I couldn’t change it their way, I had to do it my way and that is how Pour Us Coffee was born.
That was my first time hearing about Takoda Patterson, the owner of Pour Us Coffee, home of the Trans Girl Coffee Club. She has recently been in “hot water” within the coffee community for the policies that have separated Pour Us Coffee from the other shops. On Facebook, comments attacking her character and accusations of being a danger are hard to ignore.
I’ve always known better than to take social media’s take on Black women in professional fields as facts, so I decided to go myself.
On the corner of St. Pedro and Winston St. is a space grey building with Pour Us Coffee in white letters painted above the door. As I walked up to the door, I expected that it would be similar to other shops that I’ve been to. I mean, aren’t they all the same ? I thought. That question was answered when I walked in to hear the sound of SZA “Childs Play” playing at a volume that wasn’t loud enough to prevent conversations from happening and wasn’t low enough that made hearing it a struggle. The closest explanation that I give is that it reminded me of the evening sun, gently touching every corner of the city, giving you a moment to appreciate it before it goes away for the night. Everything about the shop felt this way. From the way the light came through the windows, highlighting the green leaves from the plants, the brown tables and chairs, the dimmed lights hanging above them. Everything about this shop reminded me of the true definition of cozy. It felt like home which leads me to the focus of the criticism that Pour Us faces.
Behind the bar, hanging up high and big enough for everyone to see is not a menu, but a list of rules:
- Zero tolerance for verbal abuse and hateful language. That applies to customers and staff; no special treatment, no excuses, you will be banned.
- Sexual assault and/or harassment will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
- No cops allowed on or off duty in uniform.
I must’ve been staring hard because what snapped me back to reality was a woman’s voice. “First time here, sweetie?” she asked, and there she was. Takoda herself at the counter. I nodded my head feeling a mixture of embarrassed and relieved. She has been described as mean looking, rude and yet there she was the complete opposite of that. I ordered a coffee and while I waited she asked what brought me in. I told her about the reviews on Facebook and an interview she did with The Chocolate Barista.
She asked what I thought about it and I told her that I didn’t know but I didn’t like how they painted her to be angry. “When I first wrote my policies, I knew I’d receive criticism. I knew that I would be called angry and bitter. I knew that I would be accused of all the things that society is guilty of.” Curious to know more, I asked her to continue and she finished by saying, “People always tell you that Gandhi once said that an eye for eye makes the world blind. What they don’t tell you is that Gandhi was a racist, a woman beater, and that the world has ignored our existence or criticized it. My policies aren’t about an eye for and eye; it’s about using my eyes to look out for the community . This is safety for us, this is somewhere we can exist, we are family, this is home.” She then handed me my coffee, smiled and said, “Enjoy your coffee,” before returning to the register.
I set my coffee down, giving it a few minutes to cool and observe my surroundings. What did I see? Books focusing on Minority and LBGTQ Liberation by the wall, customers queer, straight, cis, and trans together with no hostility, no one scared to be there and be themselves. The sound of Noname’s “Casket Pretty” now filling up the room, customers walking up to Takoda, hugging her and saying, “Bye, mama,” before leaving.
I then understood what Takoda meant when she said, “This is home.” I felt like this was where I belonged. I grabbed an application that read “join the trans girl coffee club” above, filled it out, turned it in and left. I was not scared or sad to be there, I was only sad that I couldn’t stay there forever. This is where all who didn’t fit in on the outside world , did fit in and when I realized that, I simply thought, “Poor us.”
Takoda Patterson (she/her) is a Transgender woman from Riverside, CA / Los Angeles, CA who does not limit herself and always speaks her mind. In the form of a new book, photography, an episode of her podcast Fresh Brewed Coffee, or videos on TikTok, Takoda believes in using her voice to highlight topics that aren’t discussed enough. Being passionate about photography and literature, noticing the ways the industry/community could improve such as true diversity (Race and Gender),Takoda strives to create a space where others outside of the cishet normality can be included as more than a tokenized character but as true story tellers and humans.
Currently working on a new photography project and marketing her 2nd edition release of her book “Nothing Really Happens” that is available for pre-order on Barnes and Nobles website and in stores, Takoda’s mission has only begun.
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