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Get to Know Red Bay Coffee

Beautiful in more ways than one.

by Randy Miller | September 02, 2020

In our never-ending quest to bring you the nation’s best roasters, we’re excited to introduce you to the latest addition to the Trade Family: Red Bay Coffee Company.

For Red Bay, bringing “Beautiful Coffee to the People” starts at the seed. This Certified B Corporation pays homage to where coffee comes from, while leading the way forward with empowering hiring practices.

With ethical sourcing and inclusivity always top of mind, this roaster represents Oakland, California in the Bay Area and beyond. We took a moment to chat with the team at Red Bay to learn more about the commitments, standards, and coffee that set them apart.

How was Red Bay Coffee founded?

Red Bay Coffee was founded by Keba Konte to combine all of the things he loves into a single company in order to bring more soul into the specialty coffee industry, including his love of community building, art and design, traveling, eating, drinking, problem solving, and competing.

What are Red Bay's leading principles?

Red Bay is committed to sourcing and roasting the highest quality, organic, and sustainable coffees while fostering inclusive and diverse communities that celebrate delicious approaches to living.

What is Red Bay's approach to sourcing?

Red Bay’s approach to sourcing is to build partnerships and relationships through Direct Trade — all of our partnerships are Direct Trade. Because of these direct partnerships, we have better knowledge of farming practices and share these best practices. We also incentivize farmers with good prices.

How does Red Bay name its blends?

Red Bay coffee names are created and inspired by experiences, artists, and community.

East Fourteenth dark roast is an homage to a past heritage and a link to history in the making. It is the story of Oakland’s wide-reaching cultures and creeds. And, for us, represents the big narrative of International Boulevard - formerly known as East Fourteenth Street.

Carver’s Dream espresso is named after Agricultural Scientist and Inventor George Washington Carver. His picture still sits in Coffee “Dojo” where Red Bay Coffee was born at Keba's home, with the quote “If you love something enough, it will reveal its secrets to you.”

Tell us about Red Bay's team

The Red Bay Coffee Family is made up of a diverse, passionate, talented, devoted, hardworking and creative Team of coffee professionals. Red Bay places a high value on having women in leadership and creating an opportunity for the formerly incarcerated, women, and those traditionally underrepresented in the coffee industry.

Standout member: Greyson, Keba's Pit Bull. Definitely the draw at our Roastery. Follow him on Instagram @redbaygreyson.

"The coffee had to be damn good. Steel sharpens steel." — Keba Konte

Tell us about the Bay Area's coffee scene

"I opened my first cafe (Guerilla Cafe) in Berkeley, California in 2006 as the first cafe wholesale account of Blue Bottle Coffee Company. This was before the term 'third wave' was coined by Trish Rothgeb. Eight years later in 2014, I established Red Bay Coffee in one of the most competitive coffee scenes in the country. The bar was high and I knew a righteous mission and beautiful branding alone was not going to be enough to compete. The coffee had to be damn good. Steel sharpens steel.

I also knew good coffee alone, even damn good coffee was not the formula for success. I followed my heart and created a mission-driven coffee brand that centered beauty as an organizing principle. Beautiful relations, beautiful coffee, and beautiful community. Red Bay Coffee has become the most diverse coffee team in the Bay Area and perhaps in the country. I am deeply touched by the support we have received by the broader coffee community of roasters, baristas, and coffee professionals. It is truly a beautiful community.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, raised two daughters in Oakland, and cherish the Bay Area as the best place on earth." — Keba Konte

Why did you launch the Coffee Dojo podcast?

"Spoiler Alert: This podcast is not about coffee.

We launched the Coffee Dojo podcast in the wake of Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement to record in real time the voices and experiences of our local thought leaders and creatives.

I have been learning a lot about peoples' processes and how they are navigating these uncharted waters of 2020. This is my first experience as an interviewer so I am learning when to lean in with more probing questions, when to shut up and listen, and when to let the guest speak. Mostly the shut up part." — Keba Konte

How does Keba’s art background inform Red Bay’s roasting and aesthetic?

Keba founded Red Bay Coffee to combine all of the things he loves into a single company in order to bring more soul into the specialty coffee industry - love of community building, art and design, traveling, eating, drinking, problem solving and competing.

His art background is evident throughout Red Bay Coffee. Along with his designer wife Rachel - who is Red Bay’s Chief of Brand & Marketing - his creativity is reflected in everything from Red Bay’s coffee names, café designs, in-house marketing and branding - all things must be beautiful along the value stream. Beautiful Coffee to the People.

How has 2020 impacted Red Bay?

In 2020, the coronavirus showed up and knocked us on our collective asses vanishing our revenues virtually overnight. We jumped into survival mode, furloughed 90 percent of our employees, turned off all faucets, and pivoted to e-commerce.

The world responded with love and full-throated support. Our investors, board of directors, and the coffee industry showed up for us as well. This story is still unfolding, but we have been able to bring back about half of our staff and have also opened up three of our retail shops. Today, our lifeblood is our online community supporting us through e-commerce.