Coffee with a CauseFeb 01, 2023 ● By Stephen Hunt
by Stephen Hunt
Photos provided by Creative Voices PR
Photos provided by Creative Voices PR
In February 2021, Jessica Taylor launched Ezra Coffee, a specialty brand of java that connects coffee, culture and African-American history.
Ezra is a Hebrew word meaning “he who helps,” a central theme for a company whose coffee is ethically sourced with only high-quality beans from farms committed to paying their workers fair, responsible wages.
Ezra Coffee currently offers six blends, each named for historically and culturally significant individuals, events, flavors and/or traditions including King Malcolm, a medium roast with a smoothness comparable to the eloquence of legendary civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. alongside the invigorating zest, passion, and pride of Malcolm X.
One of the company’s most popular blends is Candied Yams, a seasonal blended light roast that infuses the sweet taste of the popular, classic Southern dish.
Despite being a relatively new brand, Ezra Coffee is already being sold by Target, H-E-B, and Amazon — a testament to Taylor’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“For us to get this done in 16 months is a feat. Our next thing is expanding our offerings. We’re looking at some new flavors, blends, new ways people can brew their coffee.
“One thing my mother shared with me prior to her passing, sometimes you got to slow down and let the engine hum,” Taylor said. “I’m always running, wondering what’s next?
Coffee isn’t the only focus for Taylor and her company. Giving back is also central to everything the it does. The Ezra Scholars’ Scholarship Program helps students experiencing financial insecurity defray some college-related expenses. In 2022, the program awarded scholarships to students attending Alabama State, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Southern University in Lousiana.
Taylor’s passion for and love of coffee comes from her childhood growing up in Atlanta, when she and her sister, Victoria, would visit their grandparents in Arkansas. Her mother would drop off the girls with a list of items they were not allowed to eat.
“One thing I noticed is my grandmother every morning used to fix my grandfather this drink that always made the house smell,” she recalled. “I asked her if we can have some of this and my grandmother said it was on the list of stuff we’re not supposed to have. She left the kitchen, and my grandfather let us try it. So, we started sipping coffee with him in the summer.”
Taylor went on to attend Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, and also studied at University of Oxford in London before earning an undergraduate degree in business management. After graduating, she worked for Ohio State University and at Purdue University in Indiana, also earning a graduate degree in public administration from the University of Indiana before moving to Toulouse, France, and spending about a year visiting various countries. After a stint teaching public school in Charlotte, North Carolina, Taylor relocated to Texas in 2016.
She called Frisco home until recently relocating to East Dallas, but remembers being drawn to Frisco by its simple charm.
“I looked a lot of places — Carrollton, The Colony — and Frisco really spoke to me. I said, `OK, this is where I am going to stay,’” Taylor said. “It was diverse and new. It reminded me a lot of Atlanta. It had a lot of different things. Even though it’s a suburb, it still has a small-town feel to it. … That was one reason I really enjoyed staying here.”
Breaking New Grounds
No matter where life has taken her, Taylor’s love of coffee has gotten stronger over the years. “It wasn’t until college that I noticed coffee tastes different. Our school opened a Starbucks on campus. I thought, `This is different,’” she said. “Then, I did my study experience [at Oxford] and noticed coffee over there tastes different. I went on a spring break trip and coffee there tasted different. Every time I would go somewhere, I would get a scarf and coffee. Right before the pandemic, I looked up and I had coffee from over 15 different countries.”
Seeing her sister battle nut and soy allergies (meaning that she couldn’t use most creamers to flavor her coffee) got Taylor wondering how she could devise her own coffee blends for her only sibling to enjoy. Again, she tapped into her entrepreneurial spirit to find a way.
“I was at home looking at YouTube learning how to roast coffee in a cast iron skillet because that’s what I had. Then, I would start flavoring the beans with things I learned about”, Taylor said. “Then, I had a party and [my sister] said I should sell” coffee. “She said it could make a difference.”
Taylor then listed 25 people she knows who drink coffee, designed some blends and mailed them to those people along with a survey requesting their feedback. It was so overwhelmingly positive that it led her to find a coffee roaster in Grand Prairie that produced her first bags of java.
Each bag of Ezra Coffee features Adinkra symbology from the African nation of Ghana, images representing empowering concepts such as friendship, humility and justice. Taylor also gives purchasers of Ezra Coffee a quick history lesson on the origins of each blend’s name on each bag. “I really enjoy history. I enjoy storytelling. I enjoy learning different things,” she said.
“One thing about my grandfather, when he was drinking his coffee, he had a newspaper. Every morning, he was reading and educating himself on something. I wanted to have stories that were not rooted in adversity, that were not rooted in slavery. I wanted to highlight some of these unsung stories that we don’t hear about often, about how our collective American history has made us better. I want people to leave from Ezra and say, `Wow, I didn’t know that.’”
Stephen Hunt is a longtime Frisco resident who has been drinking coffee longer than he can recall.