By Brittany Anderson
For Jessica Taylor, coffee has long been a vehicle of connection — her coffee brand blends this idea of connectivity with culture and delicious flavors for a unique caffeine experience.
Taylor founded Ezra Coffee in 2021. The idea originally started off as a “passion project” stemming from her childhood memories of drinking coffee with her sister and grandparents in Texarkana.
Into adulthood, Taylor would often roast beans and come up with different flavors at home for fun. At one of her annual parties celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day, one of her friends tried a cup and suggested she sell it.
While she considered her coffee-making as something she and her sister enjoyed doing together “on the side,” Taylor got to work sending out Google surveys to her friends to get feedback on blends she created, testing the waters to see if it would be a viable business venture or remain a hobby.
“I have a lot of friends that say, ‘I don’t like coffee; it’s too bitter, it’s too strong, it’s too acidic,’” Taylor said. “I went to a local coffee house and they were telling me about things and I was understanding that different [blends]provided different notes and flavor profiles.”
“Growing up, my grandparents drank Folgers or Maxwell or whatever it was they had in the house. So it wasn’t until I started traveling around that I started noticing there were different notes,” Taylor continued. “One thing I wondered was, ‘Well, if I mix these two, what kind of flavor would this give me?’ So you’ll notice that all of Ezra uses mixed-origins. We don’t have any single-origin blends. We wanted to create a good, balanced flavor of a couple of different flavor notes.”
All six of Ezra’s blends are all allergen-friendly. Her sister has a soy and nut allergy and is lactose intolerant, which challenged Taylor to flavor her blends in a way that didn’t need any milk-based additives.
“I wanted to come up with flavors that were specific to the African American diaspora,” Taylor said. “One thing that I really enjoy is sweet potatoes and candied yams … More importantly, I enjoyed the story behind how the yams came from Ghana, West Africa to the United States and how Dr. George Washington Carver used them,” referencing Ezra’s Candied Yams blend.
In terms of picking the flavors, notes and beans, Taylor said that a majority of the beans come from Ethiopia and Kenya, with Ethiopian beans being the base for many of the blends.
The whole brand comes together with its messaging: honoring Black history and figures while wrapped in beautiful Ghanaian Adinkra symbology packaging.
Taylor explained that Ezra’s blends are named after significant events and individuals “within our collective American history,” focusing on historic Black activists and Black culture. Her personal favorite blend, 64th & Tulsa, highlights the presidential signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and reflects on Tulsa’s Black Wall Street.
Other blends include Lorde Baldwin, honoring Audre Lorde and James Baldwin, and King Malcolm, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X. Cognac-infused blend Le Grand Duc 1928 pays homage to Eugene Ballard and the Toasted Southern Pecan blend remembers enslaved horticulturist Antoine who domesticated the pecan in Louisiana.
“It’s our progression through darkness,” Taylor said. “With Ezra, I really wanted it to be when people are drinking our coffee or when they’re looking at the packaging, they can leave and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that.’ We want them to leave saying they know something different, not just a story rooted in adversity and hardship, but to celebrate the different things that we may not always hear about and celebrate the stories of amazing people.”
Taylor also comes from a background of diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and teaching experience and found a way to incorporate this into the company.
“Ezra means, ‘he who helps them’ in Hebrew,” she said. “We use a portion of our proceeds to provide scholarships to students who are attending four year institutions. This year, we provided scholarships to students attending Howard University, Alabama State University and Southern University.”
As far as overcoming the feat of getting her coffee on store shelves, Taylor said that expanding into H-E-B felt aligned with her purpose of remaining faithful and intentional with her brand’s mission and potential partnerships.
“They [H-E-B] weren’t the only ones who reached out, but I really felt a connection with them,” Taylor said. “Our goal is always to expand into more stores, but that will be determined by H-E-B and their team in terms of where we will be placed next. So, you know, people have to go out, shop us, and let people know they want us there so we can actually grow to those spaces,” adding that there are goals to expand offerings in terms of flavors and into products like K-cups.
Locally, Ezra Coffee is available at H-E-B in Pflugerville, Elgin and several San Antonio locations. Visit www.ezracoffeeco.com to purchase, find more information on Ezra’s story or flavors or to join their subscription list and receive monthly blends either chosen by you or an Ezra team member for a surprise. Ezra Coffee is also available online at Target.