The love of coffee for Ezra Coffee founder Jessica Taylor blossomed early during a visit with her grandparents. “I’ve been loving coffee ever since my sister and I started drinking it with our grandfather. We were seven and five years old,” recalls Taylor about how the sister’s curiosity for the beverage their grandfather was drinking led to a whole new world of flavor.
“By the time our parents came to pick us up, we had our pinkies up, we had our little mugs, we were coffee aficionados,” laughs the entrepreneur, whose passion for java continued into adulthood. She often bought bags of coffee whenever she traveled and enjoyed sharing them with family and friends.
A Sister’s Love
However, her sister, who was found to be lactose intolerant, couldn’t enjoy the milk-based creamers or additives most often added to flavor coffees. And so, it became a goal for Taylor to come up with a way for her sibling to enjoy a flavorful cup of coffee without having to deal with the issue of being lactose intolerant.
“I was thinking, ‘How can we have people enjoy the natural taste of the coffee without all these other things?’ Particularly my sister, she can’t add anything else. She has to drink it [her coffee] black,” shares the Memphis-born, Atlanta-raised coffee lover.
Taylor’s solution was to create a specialty coffee line that placed the spotlight solely on flavor (via creative coffee bean blends and by flavoring the beans before grinding), with the resulting coffee flavors not needing milk-based creamers to enhance their taste.
A “Surprise” Business Launch
Ezra Coffee was born during the pandemic when Taylor took a chance and decided to offer her coffee blends online, not even telling family she was starting a coffee business until her website was up and running. “I think my family was pretty surprised because I didn’t ever say anything,” says Taylor about the start of her self-funded business.
“It works better because sometimes people try to talk you out of it or ask too many questions. So for me, I just dropped them the link [to the coffee site]; they got the link the same time everybody else got it.”
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And the launch was a success, with Taylor making a $5000 profit within a few hours of the site going live.
“That was in February 2021,” shares Taylor about the beginning of Ezra Coffee. “In April, we had got in contact with Target, and in June, we were in their accelerator program.” The specialty coffee line, in addition to being available on their website, can also be found on Amazon and Target online, as well as in select grocery stores in Texas and Michigan. “So in just under two years, we’ve been making some great strides,” says the founder about her Dallas, Texas-based company.
Building Ezra Coffee With Purpose
But Ezra Coffee, though born from a sister’s love, is also a brand of purpose, culture and history. From the inspiration behind the company’s name to its packaging, the Ezra Coffee brand strives to provide more than just an exquisite cup of coffee.
“When I started the brand, I really wanted a name that had purpose,” relates Taylor. “I wanted something that was either Biblical or African. My friend at work had just had a baby, and his son’s name was Ezra. Then I had a dream, and the little boy’s name in the dream was Ezra. And I was going to church on Sunday, I go to the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, and I when I got to service, Bishop T.D. Jakes said, ‘We’re going to talk about the Book of Ezra.’”
Three times was the charm for Taylor, who took it as a sign that Ezra Coffee would be the ideal name to christen her new business.
Storytelling With Flavor
The coffee lover also wove her background as a former educator and diversity and inclusion strategist into the packaging and flavors offered by Ezra Coffee. “We wanted to create flavors that were specific to the African American diaspora,” shares the businesswoman, who includes Black history events that inspired the names for her coffees on each package.
“For example, our 64th & Tulsa, a medium dark roast, is named after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and also after Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma,” she offers. “And for our Candied Yams, a light roast (we flavor the beans with candied yam flavoring before we grind them down), tells the story of how yams came from West Africa to Tuskegee, Alabama, where Dr. George Washington Carver found 500 uses for the yam, including the stickiness on the back of envelopes.”
Giving Back to the Future
But perhaps most important for this purposeful brand is how Taylor gives back to the community. “I researched the meaning of the name Ezra and it means, ‘he who helps’ in Hebrew,” she shares. “I knew I wanted our brand to have philanthropic social impact connections.”
And in that spirit, Taylor’s company created the Ezra Scholars’ Scholarship. The scholarships are open only to college sophomores, juniors and seniors who meet eligibility requirements and provide funds to cover expenses that might otherwise derail a scholar’s ability to continue attending school.
“We provide scholarships up to $1000, what I call ‘gap money,’” says Taylor. “I used to work in higher education, and there aren’t a lot of scholarships for students sophomore through senior year. So, the scholarships are for what I consider ‘gap issues.’ You parked your car somewhere, and you get a ticket, now there’s a financial hold on your student account. Or your financial aid came late and so now you’re late [with tuition]. We look to cover those things so the students can focus more on the academics degree [and remain in school].”
For Taylor, a cup of coffee goes far beyond enjoying a rich and flavorful brew. It also means telling the stories of culture and history while building bonds in the community. Now that’s a cup worth savoring.
For more information about Ezra Coffee, please visit https://ezracoffeeco.com/ and follow Taylor and the brand on Instagram @ezracoffeeco.