This secret ingredient can improve the taste of that bitter cup of coffee.
When he was a boy, David A. Paul’s father had a coffee table book full of images of the Black church experience.
Its pages showed Black families getting ready for church, attending service and breaking bread. One image in particular stands out to Paul all these years later. In it, a Black father teaches his son how to put on a tie. It’s a simple scene, but it left a clear, though subtle, impression on Paul.
“The pictures depicted African Americans in ways that the media hadn’t really done, and those images were really planted into my mind,” Paul said. “I kind of envisioned that this is the type of relationship that I’m going to have with my family. These are the types of experiences that I’m going to foster. This is the image that I want to create with my family to really elevate the culture and stories to expand what is possible in someone’s mind.”
David A. Paul, MD, is a senior neurosurgery resident and neuro-critical care fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center, He opened a business called Bold and Gritty that makes different coffee roasts that have different images of Black men with a QR code. Paul said he wanted to “share a different narrative especially around Black men.” He and his wife, La’ren were serving coffee and selling their roasts at Themata outdoor handmade artisan markets at the Culver Road Armory on June 19, 2021. (Photo: Tina MacIntyre-Yee /Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
Paul said those kinds of positive images are essential for shaping the future generations of Black youth. Representation allows someone to see themselves in a position or in a lifestyle that they might not otherwise have imagined was possible, he said.
“Kids want to be different things when they grow up. They want to be an astronaut, lawyer, doctor, firefighter, engineer. Well, if you don’t know anybody that looks like you in those fields or you haven’t heard stories of people in those fields, you don’t really know what you’re capable of,” Paul said. “So stories are important because they can open the imagination for what’s possible for the next generations. If we don’t tell those stories, then people won’t know what’s possible.”
Paul’s desire to tell stories stayed with him from childhood throughout adulthood. He had an idea brewing — an ambitious one.
Using Bold & Gritty Coffee to tell stories
Paul, a senior neurosurgery resident and neurocritical care fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Strong Memorial Hospital, knew he wanted to tell stories to motivate present and future generations.
He just had to figure out how those stories would be told.
He considered illustrating portraits, writing narratives of minority men and putting the final project together into a coffee table book, like the one his father had all those years ago.
“I’m a medical resident by day, and I told my wife this idea and she looked at me (like) she thought I was crazy,” Paul said. “She was like, ‘You know, you’re pretty busy, and writing a book is going to take a pretty long time to make happen, you know, a couple of years.’ She challenged me to think about how I could start sharing the stories now. Why do I have to hold on to them and wait several years to release a book?”
Considering his wife’s challenge, Paul began to develop both branding and a social media presence, where he shares the stories. Paul and his wife, La’ren Launchie-Paul, started talking about ways in which they could make the stories sustainable and how to build something tangible around the stories to “keep people coming back for more,” he said.
“Coffee basically popped out of nowhere but came to mind as the perfect pairing,” Paul said. “Coffee is a vehicle for sharing stories. People have conversations around a cup of coffee. Coffee builds community. It brings people together. So, we thought, what better way to share these awesome and amazing stories that we’re writing and communicating and illustrating than over a cup of coffee?”
Bold & Gritty coffee officially launched Nov. 1. Paul’s business highlights the stories of “successful Black men ages 18-40, who embody what it means to be Bold and Gritty,” the website states. Bold & Gritty has an online application for people interested in submitting a name — their own or someone else’s — to be featured.
The response to Bold & Gritty, Paul said, has been even more than he could have anticipated.
David A. Paul, MD, is a senior neurosurgery resident and neuro-critical care fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center, He opened a business called Bold and Gritty that makes different coffee roasts that have different images of Black men with a QR code. Paul said he wanted to “share a different narrative especially around Black men.” He bags a purchase made by Kim Sherwood for her. Paul was selling the roasts at Themata outdoor handmade artisan markets at the Culver Road Armory on June 19, 2021. (Photo: Tina MacIntyre-Yee /Rochester Democrat and Chronicle)
“We’ve grown a decent amount on social media and we have a lot of people who really love the brand,” he said. “That’s the thing, the coffee, and I feel like it’s really been impactful to a lot of people’s lives to be able to read the stories and for the folks that we highlight to have a platform to share what they’re doing and make a difference in the world.”
One of the most memorable stories is of Dr. Italo Brown, Paul said. Brown, an emergency physician and clinical instructor at Stanford University Hospital, faced 144 rejections into medical school before finally being accepted into Meharry Medical College.
“He is now a MED Front Scholar, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Scholar, mentor for Tour for Diversity in Medicine, and board member for Trap medicine — a Barbershop-based wellness initiative launched in Oakland, California,” the Bold & Gritty website states.
“He’s such a humble guy and he’s just so inspiring (in) the way he’s giving back to the community. Those are the kinds of stories that we like to tell and highlight,” Paul said. “People who have overcome against tremendous odds and to to then turn around and make a difference and an impact in the communities around them.”
Bold & Gritty’s approach is community building. Paul said that Gavin Jenkins, a high school teacher at East High School, saw the stories that Bold & Gritty posted on Instagram and he reached out, wondering if he could share the stories with his high school chemistry class.
“I responded and said, ‘Hey, I’ll do you one better. Why don’t I speak to your class? I can just do a guest lecture because I was a chemistry major,’” Paul said.
At the end of the lecture, Paul said, Jenkins stopped him and said, “I’m the director of wholesale coffee purchasing at New City Café, and we need to make something happen.”
From there, the two, working with New City Café’s Executive Director Nick Trombley, collaborated, and now Bold & Gritty is available for purchased at the coffee shop.
“It was a really, really neat relationship that sort of evolved,” Paul said. “I think that our partnership with them allows us to be present in the city and it allows us to be able to share stories in the city with the people that you really want to be able to inspire.”
The single-sourced coffee with impact
Bold & Gritty’s coffee is all single-sourced. Through his relationship with a local roaster, Paul roasts the beans.
“We’ve been very lucky to be able to source our own coffee, so we source our own green coffee and we work with importers to have coffee that’s traceable directly to the farms and washing stations that they come from,” Paul said. “So it’s basically like a direct trade sort of relationship.”
Recently, Bold & Gritty launched two new single origin coffees. Paul said his favorite of the two is the Ethiopian Guji Gigesa. It has notes of blueberry flavor, he said, describing it “as almost like a warm blueberry pie.”
The coffee is available in a 12-ounce bag, with whole or ground beans available, that are predicted to yield from 12 to 17 cups of brewed coffee.
“We’re really the only coffee brand or coffee roaster in this region that’s offering a washed Ethiopian coffee right now,” he said. “It’s kind of one of the things that’s separating us and setting us apart as a coffee brand in Rochester.”
Bold & Gritty primarily is available for purchase online. People interested in buying the coffee or reading the stories can check the website, boldandgritty.com.
The website also offers a coffee subscription. Bold & Gritty is available for purchase in New York at New City Roc Cafe & Roastery and at Honey B Home & Essentials; in Michigan at Southeast Market and in California at Underground Books & 40 Acres Market.
Bold & Gritty has pop-up events all during the summer. That schedule is available online.
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A ‘Small Biz Challenge’ finalist
Less than a year after Bold & Gritty’s launch, the organization is already taking off. Bold & Gritty is one of 10 finalists for the UPS Store 2021 Virtual Small Biz Challenge.
Over 1,000 people applied, Paul said, but Bold & Gritty is one of the finalists. If the coffee brand wins first place, it will be the recipient of a $25,000 award.
Bold & Gritty would use the award to jumpstart efforts to launch its single-serve coffee and to develop a shelf-stable ready to drink option so that it can share it stories with a much broader audience, Paul said.
Voting in the UPS Store challenge is open now and ends on July 5. If Bold & Gritty gets first place, it would receive the funding award and an editorial feature, which would run in an upcoming issue of Inc. magazine and would be posted on Inc.com, and a related video shoot.
Adria R. Walker covers public education for the Democrat and Chronicle in partnership with Report for America. Follow her on Twitter at @adriawalkr or send her an email at email@example.com. You can support her work with a tax-deductible donation to Report for America.
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