Areli Barrera de Grodski wants to do more than just sell drinks with her Latina-led and women-forward coffee business.
A UNC graduate and the co-owner of Cocoa Cinnamon cafe and Little Waves Coffee Roasters in Durham, Barrera de Grodski wants to help women and people of color break into the coffee industry.
She gives her employees the tools they need to start their own businesses by teaching them the history of coffee sourcing and how to roast coffee properly.
A Cherokee, North Carolina native, Barrera de Grodski grew up surrounded by Indigenous people. When her family moved to Durham while she was attending school, she realized the value of representation in the community.
“My first initial experience at UNC was that I experienced cultural shock being a Latina,” Barrera de Grodski said. “Growing up around lot of brown people for most of my upbringing, UNC was the first that I was surrounded by a greater and more prominent white culture. It took me a while to get situated and find my own people, but as a Spanish major, it kind of helped me in the way of finding other brown students.”
Inspired by her time at the University and her Mexican roots, much of the menu at Cocoa Cinnamon and Little Waves Coffee draws upon her travels.
“My studies at UNC had a huge influence on our menu,” Barrera de Grodski said. “I feel like a lot of the history and literature that I learned about are deeply rooted in our menu and a lot of historical knowledge about Latin America and Indigenous people plays a role in how I look at the trading system.
"In the position of sourcing green coffee, it is not something that I take lightly and I’m always striving to uplifting and supporting Black, Indigenous women and producers of color at origin.”
From what began as a mobile coffee cart at the farmers market to the current three locations in Durham, plus the roastery, Barrera de Grodski co-owns the business with her husband, Leon. Together, they work to uplift people of color even from the very origin of their coffee beans.