At the Midtown Muddy's Coffee & Bake Shop last Saturday morning, throngs of customers filed in to get their morning cup of joe. But what awaited them was the chance to vote on a new roast for J. Brooks Coffee Roasters that will benefit a Memphis homeless service provider.
J. Brooks has been supplying the Hospitality HUB with coffee for years. Anyone, particularly people experiencing homelessness, can walk into the HUB, located at 82 N. Second, and get a free cup of coffee, no strings attached.
Now, J. Brooks is adding a new coffee to its line called "HUB," named after the organization. Two dollars from the sale of each bag will benefit the HUB.
The HUB provides free services to people who are experiencing homelessness. Guests can receive a temporary mailing address, which can help them secure jobs. Guests also have access to restrooms, snacks, telephones, computers, and lockers, as well as counseling services and assistance in obtaining birth certificates and other documents. They also provide vouchers for temporary shelters.
"We're really impressed with them," said John Pitman, the roaster for J. Brooks. "They've got a fantastic board. The program is just spot-on. It's an honor and a point of pride for us to be associated with them. I think they're making a tremendous difference in the city. They're doing things that I can't do. So what I can do, I'll do to help them."
Last Saturday, visitors to Muddy's sampled and voted on the roast that will benefit the HUB. They were given a choice between three medium roasts. The first choice — roast A — was mild, the strength seemingly low. Roast B, a new roast for J. Brooks, tasted bitter and tart, while roast C evened out between the two and tasted like a complex, rich cup of coffee.
Votes were cast by placing small white balls into Mason jars next to each pot of coffee. The winner was a single-origin Mexico Chiapas Turquesa.
Pitman said having people vote on the HUB flavor "engenders involvement."
"People feel like they're personally involved, which they are," he said. "It's a great engagement for community, to build a sense of leadership and do some good in this city. If people can say, 'I was a part of that,' it just ups the ante. It really communicates a consistent message. The HUB is there to make a difference in Memphis and involve people, either on the receiving end as well as people on the giving end."
And according to Beatrice Kimmons, the executive director of the Hospitality HUB, coffee is important to the work.
"People don't realize that we take for granted the small things," she said. "A cup of coffee at the HUB starts a relationship. It makes people feel like, 'Okay, you're not trying to push me into any change. I'm getting coffee.' That gives us a chance to talk to the person, network with the person, and hopefully develop some changes in their lives."
"The HUB is a vital part of the Memphis community," she said. "The HUB is able to give what one individual or agency can't give. We give the whole scope. We have the time because of our counselors. We're simply saying to the community: Don't forget the HUB. Continue to support us so we can make some changes in people's lives and help end homelessness."
J. Brooks' HUB flavor will be available this week at John's Pantry, Trolley Stop Market, Miss Cordelia's Grocery, both locations of Muddy's Bake Shop, and the SuperLo on Spottswood.