The Local Exchange: Duluth coffee roaster gives back to community one cup at a time
DULUTH, MN. (KBJR) - It’s no secret: the world runs on coffee, even Duluth, Minnesota.
Alyza Bohbot James is the owner and CEO of Alakef Coffee Roasters, which is a business that all began with her dad’s quest to find the perfect cup of coffee 30 years ago.
“He just started roasting coffee in his kitchen for his own consumption and started giving it to friends and neighbors and family and everyone thought, ‘Wow, this is like nothing we’ve ever tried before,’ and so they started a coffee roasting business,” Bohbot James said.
The business first opened in the basement of the old school building on London Road.
It is now located on Superior Street.
Alakef only sources the top five percent of specialty-grade coffee from around the world.
“That first cup of coffee, or that morning when their spouse starts the coffee maker and they wake up and smell that coffee, and that’s their favorite part of the day,” Bohbot James said.
Duluth Grill has served Alakef for more than a decade, and they’re proud of it.
“You don’t spontaneously get customers coming up asking what kind of coffee you serve too often, but we get it constantly here that the customer recognizes just this kind of clean, crisp flavor,” Duluth Grill Owner Tom Hanson said.
Hanson said buying local is an added bonus to the coffee’s quality.
“We’ve been approached, and we’ve taste-tested side by side, and there are some very good coffees out there, but we’ve found nothing that could replace or exceed Alakef in that sense,” Hanson said.
Bohbot James is not just in the business of roasting quality coffee.
When her parents retired, she stepped up with a new idea: another brand of coffee called City Girl Coffee.
“We source exclusively from women-owned and managed farms and cooperatives from around the world, and then we work with some organizations to give back and ensure that these women have access to financing, education, resources, and positions of power,” Bohbot James said.
With the creation of City Girl Coffee, Bohbot James said she is furthering her parents’ success and bringing awareness to inequity around the world.
“We now have both the Alakef brand and the City Girl Coffee brand, which to me is so wonderful because it’s sort of the legacy and history of what my parents had built, and then sort of the future and what I was able to bring to the company as well,” she said.
Whether roasting Alakef or City Girl, the mission remains the same: give back to where it all began.
“Duluth is where I was born,” Bohbot James said. “It’s my hometown. It’s where we built this amazing company, and it continues to be a community that we want to support and give back to.”
“Alakef Gives” is a program where customers and staff can recommend charities, and Alakef will donate a portion of their profits at the end of the year.
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