A red-winged mural cast on the wide side of Black Coffee in Fort Worth is reminiscent of a Phoenix floating above an outline of the city skyline. A directive, “Create Change,” is painted across the bottom. The striking colors and art on the exterior are carried throughout this standalone coffee shop.
Socially reverent artwork on the walls inside feels at home, hovering over spaciously placed tables and furniture. One painting of the late musician and artist Sun-Ra is done by local artist CHoKe. A painting of John Lewis hangs near a window, and there's another of Nipsy Hussle, both created by an artist who wishes not to be named.
Black Coffee opened in November 2019 in the East Fort Worth neighborhood Polytechnic, on the southern perimeter of Texas Wesleyan University. Over the past five years, this area has been transformed as part of the “Rosedale Renaissance,” a recently completed $6.7 million revitalization project that included the college campus and surrounding neighborhood.
Black Coffee makes a significant contribution to that renaissance. Owner Mia Moss, a Fort Worth native, worked at Seattle’s Best Coffee out of high school. While there she fell in love with coffee and realized “how coffee could bridge gaps and create relationships,” according to her website. She saw the need for a coffee shop and those subsequent connections in this neighborhood.
In late 2019, she opened, and all the pieces of her caffeine dream fell in line nicely. Then came 2020.
“This year has been a roller coaster,” Moss says. “We looked up one day in March of 2020, after only being open a few months, and there weren't any customers. It was surreal, like something from a movie. We acted fast and began offering curbside on the weekends only and online ordering.”
Getting enough hours for her staff was difficult. Losing employees because of the pandemic is a double-edged sword; restaurants that had to lay off workers a year ago are now struggling to find new staff, in some cases stunting their ability to reopen at full capacity. Training new workers, or finding the right people for the right job, is an industry-wide frustration.
To avoid losing her crew, last year Moss started a virtual tip jar.
“So many people supported us and donated what they could. We weathered the storm, and our same staff has been able to stay employed. We're now seeing an increase in traffic,” Moss says.
In another much-needed lifting of spirits, shortly after the February winter storm, gospel singer Kirk Franklin used the space to film a video. In the opening scene, Franklin asks Moss why her shop is called "Black Coffee." She explains that her first experience with coffee was her grandparents drinking their coffee black, then adds, "I'm a black woman in a black neighborhood, so it just fit."
Moss then suggests he try her favorite drink, a turmeric and honey latte pour-over.
The menu at Black Coffee includes a nice range of options but isn't overwhelming.There are 12 coffee drinks, including The Black Eye, a coffee with a shot of espresso ($3.50 for a 12 oz.), their daily brew, pour overs, macchiatos, an Americano and flavored lattes. They also have matcha latte, chai latte, loose leaf tea and iced tea – classic black over ice.
Black Coffee uses single-origin beans. While they don’t roast in-house, they select their own varieties and blends, which are packaged exclusively for their store and can be either picked up in the store or ordered online. Each bag is labeled with tasting notes, origin details and a roasting date.
A small case on the counter is stocked with La Casita baked goods and a few breakfast sandwiches. Coffee mugs, beans and other items are available online. Coffee purists can buy black shirts that read, “No Sugar, No Cream.” Not-so-purists have an option for a light shirt, “Lotta Sugar, Lotta Cream.” We'd be remiss not to mention there's an in-betweener, "Little Sugar, Little Cream." There's a place for everyone here.
Black Coffee, 1417 Vaughn Blvd., East Fort Worth, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday
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