Angela Yee’s New Coffee Shop Amplifies The Drink’s African Origin

Angela Yee. Image: courtesy of Coffee Uplifts People

Angela Yee is the definition of booked, busy and blessed. The Brooklyn-based radio personality hosts one of the nation’s hottest morning shows and still finds time for philanthropy, public partnerships, real estate investments, multiple businesses, and a book club. Earlier this year the multipreneur added a new title to her repertoire—owner of a Bed Stuy, Brooklyn coffee shop named CUP.

Coffee Uplifts People (CUP) is a partnership between Yee and fellow co-founders Tony Forte and ​​LaRon Batchelor. The trio has a cultural mission to supply the highest quality coffee and coffee house experiences. CUP started as a line of coffee roasts in partnership with Brooklyn Roasting Company, but quickly morphed into a brick and mortar store thanks to the pandemic. “I walked around my Brooklyn neighborhood a lot during [the height of shutdowns],” Yee tells EBONY. “What I realized is there’s a lot of smaller coffee shops in the area, but they don’t have diverse menu offerings.” 

That realization prompted Yee to find a home for the product that was already in a soft launch and create an experience around it. Moved to action, the natural go-getter called up her realtor right away and began looking for spaces. With buy-in from her partners, they negotiated on a space in Bed Stuy with enough room for casual dining and outdoor seating. In August, CUP opened its doors at 329 Gates Ave, sporting an interior designed by Leyden Lewis, a Brooklyn-based Black-owned design studio. 

“I think part of making sure that we are taking care of each other is supporting each other’s businesses too,” Yee says of the intentional decision to have a Black designer create the space. “I know it’s easy to go online and find a company or get a referral, but there were so many, honestly so many, great designers that were Black, that submitted their proposals, it was really hard for us to narrow it down.” In all, Yee received 14 proposals for the project. In the end, she chose a design that brought the outdoors in with lush greenery and wooden tables. Yee also loves that it has multiple entrances, providing a natural flow.  

On the menu at CUP, guests can find a host of offerings, all of which are from Black and Brown companies. The West Indian-American made sure to include patties and other traditional baked goods, as well as cafe staples like avocado toast and egg sandwiches. “Right now, it’s a period of trial and error,” Yee says of the evolving menu. “We’re seeing what people really react to the best. And when people ask for things, we’re very open and flexible to adapting to what we feel the neighborhood needs.”

The crown jewel of the menu is none other than the line of coffee roasts Yee helped to create. While she’s excited for everyone to try them, she’s particularly moved by the opportunity to bring these high-quality cups to the Black community. “Coffee is really not marketed toward our community,” Yee shares. “But what people don’t understand is that coffee started in Ethiopia.” Yee hopes that having the roasts in stores and having coffee shops within the community will help bolster that fact, as well as the health benefits that come along with consuming the popular drink.  

“If it’s natural, if you have the organic coffee beans, it’s really great for your digestive system,” Yee underscores. “It’s been proven to help with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, all kinds of health benefits. It also gives you energy, obviously, so it’s great for working out.”

Energy is something Yee seems to have in unlimited supply, but she insists she does make time for a little rest and relaxation. Massages and manicures have a permanent place on her agenda and she flexes her “no” card when necessary. “I give myself things to look forward to,” says Yee.

At the moment that’s vacation next month, but also, seeing CUP pop up in new stores. “If you see it in the store and feel it in your heart to support us and buy it —thank you. It’s not guaranteed to have that shelf space,” Yee asserts. “Having people buy and post [their purchase on social media] is the best branding that we could possibly have. So I’m really looking forward to that.”

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