Vanessa Punche turned her coffee truck into a Mid City brick and mortar coffee shop on Redondo Boulevard, just south of Pico Boulevard.
By Ayanna Bonds
The inception of Los Angeles’ latest Black-owned coffee shop came after the 2018 incident where two Black men were arrested inside a Philadelphia Starbucks while waiting for a business meeting to begin. That incident outraged Black people across the nation, and for Windsor Hills native Vanessa Punche, it was a call to action, leading her to get into the coffee business.
“That just didn’t sit well with me,” she said. “I felt like they didn’t support people who look like me. So a vision was born. I always like to say that the business chose me. I didn’t choose this business. I was just fine working my corporate job for 25 years. I loved being a W-2 employee. I knew where my money was coming from every two weeks. But that thing (Starbucks incident) just pushed me into my own business.”
Punche knew that she did not want to sit at her management job in a medical field until she was in her 60s, but she did not have anything to retire into. The Starbucks incident, coupled with her love for coffee, led her to making the leap into starting her own business and launching L.A. Grind Coffee & Tea Bar.
“I was a coffee connoisseur,” she said. “I was that person who did visit Starbucks frequently. I love the smell of coffee and I love the taste of coffee.”
One of Punche’s first stops on her new path was at the Vermont Slauson Economic Development Corporation’s annual Mobile Retail and Food Truck Expo. With the support that she received from there, she started a coffee truck and landed a contract at LAX’s ride-share pick-up lot at the airport. Her ultimate goal was to open a coffee shop, which came shortly after. The shop would create a community space that the truck could not.
“Coffee brings people together, and it gives people a chance to conversate,” she said. “You’re always meeting somebody for coffee at the local coffee shop. Coffee is inviting.”
Local independent coffee shops can serve as community gathering spots, and Black-owned coffee shops tend to be cultural centers with community events, meetings, brunches, art shows, and pop up shops. This can be a better place for Black customers than a mainstream coffee shop. Also, when the coffee shop owner lives locally, it’s more likely that the surrounding community will have a greater benefit.
“With community coffee shops, a part of the profits are staying with that community,” Punche said.
While the experiences at a community coffee shop like L.A. Grind Coffee & Tea Bar can be more enriching than at mainstream coffee shops, the main attraction is still the coffee and the tea. Punche uses coffee beans from Cameroon, which are roasted locally by a coffee roaster who is also from Cameroon.
“You’re not going to find that in many places locally,” Punche said. “It’s non-acidic, full body, bold, and it has a delicious flavor. The tea is sourced locally, so there’s nothing special about the tea until I put my spin on it. I have hand-craft teas that I curate. So I have special blends that you won’t find at other shops.”
This is also a good place for people to work and study, as the venue has free Wi-Fi.
L.A. Grind Coffee & Tea Bar is located at 1412 S. Redondo Boulevard. Visit their website at www.lagrindcoffeeandteabar.com and follow them on social media.