Groundwork’s Coffee Community

The alarm blares through the darkness calling an end to random dreams nonsensical and welcomes in the all-too-common routine of another day. For most of us, one of the first steps is a palate-punching cup of coffee that serves as much as a vessel for caffeine as it does just another helper to push us over the next daily hurdle. The choices for what the coffee is, where it comes from, and how it’s made are evolving into a decadent smorgasbord of flavors and styles. With companies like GroundWork Coffee forging alliances with farmers and Fair Trade Co-ops, your choice for what to brew has taken a turn for the gourmet.

Recently, I was given some insight into the coffee community that is driven by people like the owner of GroundWork Coffee Jeff Chean. From his first experience with upper-end coffee during his late night law school study sessions, to the birth of GroundWork Coffee on the sun-soaked sand of Venice Beach, the business has always been driven by relationships. Jeff’s, and the rest of the company’s commitment to creating sustainable and economically encouraging ties with eco-friendly farmers is designed to set the community up for generations, not just the next harvest.

“Sustainable goes beyond just coffee. We created a revolving fund for organic farmers to help support caring for their crops and doing things the right way. It has to be worth it to the farmer to do what they are doing, and for their children.” ~ Jeff Chean

Their offerings showcase everything from their signature Black Gold Blend Coffee to single origin expressions like the AMUCC Columbiana Light Roast that a portion of the proceeds go to help support female organic coffee farmers who are forging a path through a male-dominated business.

As Brian, our amazingly talented barista, whipped up an Almond Milk Latte that nearly swayed me from my black as night ways, Holly, their PR Manager walked me through how every GroundWork coffee house is designed as a spot for the community, rather than simply a place to get a cup of joe. From movie nights and event-driven game nights to featuring only produce that is grown within 50 miles and delicious bites made in-house, I began to understand that GroundWork is just as much about the idea of community as they are serving award-winning coffee. 

Take away the coffee and what you have is a modern Parisian Salon where people can come together to discuss ideas, thoughts, and insights. But of course, the rich, robust layered coffee helps any conversation.

I asked Jeff why he decided to take this approach, when so many other companies simply move in, pour you a cup, and get on to the next caffeine fiend.

“We do it because it’s the right thing to do. You cannot divorce yourself from the community.”

And he’s right. Doing what’s right by making moves to expand into the Pacific Northwest coffee scene from Venice and keeping the tradition of local favorites, Kobos Coffee alive. This husband-wife run coffee roaster embodied the Pacific Northwest lifestyle of for 43 years, and when it came time to move on, GroundWork came in continued their ideals through their pillar of belief in community support.

While coffee might be the main attraction, the unwavering belief in community and commitment to doing things the right is setting the stage for a new relationship style between roasters and growers. Jeff, Holly, and Brian are prime examples for how caring for a craft can raise something as simple as coffee into a bridge making strangers into friends.


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