Md. woman turns crisis into opportunity to build coffee company

This is part of WTOP’s continuing coverage of people making a difference from our community authored by Stephanie Gaines-Bryant. Read more of that coverage.

When Savannah Mitchell was a child, her favorite thing to do was to have tea parties with her dolls.

Mitchell recalls coordinating elaborate parties, brunches and dinners using her finest coffee and tea sets purchased by her parents. Mitchell said she made treats using her Easy Bake Oven and made cucumber sandwiches.

“Coffee has always been a part of me,” Mitchell said. “This is not a discovery I just thought of one day.”

Her interest in hospitality and cherry blossoms brought the native New Yorker to Howard University, where she majored in hospitality. After graduation, she catered events part-time as she worked full-time in government for 20 years.

Savannah Mitchell. (Courtesy Mitchell)

In 2020, when the pandemic began, she was notified that her position had been abolished. Mitchell took the loss of her job as an opportunity to pursue her dream.

“Out of crisis, comes opportunity,” Mitchell said. “That’s the first philosophy to embrace.”

Mitchell became the CEO and owner of Sunday Morning Coffee Co. The Anne Arundel County, Maryland, resident says Black women make up only 9% of coffee company owners in the country despite coffee’s deep roots in Africa.

“We are in a very white-male oriented industry,” Mitchell said.

She discussed coffee’s origins in Ethiopia and how it was a large part of the slave trade, saying, “as slaves we were often traded for coffee or traded to cultivate coffee.”

The Sunday Morning Coffee Company Emma roast. (Courtesy Savannah Mitchell)

Mitchell said she believes that part of her mission is to educate her community about the historical significance of coffee.

“We have been left out of the socioeconomic arena of coffee,” Mitchell said.

She said she had to go out to the community to do tastings because she said people are familiar with the traditional brands, Maxwell House and Folgers, but they have the perception that premium brands are too expensive.

Sunday Morning Coffee Co. has 12 blends. During the pop up tastings in Maryland she said, “We allow them to touch it, smell it. We allow them to taste it black. We allow them to taste it dressed up.”

She said she’s witnessed many converts over the years as the business has grown. Today,  hers is the only Black-owned coffee brand in the D.C. Wegmans, something about which she’s proud.

“It’s amazing how this journey has come full circle.”

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant

Stephanie Gaines-Bryant is an Anchor and Reporter for WTOP. Over the past 20 years, Stephanie has worked in several markets, including Baltimore, Washington, Houston and Charleston, holding positions ranging from newscaster to morning show co-host.

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