A Culture of Coffee in Web3: $Coffee, Culture, and Crypto

Coffee is our muse, our hero—but what’s a hero without an origin story?

We owe so much of our social innovations and modern advances to coffee. It drives and inspires us; makes us dig deep within ourselves to be more, do more, create more. Now, with new collective values, we leverage it to be, do, and create better. Coffee is our muse, our hero—but what’s a hero without an origin story?

Nearly ten years ago, I set out to write a book about the Ethiopian coffee ceremony and the origins of our global coffee culture. I remember being rejected at every turn by publishing industry gatekeepers. As an Ethiopian-American, the concept of the project was deeply personal. Yet as a cultural curator, I knew that books and exhibitions on Ethiopia and the continent at-large were rarely produced by authors and artists who look like me, those who have a direct connection to the culture being represented. A decade later, this industry bias remains, propagating the exoticism of the white gaze. The problem wasn’t specific to the arts world or publishing though. I was also ignored by the coffee industry. (At the time, Ethiopia was still being fiercely contested as the birthplace of coffee and Starbucks was attempting to trademark Ethiopian geographic indicators like Sidamo and Harar to brand their specialty reserves). Needless to say, there was an obvious gap in the market and an urgent need to redress it. But a Black woman, let alone an American-born child of Ethiopian immigrants intent on righting and writing about historical inaccuracies were not exactly “on trend”.

Undeterred by the lack of interest, I went independent. I forged ahead and crowdfunded, appealing to my community to help me document our culture. My aim was to publish an indie coffee table book and produce a transmedia blog that featured compelling content on traditional Ethiopian and modern coffee rituals. I wanted to explore the legacy of our past and the influence Ethiopia has had on present-day coffee culture.

I had three primary goals in mind:

  • To recognize Ethiopia as the birthplace of coffee.
  • To familiarize the world with the Ethiopian coffee ceremony.
  • To facilitate cross-cultural exchange by connecting with an online network of coffee lovers through storytelling and social media engagement.

In a year’s time, I was grateful to achieve these goals and a few more. I hosted, live coffee tastings, social events, and a book launch in Washington, D.C., partnering with local artists and up-and coming Ethiopian coffee brands.

Clockwise from the left: Kaffa Club event 2013; Lemma Guya, 1972; A Culture of Coffee Book Launch, 2013;
Clockwise from the left: Kaffa Club event 2013; Lemma Guya, 1972; A Culture of Coffee Book Launch, 2013;

That was 2013, the year I birthed A Culture of Coffee. A lot has changed for me since then, but unfortunately, a lot about publishing and the arts scene remains the same. Here’s why I’m so excited to re-engage this work now, as the book approaches its tenth anniversary:

Web3 is revolutionizing everything. It’s the antithesis of the Web2 business models that disproportionately benefited big publishing and coffee conglomerates. Web3 is all about community, a community is fueled by coffee☕️.  During the 17th century when coffee intersected with the proliferation of books and cafes it became the ultimate change agent.  Today, as it spurs the rapid growth of Web3, A Culture of Coffee stands at the brink of a second enlightenment.

The Commence of Buna; Abyssinia Designs, 2019
The Commence of Buna; Abyssinia Designs, 2019

Blockchain and NFTs have proven to be amazing technologies in the preservation and storage of essential cultural information and metadata. In this time of over stimulation, fake news, and false memories, it is essential that we document culture and establish historical linkages on-chain.

Using these new tools, we can transmit the updated book, digitize my research, and archive cultural artifacts to the “immutable record”. The project presents an opportunity to make coffee’s origin story accessible, with traceable provenance baked in. Additionally, and, perhaps, more importantly A Culture of Coffee offers a new model for cultural management and the collective transfer of historical knowledge with the hopes of making intangible elements of African heritage more tangible.

A Culture of Coffee offers a new model for cultural management and the collective transfer of historical knowledge …making intangible elements of African heritage more tangible.

The special anniversary edition of A Culture of Coffee will include an interactive book, token-enabled access to the virtual transmedia exhibit, archive of 3D artifacts, and NFT gallery, as well as, $COFFEE tokens for supporters of the crowdfund. The Web3 rise of micro and creator economies means that my vision for the project as an artful, dynamic, and community-owned crypto-artifact can be manifested to scale. All of this, while compensating the collaborators and coffee enthusiasts invested in collecting and preserving coffee culture, while actively shaping its future.

This time around I’ll be collaborating with Web3 aligned indie coffee brands, cafes, and companies, who work in real life (IRL) to keep our modern coffee culture strong by nurturing social dialogue and advocating for equitable coffee production.

As we prepare our crowdfund campaign to bring this future to life, we’ve also launched a Limited Twitter Spaces series called #CoffeeSocial to unpack all things at the intersection of $COFFEE, culture, and crypto. Join us in our Discord for related discussions and help shape the project that’s documenting our collective heritage on-chain.

Project Collaborators:

Metasebia Yoseph is a multidisciplinary artist, curator, and product manager with over a decade of experience working at the intersection of art and technology. She has produced a number of experimental cultural projects, writings, exhibitions, and community-based events.

Brook Getachew is a visual artist, designer, writer, founder as well as brand and community builder. Brook's artistic work is a meditative question on existence as he uses his experience as a mirror for others to pause and experience theirs. For more than 5 years, Brook has been helping startups, founders, artists, and individuals build a top of mind brand by finding values, and causes their communities resonate with.

If you would like to get involved, support, or contact A CULTURE OF COFFEE click here.

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