Kenya MomPremier builds community through coffee
Words by Zack Grossenbacher
Photos by Andrew Welch
At Green Bean, everything is intentional. Take a cup of coffee, which is always made as a pour-over. A precise-to-the-gram measurement of beans is ground only after the cup is ordered. Then the water is brought to a precise temperature. The barista wets the paper filter and discards the used water to avoid watering down the drink and degrading the flavor. By the time the barista is putting the eight heaping tablespoons of freshly ground coffee in the filter, customers sometimes begin to look on with the air of, “Is this really necessary?” But to Green Bean founder Kenya MomPremier, care, process, and intentionality are the only way to run her newly opened café and juice bar.
Just like the cup of coffee her business sells, Green Bean was the result of a long, thoughtful process. A graduate of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, MomPremier studied business before moving to D.C. She now lives in Dallas with her husband and two children, but when she was looking to start a business, she wanted to give back to the city that had provided her with a home and an education. It wasn't easy. “We started during a hard time,” MomPremier said, “right at the beginning of COVID. People were looking for something else to talk about. Businesses were looking for hope.”
The shape of the businesses is intimately tied to MomPremier's personal journey. She started paying closer attention to what she put in her body when she began having children. “My entire respect towards health changed after I had them,” she said. When her first child was one year old, MomPremier would take him out on a daily morning walk. She found herself with little time to prepare breakfast and started looking for easier options. She went out to Target, picked up her first blender, and began making fresh fruit smoothies. “There was no cleanup,” she said, “and because it's simple, I could involve my child.” From smoothies, it was a quick jump to cold-pressed juices. Soon she was more intentional about every decision she made regarding what she allowed around her children. She now grows her own food and ensures that her family is eating real, natural produce.
Initially, Green Bean was going to focus on selling cold-pressed juices and smoothies. Once she selected the location—downtown Jackson—MomPremier began receiving advice that there would be a great demand for coffee, considering the number of businesses in the area. And, again, her family's history informed her business decisions. “My husband is from Haiti,” she said, “where there is a strong coffee culture.” The two even met in a coffee shop in D.C. If the vision was going to grow, it had to be in line with her values. “If I'm going to add coffee, it's going to have to be in a way that feels natural.”
Businesses that focus on quick coffee orders for on-the-go professionals often rely on the speed of coffee and espresso machines. But MomPremier says that while “machines make things more efficient, they take away from the process and the taste.” That process, which really gets going once water hits the ground beans in the first of two pours—a step known as the “bloom” because it opens up the grounds and allows them to release a more favorable aroma and flavor—allows her staff to take the time to get to know her customers as well. She finds that walking her customers through the process step by step gets them interested. Once they understand, “they look at you like you're doing chemistry!”
Green Bean is thriving despite the pandemic. Recently, MomPremier started inviting local musicians once a month on a Saturday morning to “just vibe on our sofa.” She is also looking to other small businesses in the area. She wants Green Bean to be part of Jackson’s effort to change its narrative, showing that it has more to offer than once thought. She knows that community makes strong businesses too. “We want to help generate profit for each other.”
In this way, as she is with her store, MomPremier is becoming a curator of sorts for Jackson, finding artists and musicians and entrepreneurs and bringing them together to work, be healthy, and drink a cup of coffee. “I'm searching for all of the greatness that Jackson has,” she said, “in all its little niches."