Rob Kennedy is a coffee geek of the highest order. Not just drinking it, but knowing its history and its potential.
He’ll tell you that coffee was once used in place of holy wine. That English and German governments outlawed coffee so they could make it a controlled substance. That the first coffee house opened in Constantinople in the 15th century. And perhaps most importantly, he sees coffee as an incredible vehicle for helping people find their passion and rhythm.
Kennedy has poured his knowledge of all things coffee into Saint and Rebel Consulting as a means of assisting others to get started in the coffee business. After going to the Middle East in 2011 for missionary work, he returned to Richmond, determined to make a difference. Learning all things coffee was the first step.
An internship at Blanchard’s Coffee taught him about different kinds of coffee and how to roast the beans. He worked four part-time jobs so he could volunteer at a coffee shop to learn how to make espresso. In 2012, he moved back to the Middle East to open a coffee shop that’s still running today. Over the four years he lived there, he worked with many refugees from terror groups, training them on the intricacies of coffee as a means of securing them work.
When he returned to Richmond last year, it was to work with World Horizons USA using business as a mission to enrich communities by helping people who are homeless, jobless or refugees get job training. “I wanted to continue that work because I’m qualified to do that,” he says from where else, a coffee shop, in this case, Lift Coffee on Broad Street.
He and his wife, Jin Hee Kennedy, started Saint and Rebel Consulting as a way of helping others achieve their coffee goals, whether that’s starting their own coffee shops or ratcheting up existing coffee service. It starts with clients filling out questionnaires so that the Kennedys can learn more about them and their visions.
“Then we meet and discuss our available services,” he says. “We’re trying to understand who they are, so my questions are about who they are as people, not their cafe ideas.”
From there, Saint and Rebel rolls out a plan that takes the client from the day of the talk through opening day, laying out what the owner needs to accomplish and when it needs to happen. The plan includes helping choose coffee and machinery as well as training and social media management. “Whether the client chooses to use our plans or not, they are theirs to keep,” Kennedy says. “Why? Because we want everyone to succeed.”
For clients with existing businesses, Saint and Rebel helps with staff training in roasting and coffee drink making. As part of the mission, it also does free programs for the jobless, homeless and refugee populations.
Most importantly, Kennedy is intent on spreading the gospel of “it matters how you make it.” By that, he means ethically sourcing your coffee and serving it in sustainable ways.
As for the current trend toward light, acidic and fruity-style coffees, he’d like to see the shaming of dark coffee lovers stop. He says the first thing is to be honest with yourself.
“You can’t be afraid to put cream in your coffee. Have your coffee any way you like it.”
The way Kennedy sees it, he’s on a mission.
“Coffee changed my life and other lives and I want to continue that.”Back to the Coffee Issue