By Brianna Chu
Sailor’s Brew Coffee is a Pasadena-based wholesale coffee company, a passion project born from native Pasadenan Trévon Sailor’s love for coffee and a desire to connect and fuel a community of positive and resilient folks.
Sailor began his journey into coffee roasting and sales two years ago, simply through his own love of coffee. The impetus was prompted by conversations with family friend Kip Rolfe, during the time when he co-owned the Sidewalk Cafe (today, it no longer has that name and has a new owner). As Rolfe shared his experiences with and insights into the coffee industry and, especially, the roasting process, Sailor began to realize that his fascination for coffee was more than simply a passing interest.
Thus, early in 2018, Sailor began envisioning his own unique brand of coffee company; one that not only fueled people’s mornings, but also their life’s journeys. The brand and its aesthetic grew not only from a play on his last name, Sailor, but also his personal outlook on life. Sailor considers us all to be captains of our own ships, sailing the constantly shifting seas of our lives. We have our own unique vessels and routes, all headed towards different destinations and goals. Two of Sailor’s Brew’s coffees feature a unique ship and wave pattern on their labels, and the nautical theme is evident in their apparel and coffee canister designs.
Though to his knowledge, his paternal grandfather and his brothers opened one of the first Black-owned grocery stores in Detroit many years ago, none of Sailor’s immediate family has prior experience working in the food or hospitality industry. Sailor had to navigate this new path himself, and immersed himself in research on coffee, its industry, and business models. In his initial brainstorming, Sailor briefly considered establishing a cold brew coffee company before settling on what Sailor’s Brew is today: an all-encompassing, direct-to-customer coffee company.
Early in the summer of 2018, Sailor and a friend visited Colombia; while the trip was mostly for vacation, it also provided him an opportunity to network and gain a deeper understanding of Colombian coffee. Upon returning from the trip and digging deeper into the origins of the coffee bean, Sailor looked into sourcing coffee from Ethiopia, the birthplace of the arabica bean.
Sailor investigates his sources as thoroughly as possible to find importers that share his value of social responsibility as well as ensure that their coffee is fair trade, single-origin, and organic. One of his first importers was a family-run business based in Texas for this very reason. His connection with Rolfe, too, has helped provide coffee sources. Most impressively, Sailor managed to forge a direct connection with a coffee farmer in Ethiopia through his personal network, which he feels fortunate to have made. Sailor hopes to be able to connect directly with farmers as much as he can, though there are often coffee cooperatives to which farmers in a region contribute. For Sailor’s Brew’s supply of certified Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, he contacted the Jamaican government, since they have their own process to verify, grade, and certify the coffee.
Although the initial idea and motivation stemmed from Sailor, he involved his younger brothers, Tevin and Travis, early on, sharing ideas and asking them for feedback. He wanted Sailor’s Brew to be their family’s company, something that they could all pass down with pride to their children. As soon as the website was completed in late 2018—they celebrate their second anniversary this month, in fact!—all three hit the ground running, and Sailor feels that they’ve all become closer through the process.
Over the past two years, Sailor’s Brew has hosted pop-ups all over Pasadena, from churches to restaurants to Paseo Colorado, and has expanded its shipping capabilities worldwide. They’re proud to have shipped to most of the states within the U.S., and Sailor is especially pleased that their philosophy has resonated with people from all over. “Any time you can create something and someone who doesn’t know you can receive that and understand your vision and intent,” he says, “is the best feeling.”
He enjoys the grind (his pun entirely intended) of trial and error as they continue to build and expand Sailor’s Brew. Of course, more coffees are on the not-so-distant horizon for the company, and Sailor is also working on a Sailor’s Brew app, which would allow not only for ease of coffee and merchandise purchasing but will allow Sailor a way to send motivational and encouraging messages to the whole Sailor’s Brew crew. He knows that taking the first steps towards realizing an idea, like his own journey to creating Sailor’s Brew, can often be challenging, and he wants Sailor’s Brew to not only help people start their mornings but also help get them where they want to go in their own lives.
Sailor’s Brew has weathered the storm of the pandemic, pausing their search for a retail location and focusing instead on how they got their start: online sales. During the week of Nov. 8, Sailor’s Brew will be donating 10% of all proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support, services, outreach, and events for veterans and active service members. An Army veteran himself, Sailor is doing his part to help take care of his brothers- and sisters-in-arms. You can order Sailor’s Brew coffee, apparel, and drinkware from their website: sailorsbrewcoffee.com.