Axum Coffee co-owners and Winter Garden residents Renaut and Brooke van der Riet (pictured with their children) give residents a place to gather and enjoy a great cup of coffee, while giving back to the community.
Coffee lovers instantly become do-gooders when they break from the daily grind and stop in at House Blend Cafe in Ocoee or Axum Coffee in Winter Garden. The trendy, nonprofit coffee shops use their net profits to make a difference throughout the community, across the country and around the globe.
“Our tag line is ‘Eat Good, Do Good,’” said Josh Taylor, an Ocoee resident and founder and general manager of House Blend Cafe. “We’ve committed that 100 percent of our net profit will be used to love and serve the people in our community and around the world. No one is getting rich off of this. We want to be a change agent in people’s lives and get the focus off of self and onto helping, loving and serving others. Very simply, love is ‘others above self’.”
House Blend Cafe, located at 10730 W. Colonial Drive, gives back to the community in a wide variety of ways, including feeding the homeless, funding services for women and children in need, home renovation projects and helping to restore neighborhoods, supporting other people who have a heart to serve, and even helping to start other House Blend Cafes in other communities.
Founded six years ago, House Blend Cafe has worked with Matthew’s Hope to aid the more than 500 homeless individuals in west Orange County. Two years ago, the café organized a one-day event that included clothes and toy donations, haircutting and shower stations, and plenty of warm meals and hot coffee. The café continues to serve and feed the homeless on a regular basis.
House Blend Cafe helps mentor children and families in east Winter Garden through Impact, a program for the children residing in an inner-city community of Winter Garden.
“The goal is to do life together with these families while mentoring the kids and helping and coaching the parents when possible,” Taylor said.
Addressing the global water crisis is another top priority for House Blend Cafe, which worked with other local organizations to raise money and build an $11,000 water well in Chapa, Ethiopia.
“There are about 400 children in this village; most are orphans,” Taylor said.
“Worldwide, a child dies every 15 seconds from causes related to unclean water. The well is actually finished, and we hope to take a trip there in February and get to drink from it,” added Taylor, who also is raising money to build more classrooms for the children and rooms for the orphans.
In addition to its philanthropic efforts, House Blend Cafe offers the community a place to congregate.
“I washed dishes when I was 15 in a little Chinese restaurant, and in one form or another, even all through college, I have worked in a restaurant,” Taylor said. “I have been in the restaurant business for 22 years. It’s a hard business to run, but what’s great about it is that there is no better venue to bring people together. We want people to come here to do life together — to meet people and come hang out. House Blend is a vehicle to have relationships happen.”
The café offers a complete dinner for four for $15.96 to encourage families to eat together more often.
“ So many families are duel-income,” Taylor said. “We created this special so it’s easy to come in and grab it. We want people to have more family meals, because coming around the table together is so important.”
Additional food and beverage options also are available. Guests can choose from a wide variety of selections, including the café’s Mexican salad and curry stew over rice. Taylor, who is originally from Baton Rouge, offers several family recipes “with a Louisiana flare” and hosts a seasonal crawfish broil.
“We went to great lengths to find and freshly roast the best coffee,” he said. “We want people to come in because the food blows them away and they feel welcomed and loved.”
Established December 2010, Axum Coffee, located in Suite 110 at 146 W. Plant St. in downtown Winter Garden, also provides the community with a place to gather for a cause. Just like House Blend Cafe, Axum Coffee donates 100 percent of its profits to myriad local, national and international causes.
According to Winter Garden resident and General Manager Suzanne Bernal, Axum Coffee is named after the oldest city in Ethiopia, which is populated by 45,000 people, including 1,000 orphans who live on the streets. Axum Coffee hopes to bring the struggling city fresh, clean water and enhanced medical care, while sponsoring Axum’s orphans and others suffering from poverty.
“We wanted to have a place where the community could gather, and also have some good come out of people spending their money,” said Suzanne, who helped launch the coffee shop with her husband, General Manager Mathias Bernal; and Axum Coffee co-owners Renaut van der Riet, lead pastor of Mosaic Community Church in Oakland, and his wife of 15 years, Brooke.
“We give back everything on the bottom line,” Suzanne said. “Our saying is ‘Serving the World … One Cup of Coffee at a Time.’ Axum is a place where you can support your regular coffee habit, but know your money will go to help other people, both locally and globally. That’s where our heart is.”
“Not just a place about coffee, tea, smoothies, pastries, panini and desserts, but rather a place about people in the community coming together around a cause,” Renaut said. “A place about helping those in need, locally and globally. A place about giving instead of taking. We wanted to find a way to tangibly touch the lives of people in need — orphans, human-trafficking victims, the poverty-stricken, those without potable water — while creating a place that unites the local community.”
Suzanne is extremely proud of the high-quality, freshly roasted coffee and great food Axum Coffee offers its guests. Its baristas stay current with the latest coffee tastes and trends, and receive knowledge from coffee trade shows and extensive onsite training.
“I love it; I’m a coffee geek,” Suzanne said. “Our baristas are trained in the art of making the perfect shot. We get so many compliments on our coffee. We only buy top-quality beans, and our roaster has a long history. It is really important to us to have top-notch coffee available.”
Another unique feature that sets Axum Coffee apart is its impressive pour-over bar, where guests select their beans, and the coffee is ground and brewed right in front of them, resulting in a perfectly extracted, clean and flavorful cup of coffee.
However, guests do not visit just for the coffee.
“Our guests know they are loved, because we know their names and their drinks and what they are eating,” Suzanne said. “They feel cared for and satisfied, and are able to talk about what’s going on in their lives. Axum is a place where guests are not just numbers, but people with stories to tell.”
For more information about House Blend Cafe, call 407-656-7676 or visit www.houseblendcafe.com on the Web. For more information about Axum Coffee, call 352-552-8074 or visit www.axumcoffee.com on the Web.
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