Photo c/o Arielle Rebekah
Arielle Rebekah is determined to change the world through visibility and education, inside and outside the world of coffee. As a coffee professional, consultant, Sprudge contributor, speaker (including at New York Coffee Fest), and activist, Rebekah has lived by the philosophy that you "don’t let yourself be limited by what other people say the limits are."
We have come to know Rebekah through their work with social justice-focused coffee businesses in our community, and we are stoked to connect with Rebekah digitally to learn more about their work and coffee journey.
Brewista: Tell us about your journey in the world of coffee.
I feel like a million people share similar beginnings in coffee—but yes, I too started as a Starbucks Barista. In 2015, I had just graduated from Carlbrook, a therapeutic boarding school in Southern Virginia. It was at boarding school that I came out as transgender. After my negative experience and mistreatment by the school's administration, the only thing I knew for certain was I needed a safe container to transition. I’d heard good things about Starbucks’ support for transgender employees and decided to apply.
Over the next 5 years I transitioned, and was supported by my community, fellow Starbucks partners, and Starbucks’ bar-raising insurance coverage for transition-related care. I left Starbucks when the pandemic hit, but knew I wanted to find ways to stay connected in the coffee industry, even if not as a barista. Through my involvement in Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON, I started to meet queer, trans, and other marginalized coffee people from around the country and formed a tight-knit community. While for 2 years this community was largely online, when I began meeting folks in person in 2022, I knew that my time in the industry was far from over. I knew I’d found a home, a community I want to keep involved in for the rest of my life.
What are the roots of Trans and Caffeinated? What inspired you to build this platform?
At Starbucks, I had started gaining corporate recognition for my storytelling, not just about coffee but about my personal journey. By February 2020, I delivered two sessions at the Starbucks corporate office on supporting trans employees. Almost immediately, Starbucks decided to fly me back for their Pride flag-raising event and integrate my services into the corporate office’s Pride Month activities.
At the same time, I had started to build significant momentum as a public speaker —I had interest from folks wanting me to speak at their schools, in their offices, etc. For obvious reasons outside any of our control (a global pandemic), none of this ended up happening. It took three years to build back to that point, and I played it extremely strategically and methodically (as a surprise to absolutely no one who’s seen my spreadsheets lol). In Summer 2022, I gleefully realized it was time to once again make the leap into full-time consulting work.
In terms of what inspired me: my experience at Carlbrook, coupled with the overwhelming amount of mistreatment I and many other transgender people experience within and outside of the workplace. I am inspired to help build a better, safer tomorrow for all transgender people. I want to be a part of the solution, to help ensure that one day, no one has to experience the pain and challenges that trans people currently do.
I also support marginalized-owned and social justice-focused coffee businesses in event planning and project management. However, I recognize that as long as so many people spend the majority of our waking hours at work, workplace safety and support will remain a critical element in our liberation.
What do you love most about your work?
I’m sure this is cliché, but the people! As an anti-capitalist, this is what keeps me going. The work I enjoy the most is that which allows me to see and experience the real world impact I can have on people, and getting to be changed and better for my experiences with them, as well.
What does your coffee ritual look like? Describe your favorite coffee drink!
Honestly I’m a big latte drinker most of the time. I love a sweet lil flavored latte in a decorative teacup with Califia Farms Oatmilk and some kind of Torani syrup. Recently it’s been Salted Egg Yolk Mochas!
If I’m feeling a pourover, I tend to favor my Brewista kettle and Origami dripper. I love how meditative and intentional brewing is, and really lean into this routine when I need to feel more grounded in my morning.
Our readers are really serious about coffee. For aspiring coffee pros, what is one single advice you would like to give them as they navigate the coffee industry?
Don’t let yourself be limited by what other people say the limits are. There is space in this industry for you to be your full and authentic self. Just because a particular role doesn’t exist doesn’t mean it can’t exist. Fight for your dreams, create space for yourself, and when faced with opposition remember you don’t have to do it alone—it is not only okay to ask for help, but it is vital to each of our success and well-being.
I did not get to where I am without a massive amount of help and people willing to take a chance on me. Nobody does. If someone looks like they got where they are all on their own, they’re definitely faking it. You deserve support, too. And you’re worthy of each and every opportunity someone is willing to give you. Even if the first opportunity doesn’t work out, keep going—sometimes it takes years for your dreams to actualize, but that doesn’t mean they won’t.