4 Small Companies You Should Know About


Whether you want to revamp your coffee setup, your wardrobe, or your kitchen, these four companies have you covered, while helping to cover their communities.


If you’re like me, scrolling through online shopping guides of things you’ll never buy can be therapeutic. However, some things are worth stopping the scroll for, checking out, and, well, hitting Check Out.

Take these small businesses, for instance. They not only make really cool stuff, but more importantly, give back to their communities, too, from supporting Indigenous elders to preserving forests. So you can have a little look, and feel really good about maybe adding one more coffee cup to your growing collection.

Umeko Motoyoshi started a company after they created a rainbow cupping spoon just for them. People were into it, and Umeshiso was born. Photo courtesy of Umeshiso.

Coffee Gear & Other Neat Stuff: Umeshiso

Umeshiso is a queer and POC “Gaysian”-owned online shop based in Kansas City, Mo. (as the website describes, “the center of the spooniverse”). Here you’ll find some cult-status spoons in different colorways (including the famous rainbow cupping spoon), brewers, chopsticks, books, drinking glasses, noodle bowls, a grinder … basically, anything your heart desires to cute-ify your coffee setup (and your life).

Run by owner Umeko Motoyoshi (they/them), Umeshiso is not just a shop with adorable gadgets and impeccable social media posts. Umeko is very open about their struggles with mental illness and marginalization, and uses their platform to spread awareness for and support marginalized communities. They regularly donate to organizations such as Trans and Caffeinated, the Kansas City Indian Center, and the Loveland Foundation. They also price their items on a sliding scale to help make access easier. “My business,” Umeko told Barista Magazine in an interview last year, “and pretty much everything about me, is all really related to me trying to build a life for myself. Because the existing systems and options just don’t work for someone who’s mentally ill and disabled.”

Coalatree uses coffee grounds to make a sustainable outdoor clothing line. Photo by Alain Gehri.

Clothing Made From Coffee: Coalatree Eco-Minded Goods

This company began as a sustainable farm in Colorado and is now an eco-minded adventure-wear brand based in Salt Lake City. Coalatree has a line of clothing made from recycled plastic and coffee grounds, with hoodies, jeans, jackets, socks, and more. These clothes remove thousands of bottles and pounds of coffee grounds from landfills. The durable fabrics also have benefits like UV protection and water and odor resistance.

Coalatree also puts an emphasis on giveback programs, donating to the likes of the US Forest Service and Save Our Canyons, as well as local initiatives including donating blankets to unhoused folks and sponsoring Indigenous Navajo elders.

High Garden saves $0.50 from every product sold and places it in a forest savings account to preserve forests. Photo by J. Marie Carlan.

Fine Teas and Herbs: High Garden Heirloom Herbal and Tea Craft

If you’re looking for unique curated teas, tisanes, and whole herbs, look no further. High Garden began as a beloved tea shop in Nashville, Tenn., catering to tea fanatics and herbalists. A massive tornado in 2020 destroyed their shop; the global pandemic also halted plans to rebuild or relocate. Nevertheless, owners Leah and Joel Larabell persevered with their online store, which is still stocking organic or wild-crafted teas and herbs, tinctures, and tonics.

Leah has extensive training in clinical herbalism and describes herself as an eco-herbalist: “We don’t use herbs, we work with herbs” is the company motto. A focus is placed on balancing human need with the needs of nature, knowing where teas and other ingredients come from, and harvesting sustainably. They also have an informative Instagram profile, where Leah shares tips and recipes, and helps people understand how to safely interact and work with plants.

Handmade ceramics make your coffee experience feel a little more special. Photo by Anne Nygård.

Drinking Vessels: Heo Ceramics

Los Angeles-based artist Karen Tong creates colorful and bold ceramic designs, including collaboration mugs with Counter Culture Coffee and Food52. Notable works include a missing tooth mug, squiggly handles, and geometric designs.

Karen is the daughter of Vietnamese refugees and spent five years living and working in New Mexico on the Navajo Reservation. Inspired by Southeast Asian and Bauhaus art, Pee-wee Herman colors, and Southwest U.S. desert forms, Karen’s wide range of artistic influences carry over into unique and functional objects perfect for holding a good brew. Karen also works with The Infinite School, a learning center that helps “demystify ceramics” for students of the art medium.


J. Marie Carlan (she/they) is the online editor for Barista Magazine. She’s been a barista for 15 years and writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil. When she’s not behind the espresso bar or toiling over content, you can find her perusing record stores, writing poetry, and trying to keep the plants alive in her Denver apartment. She occasionally updates her blog.

Cover image of the April + May 2024 19th Anniversary Issue

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Source: Barista Magazine

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