Katerina Taylor’s father owned a grocery store. As a child, she would run a register in the store while standing on top of a milk crate. She went on to work for banks, the Dekalb Chamber of Commerce, the Workforce Development Agency for the City of Atlanta, and a law firm.
In the midst of a busy career, she followed the same entrepreneurial path as her father, and created her own business. During the pandemic lockdown in 2020, Taylor, along with her friend and current business partner Brad Hill, would discuss their travels.
They soon realized that one thing they had in common, no matter where in the world they were, is that they had to have coffee.
“We started talking about going into the store and being overwhelmed with all the coffee offerings,” Taylor said. “The coffee market is pretty saturated. But most of them you’ll see, it’s like a dessert coffee or there’s all these kinds of fancy names.”
Together, the pair believed they had tasted some of the best coffees in the world. With their combined experience, they decided to simplify the gourmet coffee market and make the best blends possible with the best beans.
In 2020, Taylor and Hill founded Hot Coffee, and began researching where the best coffee beans are grown.
“We found the regions, and we started working with roasters,” Taylor said. “We traveled to different places: we went to Seattle looking for roasters, we went to Mexico.”
The pair took their time developing the brand for Hot Coffee, in order to stay true to their goal of a simple coffee experience. They chose the straightforward name because they both love drinking hot coffee in the morning.
“We wanted to make sure that a simple gourmet cup of coffee didn’t have to feel simple or feel generic; it could still feel very high-end and luxurious,” Taylor said. “But it didn’t have to be so complicated.”
Hot Coffee offers three different blends, all in simple, foil bags. The company sells light, medium and dark roasts via their website. The dark roast is made with beans from Ethiopia, while the light and medium roasts are sourced from South America and Costa Rica.
One thing Taylor wants consumers to understand about coffee is which roasts have a higher caffeine count than others.
“Most people assume that dark coffee has the most caffeine, but it doesn’t,” Taylor said. “Dark coffee has the least amount of caffeine, light roast has the most amount of caffeine.”
Something that sets Hot Coffee apart is the duo’s belief that they are the first coffee retailer to accept cryptocurrency as their preferred method of payment, although they still accept debit and credit cards.
“Cryptocurrency has been around a long time … and the information is often not accessible to particular communities … Oftentimes, people of color are not in the room when those conversations are happening,” Taylor said. “So now that it’s more widely talked about, how do we get people comfortable with it? And [Hill and I] thought, ‘Well, people are not going to feel comfortable buying a car with cryptocurrency, but will they feel comfortable buying a bag of coffee, just to see how it works.’”
The Hot Coffee founders have been looking into other regions where quality beans are grown and may be introducing a new roast in the future. They also hope to establish a brick-and-mortar location in Grove Park.
“We were born in Grove Park,” Taylor said. “That area… doesn’t have its own coffee shop. And it doesn’t have a lot of the assets that most communities have to offer their residents … We always say we’re born and brewed [in Grove Park]. And so we want to make sure that we offer a coffee shop as a place for the community to call their own.”
Before other businesses try to migrate to the area, Taylor wants to establish hers first because she believes she has a better understanding of the neighborhood and its legacy residents. In May, Hot Coffee will begin selling single coffee pods that are compatible with Keurig machines.
“I want Hot Coffee to be ‘Atlanta,’” Taylor said. “When people think of Georgia, they think of Hot Coffee. When they think of flying to Atlanta, they think ‘Oh, we have to go to that coffee shop that we keep hearing about everywhere.’ But I also want to be able to make sure that we continue to ship Hot Coffee all over the world.”