The Coffeehouse Resistance


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Sarina Prabasi always knew she had a story to tell.

But it wasn’t until two years ago, when she accompanied her father on a writing retreat in Vermont, that she put her words to paper. Submitting her manuscript to a contest held by Green Writers Press, her work was selected to be published by the independent book publisher.

And so, on April 9, Prabasi, co-founder of celebrated Upper Manhattan café Buunni Coffee, releases her debut book, The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times, which follows Prabasi’s life from traveling to Ethiopia, where she met her now husband and business partner Elias, to immigrating to the United States and opening a successful coffee shop. It’s a moving, timely memoir of love, family, politics, and, of course, coffee.

“I want this to be a story for everyone,” she says.

Read excerpts of The Coffeehouse Resistance here:

“From our visits together to Asia, Europe, and the United States, Elias is keenly aware of the deep stereotypes about Ethiopia in the rest of the world. From the media spotlight on the terrible famines of the early 1980s, and the Live Aid and Band Aid concerts, there is a global memory of emaciated kids with flies in their eyes. But every time we host anyone who is visiting Ethiopia for the first time—friends, family, or work colleagues—they are taken aback and taken in by the beauty, history, and diversity of the country. This is not to discount the suffering caused by droughts and famines, but this explains why Elias feels strongly that any business he starts in the US should be rooted in a different narrative of Ethiopia. It doesn’t take long for him to settle on coffee. Coffee permeates the daily life of Ethiopians like I’ve never seen it anywhere else. It’s not just a product or a commodity, it has a deep history. It’s a gift, a welcoming, a blessing. Coffee takes on whole words of meaning.”


“All coffee-shop owners and workers know that it’s about so much more than the coffee. What keeps people coming back are the relationships, the human connections, and a place to go that is not home and not work. We are built around the idea of people coming together, of being a welcoming space. Our ability to raise money quickly is impressive, for sure, but our real power could be in the hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of coffeehouses hosting locally relevant community conversations, talking things out in person, taking a stand for the kind of country we want for ourselves and for our children. What about registering people to vote? What about getting people engaged, interested, heck, even excited about politics?

“Coffeehouses have historically been places of learning; of making business deals; scientific, literary, political, philosophical, and economic discussions; and political revolutions. Art, performance and satire, great ideas, creative solutions, and political movements are born in coffeehouses. I want to find out more. I am pulled to reclaim this great past tradition and to find a way to apply to it our present moment.”

Meet Sarina in Portland!

Fresh Cup Magazine, in partnership with Guilder, will host Sarina Prabasi for a book reading and Q&A on Tuesday, April 23, at Guilder in Portland, Oregon. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Find more info on our Facebook page.

The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times is available for pre-order at IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and will be available for purchase beginning April 9 at your favorite local bookstore.

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Caitlin Carter

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