Brian Raupp, a graphic designer and musician, and Ashley May, an illustrator and painter, form a dynamic Washington, D.C.-based barista couple whose first date was during a chilly December in Charm City. The Baltimore-area natives had one of their early dates a few years ago at Ceremony Coffee, just around the corner from the Walters Art Museum and Lineup Room recording studios, where Raupp often recorded his music.
Sadly, both Raupp and May found themselves without a formal job at the start of the pandemic. Sharing an affinity for Baltimore, a knack for people, and a love of caffeine, they pushed themselves to start Others Coffee.
“For a long time, my rap alias Brain Rapp had performances at venues like The Crown—both red and blue room—Soundstage, Ottobar, and Metro Gallery,” says Raupp, a Columbia native. “I even had studio space in the former Creative Labs in Hampden. Those moments in the arts scene were subconsciously preparing us to step into this coffee world.”
The company’s name is inspired by the people who have a hand in creating the drink that fuels us every morning.
“How many others are involved in the creation of a coffee experience from the moment that coffee is grown, possibly on the other side of the world?” Raupp says. “How many hands does it pass through before it gets to your cup, in your hands?”
Adds May: “In the best scenario, it’s always handled by people who really have good intentions, love, and want for inclusion in coffee culture. That’s us at Others.”
Tied directly back to Raupp‘s love for music, they are currently roasting inside Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in Adams Morgan. Songbyrd hasn’t been hosting shows due to COVID-19, but they’ve graciously allowed the Others team to roast in a small unused space in their kitchen.
The couple’s online shop, featuring both single orders and an ongoing subscription service, debuted with a soft launch on September 29 in honor of National Coffee Day. After selling out in their first round of pre-orders, online sales launched again in early November.
Others’ very first roast is an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe—Yirgacheffe is a region in Ethiopia and many of the coffee farms there are multigenerational and run by families—coffee that uses beans sourced by Keffa Coffee wholesalers in Jonestown.
The 12-ounce boxes, which feature the brand’s signature pale colors and inverted eyes, are designed by Raupp and inspired by one of May’s paintings—a piece that hangs in their apartment. Aside from roasting their coffee, the owners say the most fun part of starting the business was creating an entertaining design for the boxes.
“I want people to look at this beautiful box and say, ‘I don’t even care if the coffee is good or not,’” Raupp says, “‘as a cool kid I need this on my shelf next to my abstract art.’”
Raupp and May have created what they call “Tasters Tales,” their own version of tasting notes that appear on each box of coffee, along with fun coffee trivia. Their Yirgacheffe, for example, includes notes of lemon, black tea, and peach, but the owners’ are quick to admit that their notes are subjective.
“In specialty coffee it’s really common that there are tasting notes,” Raupp adds. “The same way a sommelier might talk about wine is the way a quality wholesaler might describe a coffee.”
Currently, coffee club members who sign up at others.coffee benefit from a point system and discounts. The owners say they want to focus on person-to-person sales before beginning to distribute their offerings in hip cafes and other small shops around the DMV. The couple sees themselves selling their coffee at local shops that their friends frequent, including the recently opened Good Neighbor in Hampden. “Aesthetically, they jive with us,” says May.
Looking ahead, the couple also hopes to visit and develop relationships with international farmers so that they can source from them directly and be involved in the journey from bean to brew. Additionally, they’re working on a subscription model that will offer customers newly designed boxes with in-season grinds.
“I’m all about creating an experience for someone,” says May, who reiterates the feeling of inclusion that the owners hope to create with Others. Raupp says it mimics the feeling of, “going into a coffee shop, being a regular, and knowing that person cares about their job.”