Grab a mug of your favorite brew and learn how this creative soul found her calling in a coffee cup.
For as long as she can remember, Chérmelle D. Edwards has been drawn to coffee shops. Majoring in fiction at UCLA, she visited coffee shops constantly to write her stories.
But it wasn’t until a few years later, when Chérmelle was looking for a new creative outlet, that she realized what a constant coffee shops were in her life.
“Coffee shops seemed to string my story together,” she says. “I thought back on my travels, and the thing that kept popping up for me was that I always went to coffee shops. Whether I was in Spain, Argentina, London, Paris, I always visited them to get the scoop on where to go, where to eat, etc.”
Chérmelle did her research. She found plenty of people who were writing about coffee, but their focus was equipment, roasting and brewing. But that stuff didn’t interest Chérmelle.
“I was really passionate about the face of coffee culture,” she says. “I wanted to know who these faces were and what they did.”
So she dubbed herself the Coffeetographer, started a website and began finding and telling the stories that percolate in every coffee shop.
We, the caffeinated
So what is it about coffee shops?
One thing that fascinates Chérmelle is that they’re barrier-free.
“Your class, your race and your economic status don’t matter,” she says. “You could buy a tea for a buck and be in the same space as a person who has a million dollars.”
She also loves the vibrancy and the constant change.
“If I go to a coffee shop at 8 a.m., the feel is totally different than if I go at 12 p.m. or 2 p.m. or 7 p.m.,” she says. “People are coming to coffee shops to be saved, for respite and to find the love of their lives (even if they don’t know it).”
Whatever brings people to a coffee shop on particular day, Chérmelle aims to capture that moment in their lives with her writing and photography.
“I want to give the people I meet platforms,” she explains. “When I meet someone, I feel like it’s my responsibility to tell the world who they are and to give them a digital space to live in.”
She keeps her website design simple to highlight that people are the stars.
“It’s a WordPress platform, and I use a Graph Paper Press theme,” she says. The people she photographs are always on the homepage.
“Everyday, I change the homepage to showcase people. The site will always feature people as the main tool for storytelling,” Chérmelle says.
Born to connect
Chérmelle believes that we all have callings. About a year —and many, many cups of coffee — into her project, she knew she had found hers.
“I realized that there’s so much more in the coffee culture that I want to talk about,” she says. That knowledge gave her the confidence that she could go all in, for good.
After you’ve discovered your purpose, as Chérmelle has, then it just a matter of surrendering to it and trusting your intuition.
“Being in tune with myself every single day and making sure that I go good on myself is key so that I can be of service,” she says. “When I walk into a space, I am no longer mine. I am the space’s conduit; I am the people’s conduit. I am the storyteller; I am the healer. I am the inspiration; I am the documentator. I play all of these roles, and I am happy to do that.”
Living your calling, though, doesn’t mean every day is easy. Approaching people and asking to take their picture or to interview them takes guts. But Chérmelle reminds herself that reaching out to others is at the core of who she is.
“Three years ago, my mother told me that when I was a baby, I never stayed in her arms,” she says. “I was always with other people. She tells me I should find comfort in that, because I’m not doing anything different than what I’ve always done.”
Chérmelle has started a new series called Will You Coffee Me?
“It’s like, ‘Will you marry me?’” she explains. “And I’m asking people to share their lives with me over coffee. It’s my way to be a bit more intimate and to share with the world all these wonderful makers, creators and contributors that are out there.”
She’s also working to align herself with more organizations that do social good.
It all goes back to her biggest goal: being a vehicle for human connection and inspiration. Coffeetography has changed Chérmelle — and the people she’s met.
“(Sometimes) I’m in there crying with someone because they shared their life with me and now they’re going to quit their job and do their passion because of what I’m doing,” she says. “That’s everything to me.”