This Food Truck Serves Up Gourmet Food And Drinks — And Jobs For Refugees

Refuge Coffee is a nonprofit gourmet food truck that employees refugees resettled in Clarkston, Ga., and provides job training and networking opportunities within the community.

On a bright, blustery October morning in Clarkston, Ga., the sweet aroma of baked treats and brewing coffee flows out the windows of the fire engine-red food truck known as Refuge Coffee Co. parked at a street corner. A dozen or so eager customers mill about, converse and gradually fall into line.

Chalkboard signs announce the menu: latte, cappuccino, chai latte, espresso and hot chocolate, as well as a soda of the day, iced matcha latte, and a “shakerato” (espresso with simple syrup, shaken, over ice). For breakfast seekers, croissants, muffins, morning buns and scones await. Wedges of tomato and goat cheese quiche, crunchy Nepali chatpate and savory sambusa (triangle pastries stuffed with lentils) are readied for the lunch crowd.

Three refugee-baristas are buzzing about inside the truck. Amina Ahyaoui, 32, arrived from Casablanca, Morocco, in 2014. Tha Hlei Iang, 31, is from the Chin state in Myanmar. She spent four years in Malaysia with her husband and daughter before they made their way to Clarkston in 2011. Ahmad Alzoukani, 31, is a pharmacist from Damascus, Syria. He came to Clarkston in September of last year.

(Left to right) Ahmad Alzoukani, Tha Hlei Iang, Ndahimwa Leon Shombana and Amina Ahyaoui all came to Clarkston, Ga., as resettled refugees and embody the town’s international vibe. Anjali Enjeti for NPR

Though Iang and Ahyaoui are trainees who only began working at Refuge Coffee a few weeks ago, they pour and stir and make change like seasoned professionals. Iang laughs when she says she doesn’t even drink coffee or tea, just juice and water. Ahyaoui loves coffee, but enjoys socializing with the customers more. Alzoukani, who has been with Refuge Coffee for a little over a year, is quick to point out his specialty. “I make the best cappuccinos,” he says.

The truck sits in a parking lot in front of a garage that once belonged to a used car dealership. Some customers take their orders to go or sit outside at tables. Others meander to the cozy cafe space inside the garage. Red and turquoise tables and plush sofas offer customers plenty of space for dining, communing or taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi. Continue Reading Here


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