They complete each other’s thoughts. They complement one another like two sides of a coin. They are business partners and biological brothers. They are Christopher and Jonathan Oye, founders and owners of Oye Coffee. “My brother and I are Nashville natives,” said the elder Oye brother Christopher. “And we are of Nigerian descent. That’s where our brand, our last name, comes from. Oye means Chief of the land, tribe or village in Yoruba.” While an increasing number of coffee brands have their origins in Nashville, none match the uniqueness of Oye Coffee. The Oye brothers, whose father is Nigerian, blend their West African heritage into every bag and cup of Oye Coffee.
“Coffee shops are changing the way that they have the experience for their customers,” said younger brother Jonathan. “So we’re just trying to bring our uniqueness with our culture and our background from Nigeria, and we think that’s kind of a void in Nashville.”
Born and raised in Antioch with only 11 months between them, the brothers attended Antioch High School and later the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. Christopher studied communications and software engineering, while Jonathan majored in business marketing.
The brothers launched Oye Coffee on September 5, 2021, and in little over a year, they have grown their coffee brand to impressive margins. Today their coffee can be found on the shelves of 14 grocery and specialty stores in the Nashville area, including The Produce Place, Turnip Truck, Herban Market, Made in Tennessee, and the Nashville International Airport’s newly-opened Tennessee Tribune Store.
“Right before the pandemic hit, we were scheduling a visit with family in Nigeria,” said Christopher. “But when the pandemic hit we were unable to go. It was like a family reunion, so we had to resort to Facetime and WhatsApp, but we were able to learn more about our background, history, and culture that we’d missed out on during our younger years. And my brother asked, ‘Hey, what did our grandfather do?’ They said he was this well-known farmer across the entire country, and some of the things that he supplied were the cocoa and the coffee. So I thought one day it would be cool to have a coffee shop. From that day, that moment on, it was something that inspired us.”
From the inspiration of their Nigerian grandfather, Oye Coffee was born, and the brothers have pursued every opportunity to spread their family’s West African heritage/culture to the Nashville community and beyond.
“There are different beverages that they make with coffee back home in Nigeria that are not really popular here in the States,” said Jonathan, who utilizes his past work experience in the beverage industry to Oye Coffee. “So we’re implementing those and having a unique taste that people like. A lot of the merchandise that we have we try to include some kind of piece that displays Nigeria in some type of way.”
In addition to its presence in multiple shops, Oye Coffee’s tasting notes can also be experienced at “pop-ups” in various locations. “We have a coffee cart and we use that to do certain local events around the community,” said Jonathan. “We always try to highlight Nigeria – our background and the ways we showcase Nigeria. We’ve done a lot in Nashville, Atlanta, Chicago, and Eastern Texas. We’re trying to get our branding and marketing out there. Also, there are different office locations in Nashville where we do a pop-up and provide coffee for your office’s location in the mornings throughout the week.”
“Those pop-ups have always been fun,” said Christopher. “We’re just bringing that West African cultural piece. Most of that is driven through art design, music, and set-up. So it’s an experience in West Africa and also in Nigeria. And we [also influence] how people drink coffee and what they drink coffee with. We want to be able to showcase and highlight that along with our branding. We’re being creative with it, and that’s helped us build the brand into what it is today.”
The Oye brothers enjoy the grind of the coffee industry and have great aspirations for their particular brand. Together they manage their company, from production to packaging to distribution. They said their parents, who still reside in Nashville, are extremely supportive and proud of their entrepreneurial accomplishments.
And these brothers ain’t done yet. They are planning a visit to Nigeria this year, to experience first-hand the unique aromas and flavors of their family’s culture. Also, they hope to expand their business even further.
“We definitely want to build a brick-and-mortar coffee shop,” said Christopher. “We want a shop in Nashville and we want to bring one to Nigeria too. That would be our goal – to make this a global thing.”
Photography: Elle Danielle
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