Serving Up Cookies and Inclusion: The Purple Tree Cafe

2 min read

“The statistics tell the story: people with disabilities are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as their non-disabled peers,” says Pam Cohen, a disability rights lawyer who believes that “community means everyone.” Pam and a volunteer team bring that promise to life through the Purple Tree Café, a nonprofit mobile bakery and coffee service that provides real, integrated employment opportunities to people with disabilities. Dialogue serves Purple Tree pro bono with Lisa Lilienthal on its board of directors, and by providing support for the organization’s marketing and fundraising efforts. Since we can’t bring you to the Purple Tree, we thought we’d bring their story - and a recipe for one of their most popular cookies - to you instead.

Purple Tree Cookies Image

Purple Tree Café has provided over 1700 hours of community-based employment to people with disabilities since April 2018. The “community” piece is critical to the vision for Purple Tree because unemployment statistics are only part of the story. Many people with disabilities live in persistent isolation, disconnected from their communities because of a myriad of roadblocks, including access to transportation, training, and in some cases, job support that takes their disabilities into account.

If you live in or near Davis, Ca., you’ll find Purple Tree serving up Pachamama Coffee and handcrafted vegan baked goods—many of them gluten-free—at the local farmers market and for private events through its catering business. What you may not realize is that the sweet treat you’re enjoying was baked by an integrated team that includes people with and without disabilities. It provides a resume-building experience for someone who might otherwise struggle to find or keep a job. Working at the coffee cart also creates opportunities for employees to connect with one another and the community, to hone social skills, and to gain on-the-job experience that can be a stepping stone to other opportunities.

The Purple Tree Café is special but it’s not the only one of its kind: coffee shops like Bitty and Beau’s (three locations in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia), Hugs Cafe in McKinney, Tex., Breaking Grounds Coffee in Mount Holly, NJ., and Independent Grounds Cafe in Kennesaw, Ga. are all pioneering new models of business that include people with disabilities. Supporting small businesses—especially those whose business models are inclusive—is something we value. Thank you to Purple Tree Café and other businesses who are serving up love and goodness!


Purple Tree Café's Vegan Chocolate Raspberry Cookies  

Ingredients :

¾ cup raspberry jam
½ cup sugar
⅓ cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup vegan chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar
Fresh raspberries (optional)


Directions : 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix jam, sugar, oil, vanilla, and almond extract with a wooden spoon.In a medium bowl, sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients in two batches.
  4. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls, place on prepared cookie sheets, and flatten slightly.
  5. Bake for 7 minutes and cool on a rack.
  6. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Top with a fresh raspberry if desired.



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