How This Black Sommelier Is Changing The Narrative Around Wine
By DeAnna Taylor
For most who grew up in North Philly, one of the city’s most disenfranchised areas, aspiring to get into the wine industry was almost unheard of. However, Tahiirah Habibi learned early on that there is power in knowing about the drink.
As homecoming queen at Penn State, she often had to engage with faculty and distinguished guests of the university over wine. She saw quickly that the way she reacted to wine determined how people in certain spaces treated her.
After college, she moved back to Philly and worked a job in an upscale hotel. She learned that the hotel’s wine director was a woman, something she had never seen, and was instantly inspired to start her own journey into the industry. After networking with the wine director over email, Tahiirah was able to get into one of the most prestigious wine schools in her area and earned certifications that would open doors for her.
She also realized that staying in Philly wouldn’t propel her career the way she wanted, so she packed up and moved to Miami on the whim.
“I transferred to a Kimpton hotel there and took a job as a cocktail server,” Tahiirah told Travel Noire. “While I made decent money, I ultimately wanted to become the first Black master sommelier because there still are none even to this day.”
Soon after, she was asked to become the step into a major role in the wine scene in Miami.
“This was next level. I was so scared and ended up just going along with the flow even when I wasn’t being treated fairly by people coming into the hotel. People weren’t used to a Black girl in this luxury wine space. But, I learned so much and so many life lessons in that time.”
No matter how hard she worked in that position, there was always a man that was ahead of her and Tahiirah was tired of that.
“I felt that I wasn’t fulfilling my community the way that I should,” she said. “There still weren’t enough people in the industry that looked like me and who were getting the access they deserved.”
So, she launched her brand Sippin Socials to reach the masses in a way that was needed. Through relatable events, Tahiirah was able to begin educating Black people on the power of wine.
After being inspired by Jay-Z’s lyrics “What’s better than one billionaire? two. ‘Specially if they’re from the same hue as you” she relaunched her brand under the name The Hue Society.
“When Moscato was marketed to us, their sales went up by 700%. There is power in the Black dollar, so imagine what we can do with anything else. We are influential in that space but we need to be educated first.”
The Hue Society aims to control the narrative and teaches us how to use wine to our benefit.
Tahiirah hosts tastings for Black corporate events especially Black-women owned businesses, she curates The Black Wine Experience at Essence, and she holds pop-up events around the country.
Most recently she introduced Black wine to Black Hollywood during Tina Knowles Wearable Art Gala. She exposed influential Black people at the event to Black wine brands in hopes that they use their influence to make these brands just as mainstream as all others.
“We need to start including these brands in our daily consumption,” she explained. “We build our community through economics. We influence everything!”
Throughout 2020, Tahiirah will focus her time on making sure these brands get the recognition they deserve. She will host panels and events at Essence, Charleston Food and Wine, and she will relaunch her wine and reggae fest in Atlanta. There are also plans in the works to create a series called Blk Fluence where people come together for a deep discussion on economics and how we spend Black dollars going forward.
On the newly relaunched website, you will not only find events that The Hue Society will host, but there will also be a calendar of other wine events that are happening all over.
DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.