Café Barnabas opens Art Gallery to further its effort to benefit students


You might have already heard of Café Barnabas and their addictive bubble tea. But did you know about their mission to serve the Topeka youth community?


The not-for-profit tea shop Café Barnabas unveiled its student art gallery, located in the lower level of West Ridge Mall, on Nov. 2. The occasion was commemorated with a ribbon cutting sponsored by the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce. Owners Debbie and Kevin Christiansen partnered with multiple schools and art teachers through Topeka & Shawnee County with the purpose of displaying student contributed artwork in the gallery on a 2-3 week rotation. The first school to be featured is Washburn Rural High School. This will be followed by Washburn Middle School, Heritage Christian School and Cair Paravel Latin School, respectively.


Both owners plan for the gallery to be an ongoing project as it not only showcases young talent but also, as Debbie puts it, “will bring traffic to West Ridge, more specifically the students and their families.” What’s more, the gallery will spread further awareness of Barnabas’ efforts to benefit student volunteers.


Café Barnabas’ mission is to connect youth with adult mentors using quality loose leaf tea. A unique premise, for certain.


The majority of Barnabas’ staff is comprised of volunteers, with 35 student volunteers working at any given time. In addition to free tea and treats, these volunteers receive job training and skill development, such as resume building, as well as volunteer hours for school or other programs. Most of all, Barnabas aims to provide mentorship to students in a real-world work atmosphere.


“We seek to mentor kids in a professional, adult environment- not as a counselor or a teacher.”


Debbie and Kevin have previous experience mentoring students while serving as youth leaders at different ministries throughout Topeka. During this time, the couple took note of the fact that many kids turned up to events with different flavored teas. They found that this interest in tea could act as a gateway to building relationships with youths in the community. The Christiansens went on to take classes and learn more loose-leaf teas. With further training and help from donors, Café Barnabas came into the world in 2012. Locations include a mobile café in Oconomowoc, WI and a permanent site in the upper level of West Ridge Mall in Topeka, KS.