Hello! Welcome to the official announcement of The Sprudge Twenty, presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.

This is the third class of Sprudge Twenty honorees, part of a new annual tradition honoring and amplifying leaders in the global coffee community in partnership with Pacific Barista Series. Pacific is dedicated to championing leadership and excellence in the coffee industry, and to supporting coffee culture as it happens worldwide.

These twenty people are changing the game in coffee, doing work that challenges and excites us, from every step of the coffee value chain: entrepreneurs and coffee producers, baristas and cafe owners, career coffee professionals, and those whose careers are just starting, competition success stories, and folks working quietly behind the scenes, leading by example. All of them have been impacted by current events; all of them have stories worth championing as loud as possible, now more than ever.

From a massive list of nominees around the world, below please find the Third Annual Sprudge Twenty class presented by Pacific Barista Series. We hope these stories will bring a smile to your face—as they have to ours—but many also include a call to action, a way to get involved to support the various projects and causes represented by our incredible global class. Each one of these members will receive a spotlight feature in the coming weeks on Sprudge, so get ready to know them a little better. For now, read on to discover the Sprudge Twenty, and thank you.

Want to nominate someone in your community for the next Sprudge Twenty class? The nomination schedule for the 2022 Sprudge Twenty presented by Pacific Barista Series will be announced this fall. Sign up for the Sprudge Newsletter and never miss an update. 

Nomination essays have been gently edited and condensed.

Nadine Rasch, Primavera Coffee Importers

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Nadine Rasch (Photo courtesy Nadine Rasch)

Nadine Rasch is a truly inspiring coffee professional. It’s an honor to work with her every day at Primavera, an exporter and importer based in Guatemala. During the Guatemalan coffee harvest and the months that follow, she works tirelessly managing every aspect of Primavera’s buying program, keeping up relationships with producers, cupping (she’s a Q grader and Q processing professional), and coordinating milling/shipping. She is an expert on coffee economics particularly in Guatemala, and she explains this information so succinctly both to coffee roasters and to coffee producers, always with patience and sincere helpfulness. I’ve admired her commitment to sustainability at every level of the supply chain, from engaging with marginalized producer populations to pursuing more environmentally sustainable practices from farm to export. Finally, her collaborative spirit and passion for innovation make Primavera a great place to work. I’m proud to nominate her for the Sprudge Twenty!

Nominated by Hillary Rodriguez

Lucia Solis, Luxia Coffee

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Lucia Solis (Photo courtesy Lucia Solis)

I nominate Lucia because she has really given many people some insight into what goes into making coffee. She has a podcast, free for everyone to listen to. She gives an insight into how the market sees coffee and gives a perspective of how the coffee farmers take it. She gives real reasoning when myths are busted out. Lucia shares her experiences on the field, being someone who has the goal of helping coffee producers and farmers be resourceful with what they have while improving practices on coffee fermentation. While she does really great on her job, I think she is deserving of this because she cares so much about the source of this chain, and she’s helping regular consumers like me, understand why our farmers and producers must be given credit and thought of when we speak and educate other people about coffee. I hope more people will learn about Lucia.

Nominated by Danni Santiago

Melissa Stinson, Everybody’s Busy

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Melissa Stinson (Photo courtesy Melissa Stinson)

I ended up in coffee organically. Through ten years of working in the TV and film industry, I learned that coffee connects people. While working as a customer, I’d often treat my team and the cast to coffee…not many turned down my offering. I also noticed that coffee folk need their coffee…it’s non-negotiable. I’m just trying to provide good coffee and great music, people need options and experience!

Nominated by Melissa Stinson

Paolo Maliksi, Regalia Coffee

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Paolo Maliksi (Photo courtesy Paolo Maliksi)

I first encountered Paolo behind bar, working as a barista in Manhattan. We later more formally met at an event at Regalia Collective, the shared roasting space he operates with his wife Chisato in Long Island City. I now as a matter of occasional routine visit Regalia for public cuppings and community events, and have known a few people whose roasting companies operate as members of Regalia Collective. Paolo’s warmth and humility are unrivaled in New York, and his contribution to the coffee community is similarly ample. Have I mentioned his unparalleled sense of hospitality? He has the exceptional manners of a WBC competitor. Hell, I bet Paolo’s already made Sprudge 20. If he hasn’t, y’all better quit fooling around.

Nominated by Samuel Klein

Niki Tolch

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Niki Tolch (Photo courtesy Niki Tolch)

When I think about the future of coffee, I think of people like Niki Tolch. Through her videos and interviews, she is not only taking up space but creating a whole new space for Black coffee professionals. She not only highlights the talents and knowledge of her guest but gives them the space to freely talk about their experiences. It is kinda of the perfect combination of coffee geekery and personal stories. They teach us all a little about coffee, a little bit about allowing space for experimentation, and gives us little nuggets about creating a better space for everyone in coffee.

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Nominated by Alyssa Bell

Gloria Baldwin, Camber Coffee

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Gloria Baldwin (Photo courtesy Gloria Baldwin)

I could talk for days about Gloria’s achievements as a barista and leader. It’s no hyperbole to say that our cafe may have not survived 2020 without Gloria’s vision, creativity, and leadership. Gloria also stepped forward to help form our company’s 4th Wave Committee, which was created as a space to be held accountable and continue working on the advancement of diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Gloria’s work on the committee has focused on ensuring that all employees, customers, and producers, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, identity, education, or disability, feel valued and respected by the company as a whole. Along with her colleagues she has created an ever-growing, ever-evolving library of anti-racism resources. Her work speaks to her integrity and the honesty that she brings to all relationships, as well as her desire to continue learning and growing.

Nominated by David Yake

Britain Brooks-Hall

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Britain Brooks-Hall (Photo courtesy Britain Brooks-Hall)

Britain is one of my favorite things in the coffee industry, a fantastic everyday barista. They are the person you want to see when you go out for your morning because of their customer service, skill in beverage preparation, and personal care they carry with them. Having worked with Britain before, I was always amazed at their patience and kindness especially being a queer person in the South. They deftly walked the tightrope of self-respect, empathy, and drawing boundaries in a way that I’ve always respected and admired. There are few things as refreshing in coffee as a great barista who takes pride in the impact they make on their guests day in and day out and Britain is a fantastic representation of that!

Nominated by Ben Lytle

Cemal Ezel, Change Please

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Cemal Ezel (Photo courtesy Cemal Ezel)

Cemal is the founder and tireless leader of Change Please, a UK-based coffee supplier dedicated to ending homelessness. 100% of the profits made from selling coffee goes towards taking people out of homelessness and training them as SCA-certified baristas. Cemal is an inspirational leader and has taken change please from an idea to a real force for good. He came from a financial background and has used his experience to broker franchises in France, Germany, Australia, and soon the USA. There is so much more to say about Cemal but it all boils down to his ethic and passion for changing lives one cup at a time.

Nominated by Dom Bankes

Dr. Clark Barwick, Indiana University Kelley School of Business

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Photo courtesy Dr. Clark Barwick

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Clark Barwick for this year’s class of the Sprudge Twenty. Clark is an outstanding teacher, mentor, and advocate for the world of specialty coffee.

Eight years ago, Professor Barwick began teaching the course “Black Gold: Coffee, Culture, and Global Exchange” with the goal to encourage a wide range of students at Indiana University to learn more about the world of specialty coffee while also helping them to become more conscious consumers. As a former student of Professor Barwick, I could not think of a more deserving individual to be recognized for their contribution to the coffee community. Clark is spreading specialty coffee through visiting local roasters (in pre-pandemic years), exploring the origins of coffee globally, and shining a light on the inequity found within the coffee landscape. Before taking the class, I looked at coffee as most Americans do: a source of caffeine that is highly accessible. I left the class with a newfound appreciation for the beauty and art that is the world of specialty coffee.

Nominated by Gunther Knotts

Erica Jackson, Onyx Coffee Lab

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Erica Jackson (Photo courtesy Erica Jackson)

Erica Jackson is a great example of excellence in the industry. They have an excellent pallet as evidenced on their Instagram, but they are also an incredible leader to other coffee pros. I admire all that Erica does, and can say with certainty that I am not alone. They are an inspiration and I want them to be recognized for their talent, experience, and the special place they hold in the community.

Nominated by Brittany Sims

Harlin Thomas, MochaBox Coffee

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Harlin Thomas (Photo courtesy Harlin Thomas)

Harlin Thomas is the Chief Executive Officer and Master Roaster at MochaBox Coffee Company. He came up with the idea of entering into an industry that he didn’t know much about, but knew that it was space that he could eventually call home. Harlin’s background in supply chain management has allowed him to quickly adapt within the high-demanding coffee business. His passion for coffee, commitment towards building a strong legacy, and leadership towards fighting for more diversity, equity, and inclusion within the coffee industry is why I am personally nominating him.

Nominated by Floyd Sartin

Smayah Uwajeneza, Question Coffee

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Smayah Uwajeneza (Photo courtesy Smayah Uwajeneza)

Smayah is the new leadership our industry needs and would be lucky to have. I met Smayah during the 2018 World AeroPress Championship in Australia where she completed as the Kenyan representative on the world coffee stage after winning the East African AeroPress Championship. Smayah’s passion and knowledge for almost every facet of our coffee world is something she is eager to share, with words that make this often gatekept knowledge too technical and unfriendly for people also eager to learn but without a friend to invite them in. She is the leader our industry needs, not only to “be the face” but one to nurture and care for her talents and growth as Smayah keeps expanding in her own journey towards whatever she is passionate about in this beautiful coffee industry.

Nominated by Kaie Bird

Drew Burnett, Goodel Skylove Indonesia

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Drew Burnett (Photo courtesy Drew Burnett)

Drew is an international development professional who, after working in Ethiopia with Technoserve as Deputy Director of their coffee project, decided to invest himself in making the supply chain more transparent and fair. Having lived in Indonesia a number of years and having brokered some coffee for export, he realised that in order to really make a difference to farmers and processors doing higher quality coffee, he would have to help finance it himself. His company, Goodel Indonesia, is a socially responsible and the only Indonesian exporter profit-sharing fully transparent and traceable specialty coffee. Last year, his company partnered with GIZ to co-invest in a pilot for a farmer-centered app and information ecosystem, making the coffee traceable from farm to cup and connecting farmers to essential services and mobile wallets. Drew has a broad network and boosts independent producers and women working in the coffee industry through his connections and access to markets.

Nominated by Jen Green

Elvira Conty Nieves—MBA Student in Agricultural Business

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Elvira Conty Nieves (Photo courtesy Elvira Conty Nieves)

Born and bred in Puerto Rico, Elvira has always been surrounded by coffee. She grew up learning how to make coffee with her grandma at a young age. In 2014, her mother took her to the Coffee and Chocolate Expo, and there she took her first Barista course. While completing her BBA-HR degree, she continues her search for coffee knowledge by attending classes at the Escuela de Café y Barista de Puerto Rico and went on to complete her SCAA Heritage Barista Level 1 certificate among other achievements. Elvira lives and breathes coffee!!

Nominated by Janette Melendez Pagan

Shih Ru Wang, Just Go Coffee

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Shih Ru Wang (Photo courtesy Shih Ru Wang)

Shih Ru Wang has been roasting specialty coffee since 2005 in Taiwan, where she is the owner of Just Go Coffee Roastery and Cho Café. She is the first female Asian in the Leadership Council of Coffee Roaster Guild from 2020-2021, and in 2020, she worked with Taiwan ICDF (International Cooperation and Development Fund) to use crowdfunding platform to raise money for micro farm in Guatemala. She is also a talented barista, and has placed well in many national and international coffee competitions, including first place in the 2013 Taiwan Roasting Championship, third in the 2013 World Coffee Roasting Championship, and first place in the 2015 Taiwan Brewers Cup.

Nominated by Melissa Kao

JoEllen Depakakibo, Pinhole Coffee

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JoEllen Depakakibo (Photo by Christopher Michel courtesy JoEllen Depakakibo)

JoEllen has been working in coffee for over a decade. She started Pinhole Coffee in 2014 and it has become the quintessential neighborhood cafe in Bernal Heights. Pinhole provides a locus for the neighborhood to connect in all manner of varying ways, through coffee and art.

Nominated by Johnny Randolph

Karla Quinones, Candela

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Karla Quiñones (Photo by Jonathan Galindo courtesy Karla Quiñones)
I’d like to nominate my wife, Karla Quiñones. Karla is an awesome woman, mom and boss. She has a great passion to teach, not only in a classroom but also in the bar and farm. Karla has just received her sensory professional certification, the first one in Puerto Rico. She’s also created a group for women in coffee in Puerto Rico called Candela. They take barista and coffee farm workshops, offering education and resources to help them stand out in the coffee industry. Earlier in her career, Karla helped create the program Mujeres Cafeteras in Colombia and Perú while she worked for Sustainable Harvest. This program helped women with coffee farms to be equipped with knowledge and skills to succeed in the very competitive and manly coffee industry. They made alliances with universities to teach them about business administration and other classes. The program is a total success. I’m nominating her because I believe more and more people need to hear about Karla and her story.

Nominated by Abner Roldan

Kimberly Easson, The Partnership for Gender Equity

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Kimberly Easson (Photo courtesy Kimberly Easson)

Kimberly Easson has spent her coffee career focused on finding ways to make the industry more equitable for all. She spent 13 years working at Fairtrade, co-founded the International Women’s Coffee Alliance in 2003, and later the JavaJog for a Cause, an industry run/walk that has raised more than $100K for women in coffee producing countries. Her most recent endeavor, the Partnership for Gender Equity, has been a leader in innovation and bringing people together to take action on critical issues. She served four years as board member of the Specialty Coffee Association and eight years as a member of the Association’s Sustainability Council. Kimberly envisions a future of coffee where the industry works for everyone involved in it.

Nominated by Nicole Kaufmann

Jiyoon Han, Bean & Bean

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Jiyoon Han (Photo by Ada Chen)

Jiyoon Han is a classmate of mine at Harvard Business School and we co-founded the Coffee and Tea Club shortly after meeting for the first time. We wanted to create a platform to elevate specialty coffee in the business school community and create an alternative social platform that did not involve alcohol for networking and relationship-building. Jiyoon has also been such a great asset to her community in NYC where her cafe is by providing free coffee and sandwiches to first responders and frontline workers. Such an admirable feat. I have learned so much from her, not just on coffee, but also in the gender equity-focused work that she is so passionate about. I have seen her efforts translated throughout the coffee value chain from sourcing to roasting and brewing and it has been such a pleasure working with her.”

Nominated by Luqzan Mustafa Kamal

Dave Bishop, Zukuka Coffee

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Dave Bishop (Photo courtesy Dave Bishop)

Dave Bishop has been working for free for over a decade to see the coffee industry of Mt Elgon Uganda return to its former glory. He’s the person who I think has contributed so much to the coffee industry—he first got involved in coffee on the back of his community development and volunteer work in Uganda, where’s he lived with his family for over a decade, working with community development organizations focused on education, healthcare and entrepreneur work. His background is in community development, not in coffee—Dave had really never had anything to do with coffee beyond drinking it—but he’s become a formidable force in demanding farmers in Uganda be paid an equitable amount for the coffees they farm. I think that he would be a worthy recipient of this award for his regenerative and sustainable approach to coffee farmer advocacy and infrastructure in Uganda.

Nominated by Sam Keck

The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.

See a complete list of our 2019 and 2020 classes, and read their essays here.