A few short weeks ago at the 2016 US Coffee Championships Qualifying Event, a new coffee brand made its public debut: Bastet Coffee, a coffee consultancy owned and operated by former Intelligentsia Coffee barista Eden-Marie Abramowicz. Coffee lovers may already know Abramowicz for her starring role in “Barista“, the Sprudgie-Award-winning barista competition documentary from director Rock Baijnauth, but with nearly 40k followers on Instagram and a local following in Los Angeles, Eden-Marie’s got as good a shot as anyone to transcend the “just a barista” label.
This is not a new trend, of course—we’ve explored well-known coffee professionals striking out into the consultancy game previously on Sprudge, most recently in our profile of Sang-Ho Park, a London-based coffee professional who made a name for himself with Square Mile Coffee, and now runs the successful Spark Consulting brand. For Eden-Marie Abramowicz, consulting on coffee matters has cafe implications, but it’s really about so much more: the opportunity to talk to bars, boutiques, and leaders in other industries who might look to coffee, with its pell-mell demands on service professionals, as a source of knowledge and inspiration.
Sprudge co-founder Jordan Michelman spoke with Abramowicz by phone from Los Angeles.
Please tell us about the origin of this project’s unique name.
Bastet is an ancient Egyptian goddess. The bigger story behind it is, as I am female and branching out on my own, I wanted something that was a nod toward female empowerment without it being, you know, “Girl Power Coffee”. Bastet was a fierce lioness, but then when Egypt was united she changed into a gentle protector, and is depicted as a docile cat and a goddess of family. However, still when crossed or faced with a challenge, she was back to being that fierce lion. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve been into this kind of mythology, and it’s a name that resonates with me today.
Consulting can mean a lot of different stuff in coffee—what does it mean to you?
To me, it’s about empowering people to take whatever skills I’m consulting on, and then being able to be sustainable and scalable on their own once my presence is gone. Right now my main focus is on either coffee bars—working from bar flow to machine sourcing to merch to hiring employees to writing training programs, boot camps, building whole new programs from scratch—or also doing a few jobs with other industries, like bars and boutiques, who want to learn more about hospitality and technique. It’s about taking techniques and applying them to industries where comfort and communication are valued.
When did the consultancy start?
Officially on January 15th, 2016. My last day with Intelli was Jan 14th. This has been an idea in the works for a long time, and I’ve been approached about it for a long time, but I needed to make sure when I was making the jump that I was ready to support these companies and business owners and exceed their expectations, and to make sure I had the resources available. The coffee network has been hugely supportive and that’s great.
Are your clients primarily based in Los Angeles?
Yes, primarily for now, but I have leads all over the country, and I’m doing a lot of work outside the country with San Remo as part of the SWAT—I was at HOST and will be continuing that work collaborating on some supercool new machines in the upcoming year, which gives me a chance to travel and meet more people and share what I do.
Can you share whom any of your clients are just yet?
I can’t just yet—it’s been mostly local down in LA so far, and a bunch of private classes as well, in person and online.
Has your social media presence helped to drive the launch of your consultancy?
It does and it doesn’t. My social media brand is followed by many coffee people, but more than half of them aren’t—these are folks who may or may not know what I’m talking about when I’m talking about coffee. My favorite thing about that is that I want to take on the role of being able to be a kind of liaison between coffee people and everyone else in the world—that’s who I want to reach and serve a terrific cup of coffee. Continually marketing specialty coffee to specialty coffee people is limiting. I want to reach other people around the world and make it something they aren’t limited by. It’s only going to benefit companies and producers if the market is larger.
Amen. But did being able to announce and talk about Bastet on Instagram help get you leads?
Oh, yes, very much—I got a big surge of people after I announced the project, and that put me in a position that was really great for a new consultant. I get to sort through those leads now and pursue partnerships that I really believe in. I don’t have to feel like I have to take on every single job; I couldn’t do that right now anyway as a time commitment. I want to align myself with people I want to support and for whom my skill sets are a good match.
You were one of the stars in the recent film “Barista”—talk to me about the experience of starring in that documentary film, and what the reaction has been like for you since its release.
I think “Barista” really opened up people to see more of [a barista competitor’s] lives outside of barista competitions—and that’s huge within the coffee world. It made people I don’t know more comfortable approaching me and emailing me and asking me questions, which I love. For people outside of coffee I think it’s one of the best, if not the best documentary for people who have no idea what [a barista competitor] does everyday. But maybe that’s a skewered thing because the competition is not my career. So many people outside of coffee have this a-ha moment watching the film, saying “This is what they do, this is why they care” — it inspires me and makes me want to learn more and work harder, knowing that people want to ask those questions and are interested.
What is watching the movie like for you? Have you seen it since it was competed?
Yes, I’ve seen it a few times now. Half the time you’re distracted watching yourself, you know, wondering “Do i really look so strange?” — but it was fun to me to see other competitor’s answers to the questions the filmmakers asked us all. I know everyone in the film, and the answers to their questions, their home lives, it’s really interesting—it’s not always the same answers you might get in a group setting. I’ve known everyone in the film for years, and it was impactful to see how much everyone cares. You go home sometimes and you say, “I work so hard, I care so much”—and it’s nice to see that a lot of other people do, too.
Are there things you wish the finished film did differently?
For making it approachable to a non-coffee person, the movie was done very well. I think for coffee people, it could have been more in-depth and nerd focused, but that would have limited the market. I like the idea that I can show it to anyone off the street and it would explain what these things are and hit the mark. [Barista competitors] have a pre-written script of how to answer the question, “What’s a barista competition?”, and this film takes the place of that, and adds some personality and emotion behind it.
You’re about to compete again, and it’s likely this interview will run after the first round of the US Barista Championship cycle. As a kind of time capsule question, how’s comp prep going?
Competition is crazy. I have a really beautiful coffee and I’m excited about it. It’s from a roaster I don’t think a lot of people are aware of yet, Camber Coffee out of Washington State, which is really exciting. I’m interested to see all the regionals together in one place this year. It’ll be even more baristas in one room than at the US Barista Championship national competition, and that possibility and the chance of those conversations being awesome is highly increased. I’m excited for the social aspect, seeing all that energy being back in that room with hundreds of competitors.
How do folks reach you to learn more about Bastet?
I want to hear from everyone regardless if it’s a random question, to schedule a private class, or to discuss a bigger consulting situation. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the website is bastetcoffee.com, which has a whole set of services and a blog that’s ongoing.
Photos courtesy of Justin Manzano.