“She is the super friendly barista that makes coffee approachable, but the green coffee version. Treating customers like you want to help them, and answer questions and be a totally great human being while doing it. If there was green coffee trading competitions she would blow everyone away.”
Nominated by Arsalan Pourmand
What do you see as coffee’s role in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial equality?
The world of coffee brings together people from many backgrounds, so I think it's even more important for companies and individuals within the coffee industry to speak up about racial equality and practice what they preach. It's one thing to put out a company statement regarding the outrage that the Black community is facing, but if you are not hiring people of color, or paying them fairly, then what good is your empty statement? For those organizations that haven't spoken up about their views, offered support, donated to organizations/charities or made actual changes within their organization—what are you waiting for? Civil rights apply to EVERYONE and if you can't see the flaws in our current system, you are choosing to look away.
Our industry is filled with so many vivacious, talented individuals who are using their voice and influence to highlight the issues that we have within our industry. We need to continue educating ourselves (and others) and take actions that ultimately improve our communities and make actual, concrete changes. Although we are all so far apart when speaking of actual “distance”, I think the coffee community is more connected than ever before because there is so much to fight for and we are all here to fight together. Coffee brings people together and the people involved in all parts of the supply chain hold so much power and some don't even realize that.
Are there any activists, authors, public speakers, or experts you’d like to encourage our readers to engage with?
I absolutely love tuning in to listen to Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Her drive and attitude make you stop in your tracks and LISTEN. She is an educator and always provides historical facts to support all of her arguments. This woman is powerful, smart and influential.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
To summarize it all, sustainability. The impact of climate change in the world of coffee is huge and it's something I always observe when visiting an origin, or cupping the same coffee from harvest to harvest. Producers are doing what they can to adapt on a farm level, but this issue needs more attention from everyone in the supply chain, period.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Being able to meet a producer, help them sell their coffee and then seeing their coffee being offered by a roaster in the U.S. really drives me to move forward and do as much as I can to help promote their coffees. It's even better when you can return to the same producer the following year with their coffee, professionally roasted by the final buyer/s, and show them how the roaster who purchased their coffee is telling their story. They love seeing the different tasting notes that could be pulled from various roast levels. I witnessed a producer read the packaging from their own coffee and it said “notes of orange, cacao nibs, cherry, and vanilla,” and they were blown away. They couldn't believe they produced a product that was so versatile that it would provide a certain niche with the tasting notes they were looking for. I also focus on promoting female producers as much as possible. Most of the time, the women are the driving forces behind the coffee, whether they are assisting with the picking or feeding an entire family during a busy harvest season. I have had the opportunity to work with several female producers in Peru, Honduras, and Mexico.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
I'm a sucker for sweetness. When I come across a coffee during a cupping that scores high on sweetness, it tends to be one of my favorites. The sweetness can be experienced as white sugar, caramel, or really sweet chocolate covered fruits.
Did you experience a life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
I took the Q-Grader course early in my career, I had only been working as a trader for about a year and a half before I decided to challenge myself and just go for it. I was hesitant at first because I had never worked in coffee before and I knew people who worked in the industry for 5+ years who still had not taken the course. It was intense and I practiced A LOT. I passed all but one exam on my first try. I did the retake for that exam a month later and passed. This might be a small achievement to some, but to me that moment was when I said to myself, “ok, I got this… I'm actually pretty good at this and I need to stop doubting myself because of my lack of experience or years in the industry.”
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Making myself a pour-over and enjoying the coffee with a relaxing view.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I would love to plan events within the industry (after COVID-19 of course)—bringing coffee people together is amazing. So many different backgrounds, personalities, and ideas together in one space can only lead to greatness in the future. I would like my events to be focused on raising money for different charities or organizations within the coffee industry to promote gender, racial, and ethnic justice.
Who are your coffee heroes?
The women from San Ignacio, Cajamarca, Peru. I started working with these female producers about four years ago thanks to their export and logistics manager Luzmila Feliu. These women had limited resources and still managed to produce some of the best coffees I've ever tasted. They are a true example of hard work, dedication, and innovation.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My great grandmother. She passed away four years ago and my coffee-related memories all start with her. She would have loved to see all of the work I have done in coffee and she would be so blown away if I was able to have her taste a honey- or naturally-processed coffee. She was a big fan of Bustelo… so you can only imagine how many debates I could have had with her!
If you didn't work in coffee what do you think you'd be doing instead?
I would probably either own a yoga studio or I would like to work in the tequila industry.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
I don't necessarily have one mentor but there are a handful of people who have guided me and taught me so much in the past five years.
What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
“Be yourself.” When I first started I tried to observe others because I was new to the industry so I wasn't sure how to adapt. But I slowly realized that this industry is filled with so many unique and interesting individuals who all contribute in their own ways. The best advice is to be yourself and stay true to what is important to you.
Name three coffee apparatuses you couldn't do without.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
“Baby, Now That I Found You” – The Foundations
Where do you see yourself in 2040?
This is a tough one. I haven't thought about that but wherever I am I'm sure I will be surrounded by animals and coffee.
What's your favorite coffee at the moment?
Anything roasted by my good friends at Flux Coffee.
The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented in partnership by Sprudge & Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2020 Sprudge Twenty honorees and a complete interview archive, please visit sprudge.com/twenty.