Someday someone is going to write a biography about Candice Madison and their career, and maybe that person is going to be me. What can you say about a person who was one of the first Black Q graders, one of the first few Q graders in the UK, and whose career has taken them from London to New York City to California’s Bay Area? Candice’s passion for justice and an equitable supply chain has led them to (finally!) start their own company, Kandake Boutique Coffees, with a mission of not only roasting coffee that’s accessible to everyone but buying coffee that pays everyone in the supply chain properly, from coffee pickers and sorters all the way through the supply chain to Candice’s own future staff.
Nominated by Bethany Hargrove Letoto
Do you have a coffee-making ritual?
I used to, and was so proud of them! Through the pandemic and the wave of challenges it brought with it, I have to say that it was that good old name brand that we love to hate on that kept me connected to my “proper” coffee life. The gym became essential, and so too did a huge mug of BigBrand cold brew with it. I do still prefer to drink coffee someone else has made. My ritual now is to maintain my peace, be grateful for whatever is on hand and drink coffee made with intention and love of craft, and that’s it.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
It sounds so boringly kumbaya, but the community and cooperation that links people around coffee means so much to me. I’m not even talking about the industry here. I only have to look at my own life to see the familial and friendship bonds that I have forged over a brew. My great-grandparents were coffee farmers, my dad used to pick cherries “only the red ones” when he was a child, and let me sip his morning brew, when I was one. In my own family and circle of friends I have made myriad connections over coffee, we all do. It is one of the greatest connecting fabrics in the world, and has been so for hundreds of years.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
Ooh, if I’m doing a pour-over, it has be something softly funky, so I can sway in circles and get my pouring rhythm right! Off the top of my head, one of my current faves is Fire in The Sky by Anderson Paak. If it’s an automatic machine (Wilfa Svart shout out), I love a little Foo Fighters (The Pretender is on heavy rotation) to get me up in the morning.
Do you have a favorite item of clothing to make coffee in?
I mean, at home, less is more. On bar, my uniform will forever be jeans, a t-shirt and a pair of chucks. They’re legitimately the worst things you can wear on your feet (I aspire to wanting to wear Danskos), but they are de rigeur for me.
What was the last cup of coffee you enjoyed?
A honey processed Sumatran Aceh Gayo roasted to perfection by my friend Doris Garrido Serrano. It sounds funky but it was one of the cleanest, complex and fruit-forward cups of coffee I’ve had in a while. Truly quaffable. So I bought a bag to roast myself—now that’s a good cup of coffee!
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
I will bang this drum to the end of time: we either forge an equitable version of the current supply chain, or, as I would rather see it, we blow this one up, start again, with a brand new model. Honor the land, respect the farmer, pay fairly for the product. That would make me truly happy.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
Equity, in all its forms. There are many, many issues the industry faces, this is the one closest to my heart.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
The people as well as my own passion for learning, experimenting and creating.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Do you have time… So, so many. I have been trying to answer this question for 24 hours, and still I have a list as long as my arm. I think our industry has a huge messaging problem. Getting people to understand our industry is as key to its survival as climate change etc. I saw an article in a magazine yesterday, which had the title “There’s actually an art to making espresso.” An article in the national magazine Food & Wine in 2022. If we’re all just talking to each other, how are we going to get fresh blood, new ideas, and a more diverse workforce? I have no way to solve this problem, or ideas to contribute, it just troubles me greatly. There are many more human, biological, technological etc. issues, but I think that this is just as important and woefully under-discussed. Maybe I’m wrong; that happens.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your life?
I’m not a fan of espresso drinks, but a perfect 5oz cappucino with an Ethiopian natural (have no idea which, this was about 13 years ago!) literally had me applying for my first coffee job the same day, in the same cafe. Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, London. Check them out—they’re still fantastic!
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I have that job :)
Who are your coffee heroes?
I don’t lionize people, as I think that’s dangerous, but a very much non-exhaustive list of people who have become friends that I respect and admire as “coffee heroes” would be Phyllis Johnson, Fabio Ferriera, Rob Hoos, Chris Kornman, Jen Apodaca, Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, Michelle Johnson, Mat North, Joanna Alm, Esther Maasdam, Colleen Anunu, Ever Meister, Tymika Lawrence, Chris McAuley, and Adam JacksonBey. Honestly, I could go on for hours. I kinda, sorta fan-girl most of the people I know in coffee.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My dad, Winston Benn. Because he was my Jack Sparrow, and I’ll miss him forever.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
So damn many! At the top of this list, without a doubt is Ildi Revi. For a woman who has helped to launch hundreds of careers, my own included, she does not get enough recognition for what she does for the industry and for the hundreds upon hundreds of people she has educated, mentored and nurtured.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
Run! We’re all mad baristas here!! Seriously though? This is a weird industry, that only a decade ago routinely didn’t advertise jobs or give any structured help with navigating your career. Things are eons better now, but there are still very few linear pathways to upward mobility. At the end of the day, if coffee is your career and you’ve been in it long term, pat yourself on the back, it’s brutal and demanding, but the rewards can make it worth it. Conversely, if you max out and leave the coffee, industry, pat yourself on the back, it’s brutal and demanding, and sometimes there are bigger better rainbows to be sought. Oh, and be nice to people, this industry is *very* small…
Where do you see yourself in 2042?