Coffee can be a vehicle to help you rise from a slumber, to fuel creativity, to enter a new profession, or to explore a new community. Coffee is, after all, about more than the drink itself, and our experiences linked to it can be as important as what we’re drinking.
Andy Anderson, who runs the popular Instagram feed @manmakecoffee, knows all about that. What started late in 2014 as a way to collect all of his own coffee snapshots soon exploded into a global community, with more than 100,000 followers. Now also encompassing a Twitter feed and a blog, Anderson's community is devoted to diving deep into the world of coffee, whether that’s learning about a new cafe or getting to know a barista better.
Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Anderson works as the Africa marketing director for a global tech firm. But while his day job might not be devoted to coffee, the rest of his waking hours are. We caught up with Anderson to learn more about Man Make Coffee.
How would friends of yours finish this statement “Andy is…”?
…obsessed with his wife and coffee. And we're not sure in which order.
You post both your own photos and submissions from others. How did it all start and how has it evolved?
My Instagram feed started as a place to keep all of my coffee snapshots. I soon realized I would eventually run out of shots and thought I'd experiment by asking followers to share their photos. I honestly didn't think anyone would. But they did. Before I knew it my collection of cute latte art shots turned into a specialty coffee community of more than 120,000 followers who have tagged me more than 150,000 times. Today maybe 95 percent of the photos on my feed are from the community. And to tell you the truth, compared to the photos they submit, my own photos just aren't good enough anymore.
What are some of your favorite recent posts?
Without a doubt, my favorite piece from the last few months was written by a national barista champion—his completely uncensored answer to the question: “Ever wondered what your barista is really thinking?” It'll make you laugh…and cringe…but mostly laugh.
Can you tell us more about your editorial vision? How do you select photos? Is there a certain aesthetic that you go for?
A few different things catch my eye: Fresh perspectives. Beautiful interiors. Perfect pours. I look for shots that tell a new story about coffee—new to my feed, anyway. The hope is that [it] inspires people to learn more about coffee and the people who serve it. Baristas are artists. The world should know.
Do you ever feel the “manmakecoffee” name prohibits you from being inclusive? Or do you have as many women submitting photos as men?
Here's the story behind the name. The photography bug bit a while back. I bought the camera. I bought the lenses. I bought the tripod. I took the lessons. I had everything I needed to become the next Steve McCurry. Everything except talent. I did manage to take a few photos I was proud of, proud enough to put them on Instagram. So I started an account and called it @manmakepicture.
It never took off, gathered only a small, disengaged following. But it did serve one important purpose. It was the inspiration I needed when I was looking for a name for my coffee account.
And here's the thing, the man in “manmakecoffee” is me. And since I didn't plan for it to become a community account, it didn't cross my mind that the name may be excluding the better half of the human race. Thankfully, 46 percent of my followers are women. And most of the photos I post are taken by women.
Tell us about your Humans of Coffee series on your website. What inspired that? What do you want people to get out of it?
Contrary to my career in marketing, I'm an introvert. So I don't easily meet new people. Until coffee. The absolute best part of my coffee journey so far has been the people I've met along the way. Hearing their stories made me learn as much about myself as I did about them. And they were stories worth sharing. So I started the Humans of Coffee series. I guess I'd like people to see we have more in common than we don't.
What are some of your sources of inspiration?
The “manmakecoffee” community inspires me. Their fresh perspective on coffee keeps me thirsty to learn more. My wife inspires me. Seeing someone living her best life every day keeps reminding me how important it is to do work you love.
What coffee are you drinking right now?
I'm drinking a single-origin Nicaraguan and it's some of the best coffee I've ever had. Even more impressive, it's from a national grocery.
Favorite coffee shop?
Oh, tough question. There are a few. But I guess if you combine the fact that they are five minutes from my house, that service is consistently good, the coffee is consistently excellent, and that they have a point of view they're passionate about and committed to—they serve only African beans, which they personally source directly from farmers—it has to be the Bean There coffee roastery in Johannesburg.
If you could drink coffee with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
James Freeman of Blue Bottle Coffee. I love his story, his passion and the brand he's built. And Jay-Z. For the same reasons.
Anna Brones (@annabrones) is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in the American Pacific Northwest, the founder of Foodie Underground, and the co-author of Fika: The Art Of The Swedish Coffee Break. Read more Anna Brones on Sprudge.
An earlier version of this feature ran with user-submitted photos found on the @ManMakeCoffee Instagram account, but without proper attribution to their individual creators. We regret the error.