We're thrilled to continue the Sprudge Twenty interview series today in conversation with Elvira Conty Nieves, an accomplished coffee professional whose work reaches from Puerto Rico to Sacramento. A career coffee professional, Nieves represents the knowledge, passion, and skills of PR's thriving coffee scene, home to both world class cafes and remarkable coffee producers. Read on!
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 SCA Heritage Barista Level 1 certificate among other achievements. Elvira lives and breathes coffee!!
Nominated by Janette Melendez Pagan
How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?
It’s definitely brought on a lot of adaptation to the new-ish normal of working with a virtual world. Looking and creating teaching techniques that are safe for all when done in person, a lot of visuals, proper planning, and creating as much of an in person experience as possible for students that take the online courses.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
I would have to say all of them. I’ve learned throughout time in the coffee industry how vital each role is to the coffee sector and how important it is to represent it well from the very beginning when the coffee is still at the farm to when it makes it to your hands and it is up to you to deliver the most delicious cup of coffee :D
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
The passion people have and versatility of coffee itself.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
A proper and equal pay for coffee producers. Paying over whatever the market price is at the moment is important to help producers and farm owners have a sustainable living at origin and be able to further themselves, their employees, and maintain their farm and mill infrastructures.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
The abundance of flavor profiles a single coffee cherry can contain!
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
I sure did!! I went to a coffee camp with the Escuela de Café y Baristas de Puerto Rico, and we were out at a coffee farm with little to no signal and honestly, just being alone in nature picking coffee, listening to people’s stories, and having this indescribable inner peace, I was just moved by it all. And that’s when I really knew I wanted to work in agriculture and help others however I could.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
In a perfect world: Coffee Happiness = World Peace. But in a real world: an industry that is 100% supportive of its people and full of opportunities. There are so many organizations out there doing amazing things and creating a positive change that it is wonderful to see the change already happening.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I actually love what I have become as an instructor, educator, and AST. If I could be anything else, it would be a Q grader or a roaster. I’ve always been fascinated by the craft and skill.
Who are your coffee heroes?
My grandma. She taught me how to make my first cup of coffee and her parents owned a coffee farm, mill, and market long a looong time ago :)
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My dad. He’s the reason I have such a deep appreciation and love for agriculture.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Yes! While I was working at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters, Andy and Edie Baker gave a lot of positive mentorship and introduced me to many other coffee leaders in the industry as a newbie to the Sacramento coffee scene! Lee Safar, from I Map It Forward, has given such a worldly viewpoint of the coffee industry and how to focus and push yourself professionally and set goals. And I’ve got to give a shout out to my mom and my family as a whole because they’ve believed in me from day 1.
What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
The trek to success is a very uphill one with someone throwing boulders your way, don’t give up and always be true to yourself and who you are because that is what matters. Persevere, have patience, and you’ll make it :)
You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
“Luna de Plata” by La Garfield
Where do you see yourself in 2041?
In 2041?! Whoaaaa, that’s 20 years…. Hmmm, I’d really like to see myself involved in outreach programs, have my own coffee farm as my passion project, and really be involved in developing economic strategies and land conservation.