Across each year of the Sprudge Twenty series, the project strives to highlight the work of contributors up and down the coffee chain, from producers to educators, roasters to importers, advocates and community organizers, as well as those whose contribution involves making space for the beauty of coffee at the cafe level. The Sprudge Twenty interview series continues today in conversation with Gloria Baldwin, a coffee professional based at Camber Coffee in Bellingham, Washington.
“I could talk for days about Gloria’s achievements as a barista and leader. It’s no hyperbole to say that our cafe may have not survived 2020 without Gloria’s vision, creativity, and leadership. Gloria also stepped forward to help form our company’s 4th Wave Committee, which was created as a space to be held accountable and continue working on the advancement of diversity, inclusivity, and equity. Gloria’s work on the committee has focused on ensuring that all employees, customers, and producers, regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, identity, education, or disability, feel valued and respected by the company as a whole. Along with her colleagues, she has created an ever-growing, ever-evolving library of anti-racism resources. Her work speaks to her integrity and the honesty that she brings to all relationships, as well as her desire to continue learning and growing.”
Nominated by David Yake.
How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?
This last year has emphasized the importance of community and compassion for me. Without the people that surround us who are cheering us on—whether that be the loyal guests to our cafe or the people I am lucky to work alongside—we have all shown one another that we’ve got each other’s backs. Prior to the pandemic, I felt my work and life were enmeshed but if there was something positive that came out of all of the challenges, it was remembering to slow down and pay attention to the smaller, more life-giving moments. Becoming more present in my life has brought more clarity in my work now.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
Recognition of producers for everything.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Creative freedom in my work fuels me while watching that creativity inspire or work harmoniously with my team is what brings me the most joy. I don’t like the title “manager” as my philosophy in this position is that I am simply part of a whole—the moments where I am able to facilitate an educational experience or watch my teammates thrive reminds me everyday why I chose this as a career.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
The gender divide in the industry, in all of its reaches. When I have conversations with my co-workers we all understand the reality that women, LGBTQ+, WOC are all underrepresented in the industry and especially at the levels in which they are innovating. Far too often have ideas of mine been put on the back burner only to resurface as a new idea from a man who works above me. This has been a constant in all of my career. It is critical that the next “wave” of specialty coffee is one lead by those whose voices have always been set aside for the benefit of cis white males.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
The ritual and routine. Coffee has always been a ritual and it enriches our lives, provides energy and inspiration. It is truly a beautiful wonder of nature.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
Oh yes. My boss at my first job in coffee had a fascination with David Schomer of Espresso Vivace; he had us purchase his books and watch all of his barista technique videos online (bring bolo ties back to coffee). There were three of us on staff at the time and our boss was able to get us a one-on-one espresso tasting with Schomer. I was starstruck from the moment we shook hands. The last sip of the last shot Schomer pulled was described to taste like a candied dark cherry juice, mouthfeel and all; this was the first time I had been able to truly experience a flavor and texture exactly as it was described to me. This was my “god shot” moment and the moment that propelled me into my passion and admiration for coffee.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
I’m an espresso gal. Coffee happiness is sitting outside, it’s 68 degrees, I’m alone with a book. I’m able to enjoy my sweet, soft pillow sip of coffee all to myself. Our own personal coffee happiness should always be selfish.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I have always wanted to own a cafe since I started working in coffee. I think this is where I want to end up because I’ll be able to share a side of me that has yet to enter the world. I have many ideas on how my cafe will look, feel, and the things it will stand for. It’s exciting to dream about and I’m a dreamer for sure.
Who are your coffee heroes?
David Schomer comes to mind first simply because I had no idea about anything in coffee until I read his books.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My Mexican grandparents who have passed on. I never knew my grandmother, who I was named after and my grandfather passed when I was in high school. Now at the age of 29 is when their wisdom and guidance is so needed in my life, to help me understand my roots, my heritage. I dream of standing in my grandmother’s kitchen observing her make café de olla.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Natalie Stevens and Rose Shahbaghlian. When I began training for Camber in 2017, Natalie was our Front of House Manager and Rose was our Lead Barista. We immediately became close (we are a bunch of sensitive Cancers and Leos), Rose and I even share the same birthday. What these two provided for me was a sense of confidence that I hadn’t felt in my coffee career yet; they gave me tools and guidance with such humility and without a sense of expectation other than to see me thriving. I learned an incredible amount on hospitality and “creating a feeling” for others, not just a superficial experience. I could never thank them enough times for the beauty and patience they brought into my life, I think of them often in all of my work.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
That perfection is unattainable and unnecessary!
You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?
I’m assuming that we’ve figured out how to create the necessary physics? My dream bar is simple, give me La Marzocco Linea and a floral AF coffee for espresso because that’s the **** I do like.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
Any Brazilian Jazz from the 70’s & 80’s.
Where do you see yourself in 2041?
Fulfilled by all of the paths I took. Maybe living part of the year in Mexico. Having a few café’s that have provided fulfilling paths for others as well.