Nominated by Michelle Johnson.
“LaNisa is a long time coffee professional and freelance trainer who has helped built the coffee programs of many cafes and restaurants in the LA area, most notably places owned and operated by Black people and people of color. Her work here in LA resonates throughout the community and she inspires people who initially have little interest in coffee into a deep appreciation. I see her at every nearby event working, volunteering, soaking up information, and offering her expertise to become a better professional just so she can share it with others. Her focus on businesses that are often overlooked to the rest of the specialty coffee scene here is beyond just admirable—it’s the Lord’s work and she makes our coffee community here as a whole so much better.” — Michelle Johnson
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Sprudge: What issue in coffee do you care about most?
LaNisa Williams: The issues that I care about in coffee are equal pay and equal opportunity to those who don’t fit the criteria.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
I love coffee because it brings people together. It allows you to be as creative as you want. There are so many events in coffee that anything can happen. I step behind the bar and become an artist. Coffee fuels people's day. It baffles my mind on how a cup of coffee can be the key to someone opening up to you. Coffee is consumed all over the world; it's that one thing that unites us.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Equal pay and equal opportunity for minorities/LGBTQ. I don’t feel there is an equal representation of these groups. [Another issue is] farmers being paid fair wages for their product, as well as accessible and affordable training for those who want to get into the coffee industry.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
My favorite quality about coffee is the fact that there are so many flavors that a seed can produce. The fact that coffee can smell one way before you grind them beans, and then once the beans are ground it can smell totally different. When coffee is hot it has these flavor notes but once it cools down the characteristics change. It’s like us—forever changing and evolving.
Did you experience a life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
2016 was a mind-blowing year. I got into specialty coffee and learned about alternate brewing methods, and my brewing life has never been the same. Being able to extract different flavors of one coffee based on the way you brew your coffee has been one of the keys that fuel my desire to learn more about coffee.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Coffee happiness is brewing my favorite coffee using either the AeroPress or the V60 and being able to sit back and enjoy every sip.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
If I could have any job in the coffee industry I would want to be a coffee shop owner and trainer. I really enjoy sharing knowledge with others and seeing how they receive the information and what they can do with it. Being able to connect with someone on a different level is what brings me true joy.
Who are your coffee heroes?
Michelle Johnson, Ian Williams, and Cyrenthia Ngueyan are my coffee heroes.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would love to drink a cup of coffee with my Dad. Didn’t get a chance to really get to know him; when I was 11 he was murdered. I feel we would have so much to talk about and it would be a great way to connect with him.
If you didn't work in coffee what do you think you'd be doing instead?
If I didn’t work in the coffee industry I probably would be in prison or six feet under. Coffee definitely saved my life. Someone took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity to better myself.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Michelle Johnson, Chuck from Good People Coffee, Joe from Espresso State of Mind—anytime I have questions they never have a problem helping me out.
What do you wish someone would've told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
There are so many elements to coffee—don’t let the coffee intimidate you.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
Where do you see yourself in 2040?
I see myself training at my nonprofit called Barista Behind Bars, helping those who have recently been released from prison, those who need a second chance in life, and being an advocate for African Americans in the coffee industry
What's your favorite coffee at the moment?
Guji Mane from Cxffee Black.
How has the COVID 19 pandemic impacted you personally and professionally?
Personally, my life is a little different. Not being able to go out and really socialize has put a lil' dip in my step. Having to wear gloves and a mask all the time really sucks. Going out and doing self-care, like going to the beach or something else grounding, makes me really miss what really kept me going. I’ve had to reflect on ways that I can still keep my spirt up. I miss personal contact.
Professionally it has taken a toll on my business. There’s no training going on or any consultation right now. COVID-19 has given me the opportunity to sit back and see where myself and business can use some improvement. Bettering myself at my craft is something I strive for daily, and with a lot of free time, I’m able to do just that, which is very rewarding. I’ve been able to support a lot of others in the coffee industry which has been a true blessing. I feel all in all I’m handling this situation the best way possible and staying positive and open-minded.
Is there any donation fund or resource in your community we can share with our readers?
Thank you LaNisa!
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.