Today’s featured interview is Paolo Maliksi, a coffee professional based in New York and a co-founder at Regalia Collective, a collaborative roasting space. Regalia work with dozens of independent coffee companies in the New York area, offering access to roasting equipment, green coffee storage, education, and much more. Like many in the coffee industry, Paolo Maliksi has professional roots as a working barista and applies that insight today to his work with Regalia.
I first encountered Paolo behind bar, working as a barista in Manhattan. We later more formally met at an event at Regalia Collective, the shared roasting space he operates with his wife Chisato in Long Island City. I now as a matter of occasional routine visit Regalia for public cuppings and community events, and have known a few people whose roasting companies operate as members of Regalia Collective. Paolo’s warmth and humility are unrivaled in New York, and his contribution to the coffee community is similarly ample. Have I mentioned his unparalleled sense of hospitality? He has the exceptional manners of a WBC competitor. Hell, I bet Paolo’s already made Sprudge 20. If he hasn’t, y’all better quit fooling around.
Nominated by Samuel Klein
How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?
During the pandemic, our roasting collective received interest from individuals both within and outside the coffee industry. While it would make sense that a coffee shop or bakery would want to roast their own coffee to save money, the majority of our members are professionals pursuing full-time careers outside of coffee. The way I see it, during these challenging times, we have flocked to coffee and it has taken us under its wing. Perhaps we are driven by the business, but I believe that there is a familiar, protective energy to our industry that many people are attracted to.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
I care about promoting openness in our industry. I am lucky that this industry has been so kind to me: I hope I can do the same to future coffee professionals to come.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Learning. I like the way it makes me feel at the end of the day. It makes me feel young, and excited. These days, I learn a great deal from my roasting students at the collective.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
I find that we are overly faithful to our equipment manufacturers. Yes they help us make good coffee, but I’ve met a good number of people who’ve felt that they never really gotten a return on that investment. I hope that we as an industry will be able to provide more affordable coffee equipment to professionals that are looking to start their own retail ventures.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
It belongs to everyone.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
I remember drinking a coffee from Andrew Barnett’s Ecco Caffe that tasted like strawberries and cream. It most likely was a natural, but my gut tells me otherwise. In any case, flappity flippers it was so good.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Having coffee with my friends and family.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I would have loved to work with Dormans in Kenya in the early 2000s as a sample roaster. Some of my favorite coffees are from Kenya, and the coffees of legend were from the years 2000-2006.
Who are your coffee heroes?
I admire Caroline Bell of Cafe Grumpy. She and Chris were way ahead of the industry in many ways when it came to supporting staff, and improving the livelihood of their baristas. Bravo Caroline and Chris!
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d love to drink coffee with Beethoven, and see if he really needed sixty beans to make one cup of coffee. Bach was supposedly also a fan of coffee, though we only have his Kaffee Kantata to go by.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
I owe Kent Bakke (during his time at La Marzocco) for introducing me to the industry, George Howell for his inspirational talks about regional terroir, and Scott Rao for sharing his systemic roasting language and his friendship.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
You are good enough to work in this industry.
You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
“Texas Sun” by Khruangbin & Leon Bridges
Where do you see yourself in 2041?
My wife and I hope to welcome more children into our family someday soon. In twenty years I hope to be with them traveling around NYC, Japan, Italy, and Thailand.