We are thrilled to welcome you to the official announcement of The Sprudge Twenty, presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.

This is the fifth class of Sprudge Twenty honorees, part of an annual tradition honoring and amplifying leaders in the global coffee community in partnership with Pacific Barista Series. Pacific Barista Series is dedicated to championing leadership and excellence in the coffee industry and to supporting coffee culture as it happens worldwide.

Now in its 5th year—that’s 100 class members worldwide!—the founding goal of the Sprudge Twenty concept continues to grow and refine. Each year we set out looking for twenty people who are changing the game in coffee, doing work that challenges and excites us from every step of the coffee value chain: entrepreneurs and coffee producers, baristas and cafe owners, career coffee professionals, and those whose careers are just starting, competition success stories, and folks working quietly behind the scenes, leading by example.

From there, we reach out to you, our readers, who are us, asking for public nominations to highlight members of the coffee community. This year’s nomination process was the biggest ever, and we are bowled over by your stories and work.

We hope these stories will bring a smile to your face—as they have to ours—but many also include a call to action, a way to get involved to support the various projects and causes represented by our incredible global class. Each one of these members will receive a spotlight feature in the coming weeks on Sprudge, so get ready to know them a little better. Read on to discover the Sprudge Twenty for 2023, and thank you.

Jeanine Niyonzima-Aroian

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Jeanine’s legendary work in her home country is well-known. She’s the founder of the not-for-profit Burundi Friends, a founding member of the International Women’s Coffee Alliance Burundi chapter, and a leading quality exporter from one of the world’s most coffee-dependent nations. Jeanine’s signature is her Dushime® program, which returns additional premiums to her farming partners, benefiting a network of over 10,000 individuals.

Nominated by Richard Sandlin

Kate Blackman

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Kate is one of the greatest people I’ve met in my years in coffee. She’s knowledgeable, charismatic, determined, and loves to connect with her community. I met her five years ago when she was the coffee matriarch and my manager at Messenger Coffee Co., and I have had the honor of also working with her at two different bartending jobs since then. Over the years, she’s taught people in the Kansas City industry so much and has been a beacon during hard times. She’s pushed me to become a better barista and encouraged me to shoot for goals I didn’t think I could hit. She’s established stellar coffee programs at many cafes over her decades in the industry, and try as she might, she can’t escape it. Kate represents so much of the good this industry offers and is so much of why I’m still working in coffee. She’s dynamic, fun, and a force to be reckoned with.

Nominated by Kayla Schaudt

Dr. Nancy Cordoba

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Hailing from the coffee-producing region of Nariño, Colombia, Nancy Cordoba has, over the past decade, become one of the most respected and influential coffee scientists in the world. Dr. Cordoba received her Ph.D. in 2022 after a distinguished graduate career, during which she published several publications on coffee chemistry, physics, sensory science, biology, processing, and quality. A number of these publications have already become foundational and influential works in the field of coffee science and have been published in high-quality journals. Any one of these publications would have been an accomplishment for a young scientist, but Dr. Cordoba has had a prodigious publication output on a wide variety of scientific topics. Many of her articles have had a particularly large impact, being broadly cited and read, putting them in the highest percentile of research impact.

After receiving her Ph.D. from the University of La Sabana in Colombia, Dr. Cordoba moved to Columbus, Ohio, to pursue a postdoctoral appointment at the Flavor Research and Education Center. At this cutting-edge research center, she is using the most modern chemical and sensory analysis techniques to further understand coffee flavor and quality. In this work, she is likely to continue her track record of extremely high-quality coffee research, and her work promises to make significant breakthroughs in the understanding of coffee.

It is impossible to overstate Dr. Cordoba’s current and future influence on coffee science. Although she is little known outside of coffee science circles, she is well on her way to being one of the most influential coffee scientists in history.

Nominated by Peter Giuliano

Maya Crowley

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Maya is a Vietnamese woman, a cafe owner, and a barista in Vermont. She is an incredible entrepreneur, friend, and community advocate. She works every day to make her cafe and our industry a more welcoming place. Maya is a very dedicated volunteer with the SCA as a committee advisor working countless hours to keep things running for the coffee community. Just recently, she competed in the US Coffee Champs Qualifiers in Baltimore, advancing to Portland by serving a beautifully complex Vietnamese robusta coffee from Nguyen Coffee Supply. We are pretty sure she will be the first barista to present a robusta at the National level (in the US). Maya is part of the movement that is changing the game and totally flipping competition on its head in a really beautiful way.

Nominated by Hana Yoshimoto

Devorah Freudiger

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I nominate Devorah Freudiger, the Director of Coffee Culture at Equator Coffees. This August 2023, Devorah will celebrate her twelfth year with Equator. Before joining Equator, Devorah was the Director of Retail for Gimme in upstate New York. Devorah contacted me and asked to join Equator so she could learn wholesale under my mentorship. Devorah became our Wholesale Trainer and Coffee Educator. When we launched into retail in 2014, it was Devorah who led the charge. She was promoted to Director of Retail and opened Equator’s first eight retail stores.

Devorah’s contributions to industry our industry have been numerous, including co-founding the Bay Area Coffee Community, co-charing the Good Food Awards coffee panel, volunteering for years with the Specialty Coffee Association, and working on behalf of Equator as an employee advocate, sustainability advocate, mentor, teacher, and industry leader.

Devorah has been a shining light in our industry, showing what a career in specialty coffee can be, starting out as a Barista at Ritual to the Director of Coffee Culture.. We have watched Devorah compete in Barista competitions, mentor our folks internally and become a loving mother to two girls. I cannot imagine anyone else in our industry at this moment in time who is more deserving and who has blazed a path of what is possible in terms of career opportunities in our industry.

Nominated by Helen Russell

Nephthaly Leonidas

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Have you ever heard of the saying “surround yourself with people who are smarter than you”? Well, that’s Nephthaly Leonidas. She is by far one of the most brilliant people that I know. Her work ethic & leadership skills are out of this world! Years ago, I shared the mission/purpose of Gilly Brew Bar. She saw the end goal & fully embraced it as her own. Together we’re running Gilly & leading what we believe is the next wave in the industry. Many have heard my story but wait until you hear hers. Gilly Brew Bar helps people re-imagine coffee culture. That’s not possible without the help of my business partner/sister/friend, Nepththaly Leonidas.

Nominated by Daniel Brown

Elkin Guzmán

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Elkin is a great friend, partner, and master in fermentation processes. He is the third generation of a coffee-growing family from Huila, Colombia. For the past decade, he has carried out different fermentations in coffee according to the varieties or profiles we want to highlight. Elkin processes naturals, washed, honey-freezer, and koji.

Nominated by Sara Bedoya

Marcus Young

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From the moment I met Marcus, he was among the most encouraging coffee professionals I had ever met. He is constantly uplifting, encouraging, and connecting people together in this industry for the overall good and the individual good. It’s funny because he flies under the radar quite a bit when it comes to the hype in the industry, yet almost everyone knows him and has positive things to say. He is also a loving father, husband, and professional, always open to sharing his knowledge with others and wanting to see good things done in the coffee industry and the world.

Nominated by Erica Escalante

Gyalene Torres

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Gya is CONSTANTLY showing up and being better on purpose. She truly values people over profit and applies that to her daily living and coffee work. Gya gives her all to spaces to ensure they are at a standard of excellence that she believes her community deserves to experience. She is also one of the most knowledgeable coffee pros I know and educates others with such compassion and grace. Her new vision of Pouring Concepts is a program this city truly needs.

Nominated by Korie KP Griggs

Søren Stiller

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Soren is one of the best baristas in the world, multi-champion in Denmark for Barista, Latte Art, Brewers Cup, and also a finalist on the world stage. But my nomination is for his work with producers, pushing up the quality and supporting new research that leads to new processes and varieties and, in the end, great new coffees.

Nominated by Alejo Castro

Harry Graham

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Harry has dedicated nothing but his time and experience to helping people develop within the coffee community and continues to support many with his vast knowledge and experience, which numerous people benefit from. Starting his first coffee shop when he was 23, Harry has since gone on to open nine more of his own and helped others to open a further 52. He’s worked in prisons training young offenders to be baristas (and behave!), overseeing a mentoring program for formerly homeless people.

Nominated by Cornai Scott

Jennifer Rugolo

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Editors and writers are often overlooked in our coffee community but have an important and profound influence on how coffee is understood. For the past nine years, Jennifer Rugolo has been one of the most influential content creators in specialty coffee, heading up several influential projects.

Over the years, Jenn was involved in developing communications and content for a number of events, including Tamper Tantrum and World Coffee Events. In 2018, Jenn took over as editor of 25 Magazine, the SCA’s journal. In this role, Jenn reshaped the structure and mission of the magazine, shifting its focus to its current format which brings research, thought leadership, and global inclusion to the forefront. Under her watch, the publication grew notably in quality and influence. At the same time as she led 25, Jennifer also edited and published a number of important publications, including the SCA’s white paper on the Attributes Definition of Specialty Coffee and the SCA’s Coffee Sensory and Cupping Handbook. Recently, Jenn has taken over content leadership of Re:co, specialty coffee’s most distinguished coffee conference, and the 2022 and 2023 Re:co conferences were curated by her.

At the same time, Jenn has continued to write for other publications and is, in her own right, a coffee thought leader.

Nominated by Peter Giuliano

Michael Beyne

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Michael co-founded Daydrink in October 2020 as a pop-up. After two successful weekends, it was decided they would keep the shop going for a while longer. They implemented a glass jar reuse program to push their sustainability mantra of “A Coffeeshop That Gives a Damn.” Michael began roasting in November 2021 and packaging their retail coffee in reusable glass jars. In just a short one year and three months since they began roasting, their coffee can be found in shops across the Midwest including Dayglow, who recently reached out to use them for their monthly subscription and to feature their coffee on their website. Along the way, Michael has trained over a dozen baristas and managed the shop to become a successful staple of Downtown Iowa City with hopes of a second, stand-alone location in the coming year. Michael recently completed a trip to Mexico to meet with local farmers and better understand the coffee farming side of the process and how they can work with farmers to make sure their needs are met. Michael truly cares about his craft, always seeking ways to improve, and invests his time, money, and energy into his employees and his community. Michael Beyne very much gives a damn and is a huge asset to the specialty coffee community.

Nominated by Drew Distler

Amy Cosio

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Amy Cosio, alongside their husband and partner Kiddo Cosio, is a small business owner in the north of the Philippines. They run their business not as an empire but by “coffee in the service of humans.” These guys do good, not just for their community but for their country. They fight for rights and are open to discourse, both ugly AND pretty. They give their kids autonomy, treat their staff as family, and, oh, they make good coffee too. Locally sourced, supported from the ground up, and gave all staff and owners universal pay when the pandemic hit. Good people who happen to run an awesome business.

Nominated by Jamie Magsakay

Christopher “Nicely” Abel Alameda

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Nicely has been through fire in the LA coffee scene, heading a few coffee venues and slaying health and personal issues in the interim. He’s never lost his passion for coffee, people, or the community. It’s infectious! He’s currently a one-man effort at “pop up” on Venice Beach at his new creation, Hooked at Dudley Market. And folks are making the spot to be for great coffee service and community vibes.

Nominated by Hebe Navarro

Felipe Croce

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Twenty years ago, I stumbled across a farm name in Portuguese: Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza. In English, my native tongue, it translated to me as “Environmental Fortress Farm.” There was something incredibly memorable about the bold name for me, and after enjoying some of their coffee, I reached out to begin a working relationship with one Felipe Croce. Felipe is one of those friends of every type of person. He is easy to connect with and open with his trade. The vision he works to espouse in both practice and teaching is vital for the survival of our endangered coffee shrubs.

Simply put, Felipe is a coffee producer par excellence. He is a leader in farming coffee in nature’s image (regenerative, biodynamic, etc.) and developing a borderline spiritual experience in coffee cultivation. Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza, FAF, and Felipe are mighty gemstones proving that Brazil can produce incredible coffees. In a cascading climate collapse, coffee farming must migrate from monocultures to diverse perennial polycultures. My words fall short of capturing the importance of Felipe in this great turn from a culture of extractive measures to a new generative way of growing coffee. He has inspired my work, developing new coffee farms and working with coffee growers. His community-centered approach and commitment to excellence are palpable, sensual, and vibrant. As a result, he has helped his friends and neighbors have their coffee bought by the likes of Blue Bottle, 49th Parallel, Tim Wendleboe, 1000 Faces, Linea, and many other leading specialty roasters. I am attaching a talk he gave to our growers on our you-tube channel.

Nominated by Benjamin E Myers

Abner J Roldan

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Abner is the total definition of a coffee professional and an incredible candidate for the 2023 Class. Starting in a small coffee shop as a dishwasher, to champion/ incredible competitor to now co-owner of one of the most successful Latino-owned coffee shops in USA/Puerto Rico. I nominate Abner not only for his passion but for his ability to navigate such a harsh industry when diversity and inclusion were not on the table like they are now. He has seen it all, and he has been through it all. He didn’t let his “disadvantages” define who he would become in this industry. And look and him now.

I’ve never seen someone as dedicated to learning and growing as he. Last year when he decided to get back into competitions and participate in Coffee Masters and almost get that title on his first try, I was reminded of his unique ability to learn it all and do it all with the utmost professionalism and dedication.

As a father to our son and partner in life and business, I couldn’t be more sure that he needs no be part of this class.

Nominated by Karla Ly

Pablo Lara

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Pablo Lara has been dedicated to coffee for years; he has had the pleasure to work in cafes and now with an importer as a trader. He shares his knowledge, is always willing to learn, and is very passionate about bringing the coffee community together.

Nominated by Erika Hernandez

Chris McAuley

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Chris McAuley is long overdue to get recognition. They are the kindest and most generous person, who is always doing their best to make sure marginalized baristas have what they need to thrive. They run Getchusomegear: organizing gearboxes for marginalized baristas, always working with companies to make sure competitors and baristas can attend big events, and recently ran a merch fundraiser for me and two great friends to make rent when our shops were closed for the holidays. Chris McAuley represents the true power of kindness, leadership, and community within the coffee industry.

Nominated by Brit Sims

Ana Beatriz Bahamon

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Ana Beatriz Bahmon is from San Augustin, Huila and just founded Genesis Coffee Sourcing with the help of the Asociación Los N and Asociación Primaveral. She is working towards exporting coffee with radical transparency and capping profits made by the exporting company she co-founded to pass on more value to the producer. She also makes it a focus to educate producers on how to identify the value of their product, by teaching them how to roast and cup their own coffees.

Nominated by Omar Herrera

Want to nominate someone in your community for the next Sprudge Twenty class? The nomination schedule for the 2024 Sprudge Twenty Presented by Pacific Barista Series will be announced this fall. 

Explore a complete collection of Sprudge Twenty features from the archive: Sprudge.com/twenty

Nomination essays have been gently edited and condensed.

The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series