Veronica has unquestionably changed the coffee game. From the founding of Glitter Cat Barista, to the competition-centric bootcamps for all competition realms, to pivoting during COVID to fully online DiGiTiTioN, she has not only encouraged but EQUIPPED competitors from underrepresented and historically marginalized groups. The competition scene (and broader coffee world) will never be the same, thanks to her courage, creativity, and community focus.
Nominated by Kat Melheim
Do you have a coffee-making ritual?
My coffee ritual is a matcha based adaptogenic mushroom drink in the mornings. The dirty secret in our household is that we don’t drink coffee regularly anymore!
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
Its versatility! I find it truly fascinating that coffee can be used to make lattes/cocktails/drip/facial exfoliant/compost….We love a vers queen. Flavorwise, the more perceived sweetness the better—pour some sugar on me!
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.
Do you have a favorite item of clothing to make coffee in?
Four-inch Pink Patent Pumps!
What was the last cup of coffee you enjoyed?
It was the Cream Top from Maru in Los Angeles. Sweetened cream on top of a baby americano. Simple and delicious.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
We’re an industry full of the most incredible people, and we can’t find happiness if anyone is left behind. Once resources are redistributed, people are paid, and we start to see a thriving industry, therein lies my coffee happiness.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
Access. It’s all about access.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
I see so many community-based organizations starting and growing and I want to see more of these! My personal and professional ideals are often driven by finding creative and unique ways we can support each other to reach our goals.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
That we don’t need to look at each other as competition. Whether it’s an actual coffee competition or two businesses with the same product—we are all working towards similar goals. I find it difficult to work with companies that are strict on exclusivity or that won’t support people starting their own thing from fear of a hit to their business. It’s cliche but maybe a rising tide does indeed raise all boats?
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your life?
I don’t believe in “god shots” but I had a big revelation right after I spilled an entire bag of green coffee on the floor of a roastery. It was my first ever competition coffee, a natural Ethiopia from the Worka Cooperative. I completely misunderstood the roaster and thought he told me to go grab a burlap bag of coffee instead of the small bag of roasted coffee. I struggled for 20 minutes and spilled the entire bag before returning very embarrassed and with no coffee in hand. To this day I’m not sure why I thought we would be tasting green coffee, but also I’d only been working in coffee for four months… competition coffee is always unique, right????
Either way, we pulled a shot of this ROASTED coffee and it was truly delicious. Blueberries, she tasted like blueberries!
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
A job all about access to education and resources. So I guess I’m living my dream job.
Who are your coffee heroes?
I’m sending this interview late, because I’ve been stuck on this question. I have so many people I look up to and literally dozens of people who have taught me how to be a stronger coffee professional, leader, and follower. To me, a hero is someone who impacted my life in a positive and lasting way, and I have too many of those to share. Thank you to each of you who have been a part of my journey, you’re remembered and cherished.
But also, Santana at Fluid Co Op SF, you’re my damn hero because you KNOW how to make sponsors proud, MRS. TOPO CHICA.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My inner circle. We all live busy, dynamic lives in so many different timezones; anytime I get to have coffee with them is so special.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Oh golly, maybe my definition of mentors and heroes is the same? Far too many to name without feeling bad for leaving some out.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
How to quit a job.
The very first job I quit, I went into the meeting with a letter of resignation, started crying as I told them I quit, and thanked them profusely for the opportunities they had given me. The owner said, “Veronica, I’m proud of you for quitting and finding this next step in your career. You’re going to go far and are a strong leader. Be proud of yourself. Also, you need to learn how to quit a job confidently.”
Also, don’t take coffee so fucking seriously. Have fun. Play around. Make mistakes. Spill milk on the ground. Also, ask for what I want and need and if your employer can’t provide that, take steps towards leaving.
Where do you see yourself in 2042?
I love my career in coffee and I am also eager to begin schooling to become a Chinese Medicine Practitioner.