The industry of specialty coffee is filled with people driven by passion and most of them don’t expect their careers to be in this kind of industry. We have 5 tips that might help you to think it all through again if you feel like you belong there, if you consider about joining them, and if you feel like you want a career change.
“Learn how coffee is prepared and enjoyed in different cultures.” – Gabriel Beauchamp and Eduardo Trabada, Baraka Coffee, Puerto Rico
Gabriel’s and Eduardo’s obsession with quality coffee started when they lived abroad. Eduardo was an art director and Gabriel was an audio engineer. They had opportunities to study how coffee is harvested in different cities, even countries. Their experiences led them back to Puerto Rico to craft a masterpiece on their home island.
For ten years between New York City and Los Angeles, Gabriel lived and worked. While Eduardo lived in Barcelona. “One thing that’s the highlight of my travel is how highly Europeans spoke of Puerto Rican coffee. This lights up a fire to go back home and find the best coffees that the island had to offer the world.” told Eduardo.
Then He and Gabriel planned a quest to improve Puerto Rican coffee through local people with their own roasting techniques. Being so close to the farmers they purchased from is an unforgettable experience for them. “Develop a deeply rooted appreciation and graceful for all the people that make it possible to enjoy a cup of coffee.” Gabriel added.
Similar guidances have been heard from other industries, and you know it. So travel around, enjoy your surroundings and develop your own understanding about the world around you. Travel to lots of places where specialty coffee has already taken hold.
“If you have a passion for something, continue that passion for passion’s sake.” – Brian Beyke, Quills Coffee, Kentucky
“If you have other line of work, continue hitting your nail on what you’re currently doing, as it supports you and yours. If your passion for something is strong enough, it will carry you through the mundane and you will make time for it on top of everything that you already do.”
Brian’s passion is for coffee and he decided to sharpen his skills for years. He has spent most of his time brewing coffee and learning as much as he could about the world as a coffee lover and as to fulfill his hobby.
Eventually Brian was able to take his skill sets from his job, and his passion for his hobby, and have those to a career in the coffee industry.
While his job at Quills is geared more toward “back of the house,” he has been able to leverage his new experiences and resources to focus on his passion even more – by competing. Brian attended his first US Coffee Championships Brewer’s Cup Qualifier this year, and advanced to Nationals, a great feat. What’s more, he continues to host his Coffee Podcast.
While his job at Quills is more into “back of the house”, he has been able to perform his new experiences and resources to focus on his passion even more by competing. His first competition was US Coffee Championship Brewer’s Cup Qualifier and moving forward to Nationals. He also continue to host his own Coffee Podcast.
“Just do it.” – Manny Carerra, Argyle Coffee Roasters, Florida
Manny worked in audiovisual industry before becoming a third wave coffee roaster. It did pay his bills but it lacked of creativity and flexibility. He has a hobby to roast coffee at home and soon enough, his curious friends start asking him about it and then he realised there was a niche market he wanted to fill.
“You can make a lot of money and be miserable or take risks and be truly happy. We chose happiness.” told Manny’s wife.
The risk has paid them off. They collaborate with many other local businesses and paying forward to it. The couple admit starting something new, everything has its own challenges but they’re excited about the coffee industry and everything it offers them.
“There are so many wonderful avenues into the coffee industry. A person doesn’t have to start as a barista or end up owning a coffee shop. There’s so much more than that like Q grader, a green coffee importer, a roaster and other things.” told Manny.
“Go after the questions you want answers to.” – Jeff Yerxa and Nicolas Cabrera, Lost Sock Coffee, Washington DC
Jeff and Nico has a desire to be a part of a growing community which contributes with creativity and work in a collaborative space. The answer would be becoming a coffee roaster but they didn’t know at the time.
Washed Ethiopian made them jump into specialty coffee world and made them realised that coffee was so much more than coffee and their curiosity leads them. “When you begin finding the answers to these questions, you open your eyes to an entire world system of countless origins, people, processes and methods,” Jeff explained. “With coffee, you never stop learning. There’s always more to it. While daunting, the pursuit is addictive.”
Roasting coffee start as their hobby and they bought a Behmor 1600 with a pound of green coffee from five different origins and started going at it, home roasting really opened our eyes to how origin, varietal, processing, and roasting affect flavor development.”
The hobby grows into obsession, soon a career. They admit that there’s a leap from using a home roaster to a commercial one. However, they told me that roasting coffee in their apartment was a great way to familiarize themselves with the roasting process (“visually, olfactorily, audibly.”)
Some terrific advice from Jeff and Nico is to read, read, and read! There are so many resources you can get from books, online forums and many more. Accept trial and error. Reach out to other roasters; most are very much so willing to help out.
And to return to finding answers: “Begin actively tasting… everything. Developing your palette doesn’t happen overnight, and it is a vital asset in assessing coffee,” Nico said.
“Competing connected me to the industry more broadly.” – Maxwell Mooney, Narrative Coffee, Washington
Maxwell was trusted to join the in house barista competition on his first day at Caffe Ladro in Washington. Diving into competitive coffee head-first became a habit for him which provided him with networking opportunities.
He launched his own business that was several years in the making. He worked at different coffee shops but it’s crystal clear for him to open his own coffee shop.
“I put in a lot of work. I derived my opinion from data and market research,” Maxwell explained. He tells me that he found an extraordinary location for a new café. When the café owners weren’t able to commit to an expansion, Maxwell decided that the research backed him up. He set out on his own.
He continued to expand his ideas, and spent about a year and half in transition. He continued to grow the café he was working at while also launching his own business. He turned no opportunity down.
“In my free time, I worked on the business plan, visited potential locations, met with business mentors and connected with folks in the city I believed in,” he explained. After a successful pop-up season where he crafted third wave coffee and known people around him, he’s about to open his first brick-and-mortar cafe.
In the meantime, competing is always a rewarding and inspiring experience. He will participate in the US Coffee Championships, alongside his friends and mentors.
Learning From Others’ Achievement
Passion, obsession, hard work, and learning – these things are very common in most success stories.
There’s also another thing to add, persistence. Nico told me, “Don’t let bad roasts discourage you. They will come early and often. Cup,cup, cup, and learn from your mistakes and make progress.” And whether you’re interested in roasting, retail, green buying, or any other sector of the coffee industry, this holds it all true.
Coffee is one of the most rewarding industries you can work in. You may have depressing moments, but every single day you will wake up full of passion about what you can achieve. You will be surrounded by inspirational people. So take inspiration and advice from these stories. Start your new career in this industry.