This Five Questions features long time BGA member and supporter, and one of the founding members of the original Barista Guild. She's one of the most knowledgable coffee professionals in the business, and someone I've respected on many levels for many years. She's worked for some of the bigger coffee companies, and now roasts in both Vermont and ONC (our nation's capitol.) She's been in the coffee industry for more than 20 years, was a founding member of the World Barista Championship Board, and knows where we've been, where we are, and where we're headed. She's a real treasure to the coffee industry as a whole, and in her personal life is dating Sir Nick Cho.
Here ya go:
1. You were a part of the original BGA. What did you see for it then, and what do you see it as now?
Back when we began thinking about it, we wanted to borrow some ideas from the Roasters Guild (I was serving on the RG Exec Council at the time) but also tweek them a bit. We knew that baristas would have a hard time affording a hefty membership fee, or go to a retreat, so we devised a plan for regional chapters. With regional chapters, baristas could get together and pull shots together and learn together. We were sure this stuff would happen with or without the BGA, but we wanted the BGA to be a catalyst whenever possible. All this was going on as the USBC was getting started, and the competition regions became the chapters for BGA. We wanted a community that went beyond the competitions, though. I mean, not every single barista feels the need to compete. Now I see evidence that those chapters are really doing things...like with SCAA Skill Building Workshops throughout the country.
2. What's your favorite coffee of all time?
My "awakening" happened around 1990-91 when I was learning how to roast, and my boss gave me some Costa Rica La Minita and told me it was expensive and I'd better not screw it up. So I roasted it just to the first pops of second crack and I lost my mind when I tasted it. At the time few farms were working this hard to create specialty coffee, and it was the first really high scoring coffee I'd ever tasted. I can't say I have a favorite of all time, but on a deserted island? ...some perfectly prepared, high quality Guatemala would probably be my choice.
3. Do you love the taste of espresso?
I really do...and the smell of a clean coffee off the tryer after first crack.
4. What does community mean to you, in terms of coffee?
I think we all have room to help each other get better, and sometimes that means we are competitive and show how good we can be. The specialty coffee trade is unique in that we share so much and talk about "community". For baristas and roasters, though, being part of a community has made us all better.
5. It's really cool to see amazing women like yourself roasting great coffee in a mostly male dominated field. What are ways we could encourage more women in roasting or baristas?
I actually see a bunch of lady roasters going strong. Women in the states have it fairly easy-or at least, pretty fair. But we have to make a point of being seen doing our coffee jobs! Why? Because in producing countries I still see very few women cuppers, which I will openly declare totally ridiculous. So if you're an American or European woman in coffee, don't sit back and say that you don't need to make a point about your gender. Maybe you're not into gender politics, but don't forget women in other places need to see us doing our thing so they can be inspired.