I've been in coffee long enough to say that it has changed my life. Like a lot of coffee professionals, I never expected that when I started working in the industry I would be in it forever. But now, I'm neck deep in owning my own coffee company and things are not slowing down.
Without a doubt, coffee changed my vocational destiny. Beyond work, it's been interesting to think about how I've changed as a coffee professional over my time in the industry. As I've contemplated my changes over time I've pinpointed 3 different "seasons" or "waves" if you will. As I've noticed these waves in myself I've noticed them in my staff and different baristas around me. Some of these waves have been better than others, but all have contributed to my growth within the industry.
Heres where I've been.
my 1st wave:
This is when I was first introduced to coffee for real. I learned that different coffees had unique qualities about them. I was young, willing to learn, and believing anything anyone would teach me about coffee. I was fascinated, inspired, undereducated and overly caffeinated. I truly didn't know a thing about coffee and I didn't care. I just wanted to be around the coolest people in my neighborhood, learn from them, and eventually work with them. I became a barista because coffee was cool and the people were cool. The passion was 100, the customer service was lovely, and the coffee was mediocre at best.
my 2nd wave:
As time progressed learned some things about coffee. I was loud and proud. I wanted everyone to know what I knew. I had never worked harder at anything in my life and I often felt that people didn't appreciate my effort and passion. When I felt that way, I tried harder to be seen and heard. Truth is, my ego was bigger than the coffee. This resulted in an arrogance that halted my opportunity to really learn and grow. And even worse I wasn't treating my customers very well. The coffee I was serving was really good, but my vibes weren't exactly specality.
my 3rd wave:
I eventually made my way to various SCAA events, I competed in Big Western, and spent time in some of the best cafes in the World. I came across a lot of people who were in their 2nd wave as a barista, but I also interacted with some people who were way past knowing it all. They were certainly beyond any level of professionalism I had ever achieved. There was a common denominator among these baristas and cafe owners that I really admired. They were full of humility.
I by no means am saying that I am on the level of some of these folks I admire, but I know where I wan't to go.
When I first started walking on my coffee journey, I thought being a great coffee professional meant knowing it all. But the people I truly admired in coffee showed me something entirely different.
These people had spent so much time around coffee that they had learned how much they didn't know. These men and women had been humbled by the complexity and diversity in coffee. They understood that an exceptional cup of coffee had to do with so many people other than themselves. This humility translated into how they ran their shops, how they talked to guests, and how they were willing to treat a new person like me. It was so amazing how the coffee legends were so much more willing to talk to and help me than the "2nd wave" coffee professionals who "didn't have the time" to work with someone who didn't know much.
If I was going to be real, I still have those days where I try to sound smarter than I am and am not as hospitable as I could be. But If I've learned one thing in coffee, it's that it's all about the journey. In the same way our industry has made it's way through it's waves, in the same way our coffee sojourns it's way to our cafes, I think most of us are well on our way to being knowledgeable, humble, and incredible coffee professionals.