Tell us about the moment you became interested in specialty coffee:
My coffee story begins in 6th grade, when I tried ‘church coffee.’ It was the most disgusting drink ever, and I immediately swore off all coffee. Fast forward to the late 90s, and my best friend had purchased The Java Bean Cafe in Fort Wayne. The first time I stopped in to see him, I told him I didn’t like coffee, and he then proceeded to make me a coffee shake. That was a mind-opening experience, and began me drinking coffee. I was drinking caramel lattes and gas station pumpkin spice lattes from the push-button machine. Eventually I switched to flavored black coffee.
But one day in 2004, my future father-in-law made me a cup of dark roast coffee from a local roaster. That experience blew my mind, and I didn’t previously know coffee could taste like that. This made a fundamental shift in my coffee philosophy, and I began searching out good coffee. I was a big Starbucks fan in the mid-2000s, but as my palette continued to refine, my preference has continually moved lighter. I’ve recently begun understanding the difference between a light coffee and a properly developed light coffee. It’s a joy to seek out and experience good coffee.
It might sound a bit off, but I don’t work at Utopian Coffee because of my love for coffee. I came to Utopian after working 14 years in a non-profit, and my heart was drawn to the underlying mission of Utopian Coffee—to impact lives at origin. The love we have for people is genuine and I wanted to be a part of helping to change lives at origin. From helping people convert from coca (cocaine) to coffee to investing in communities like Vista Hermosa, Guatemala, we just care about people. We want to treat people well, and I want to be a part of treating people well. I want to help improve lives of people at origin. And if I can do that by working in specialty coffee, I’m happy.
What coffee do you recommend at Utopian right now:
What kind of stuff do you do at Utopian:
One of the hurdles we face in the specialty coffee industry is that freshness is paramount. We don’t have inventory sitting on shelves—roasted coffee goes stale quickly, and we believe customers who order speciality coffee want the freshest coffee possible. Instead of inventorying bags of coffee, we roast per order after the orders have been placed. This isn’t the simplest of things, and this isn’t ideal for us in regards to production—but we believe the extra work we put on ourselves to keep our customers enjoying fresh coffee is worth it. So a significant part of my job is implementing the technology needed to make same-day production happen efficiently. We have an amazing team of very talented people who make production happen, and they are relying on the technology to make production efficient. I’m also responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of our online retail fronts and help with some high-level operations issues to keep production moving smoothly. Basically, I’ll do anything I can to make others work more efficient.
What coffee-producing country would you like to visit and why:
I wish I could speak the language so I could communicate more directly with the farmers, but I do dream about visiting our farmers in Colombia who have converted from coca to coffee. I would love to get to eat and share experiences with them, seeing first-hand the change in their lives and understanding the impact each purchase of Utopian Coffee makes to them.
If you’re going to a cafe what are you ordering and why:
I am ordering a Dry Processed Ethiopian on pourover, because this is what I enjoy most—it’s like a dance party in my mouth. Blueberry notes are without a doubt my favorite. If I’m feeling adventurous I might order an Americano, and on a hot day you might find me sipping on an iced coffee.
What do you love about working at Utopian: