Q: Who are you and what do you do in coffee?
A: I’m a 22-year Career Army Officer who, during three deployments to Iraq, established (during my off hours) roasting operations under wartime conditions, leveraging the community’s expertise to bring soldiers not only superior coffee, but an environment to “let loose” and seek a reprieve from the daily events associated with the stress of war. The results: we minimized anguish by allowing soldiers an environment to socialize, and to address and overcome the hurt while focusing on the positive and optimistic.
I also networked with leaders and specialists in the industry, sought their expertise, and shared with service members their knowledge and passion, impacting thousands of service members either by providing an excellent cup or affecting that which is emotionally profound.
Q: How and when did you get started in the coffee business?
A: I’ve been fascinated with the agriculture aspect of coffee, after witnessing in my childhood the cultivation of my family’s lands in San Juan Arriba, Honduras CA. As the oldest son, I am responsible for the setting the vision and direction of our production. I have a passion for the beverage; what a gift towards productivity and health! But what I love most about coffee is its positive social impacts—it brings people together. My experience as a soldier has given me a comprehensive appreciation of how coffee can promote life, love, relationships, and all the positive things associated with our social lives, even under the toughest and most austere conditions. I would like to be a part of a strategic vision for coffee and the associated impact on business while educating the public about responsible but practical business practices.
Q: What jobs have you held in the industry?
A: None. But my Army peers consider me the “subject matter expert” (I question their judgment. I can, however, point people in the right direction). Additionally, as an Army diplomat specializing in geo-civil-military-political assessments in Latin America (emphasis in Brazil), there is much to be aware of when it comes to coffee as a commodity and the international aspects of trade. I’m passionate about seeking to understand the various aspects of “futures” and providing geo-political assessments that will impact the “bottom-line” when it comes to consumers and providers. A dollar per pound cost fluctuation deeply affects the livelihood of daily shop operations.
Q: What people and/or things inspire you, coffee-wise?
A: Leaders, innovators, and the passionate inspire me! There are so many among us (too many to mention them all). SCAA presidents from Ted Lingle to Tim O’Connor: visionaries. Counter Culture’s Peter Giuliano and Balzac Brother’s Ray Kean: immensely talented with the depth and breadth of their knowledge. Andreas Illy: coffee chemistry. My Barista Master Serena Stout and Internet mentor Ellie Matuszak: their culinary and teaching dedication. As far as the business end, the team at La Marzocco USA, Probat’s Karl Schmidt and Gaviña’s Steve Ruiz: proven leaders. The passionate: so many! From Probat’s Julianne Tutko who arranged to get a roaster to Iraq, to Pacific Espresso’s Paula Berman who networked for us, the folks at Whole Latte Love who helped us repair systems remotely, and Ms. Wendy Jensen who told the story, and the many of the various guilds and online networks… just amazing folks. And I would love to meet so many more! We are blessed to have so many professionals going quietly about their business; we need to hear more from them. Things that inspire me range from the newest designs of incredibly aesthetic and functional coffee machines to the continued quest for consistent “perfect” shots in every shop and household.
Q: What would you like to see change in the industry?
A: Speaking solely from a passionate perspective focused on how to maximize the positive social impacts in America through a great cup of coffee, I’d like to see a “coffee revolution” similar to the impact of the late Steve Jobs. SCAA is a great vehicle by which to brings us all together… but we need the challenge of innovation collectively! How do we get an espresso machine in every home and how do we integrate this with the next generation’s everyday life.
Q: If you were to die and come back as a drink, what drink would you be?
A: Water! By the way, I will! (a distant more seductive choice… I’d like to appear as the Salted Carmel Mocha Macchiato)
Q: If you could ask a coffee person anything, who would it be and what would you ask?
A: Ooooooooh, that’s too personal. On a professional note, I would ask Ernesto Illy and Family for a distance learning apprenticeship at their University in Italy, London, or Brazil. I find Illy’s passion inspiring. I’d love to get a doctorate in business management focused on coffee industry and trade. As far as a question? It would be to Andreas Illy. “How to they maintain such exceptional chemical consistency with each can of Illy Coffee?” (The most basic answer would take a day of lectures!)
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to coffee?
A: My passion for coffee and educating as many of our soldiers and leaders to the true value and potential of specialty coffee. The military community was my niche.
Q: What do you think others would say is your greatest contribution to coffee?
A: My friends say the same.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I will retire from the Army soon (within the next two years); I get to really enjoy life, and there’s so much to do! Personally, I’d like to design and engineer a revolutionary machine. But for the industry, I’d like to have as much of an impact on the industry as talents allow, as well as focusing on my own personal niche ideas. Most of all, I’d like to continue to meet the passionate, and learn, and lead with them!
Q: Has coffee affected your “non-coffee” life? If so, in what ways?
A: Yes, in so many positive ways that it seems that it has become entwined with everyday life.
Q: What’s the question you were hoping we’d ask, but didn’t?
A: Why are you attending the SCAA Event? And my answer would be to say thank you to the community for years of support to all those deployed and present them a small token of our appreciation.
Q: Who’s the person you’d most like to see us interview next?
A: Ray Keane of Balzac Brothers Coffee. He has an exceptional perspective on the future of East Coast mom and pop operations and can candidly share a business SWOT and provide input into the direction we should collectively go.