have grace for yourself... but keep learning; to read, lead, and repeat.
Last year I featured women in the world who were killin' it at their craft. There was some much needed love for women in coffee. The best way to celebrate women and their social, economical and political achievements is to highlight an industry that touches all of those in a profound way from beginning to end. Specialty coffee has progressed the transparency and challenged many of the practices in the coffee industry in the last 20 years and continues to do so. So I'm delighted to have the privilege to highlight a few people in our community.
Questa owns a little cafe called Fresh Press Coffee, it’s tucked away in an unexpected place. I didn’t know much about the story behind the cafe, but once you hear it I think you will have so much respect for her independence and courage. It’s a combination of strength and determination to change perceptions, while staying conscious of the consumer’s needs. Her views are symbolic of the specialty coffee movement and a lot of what every person in coffee thinks about in this social movement that pushes for better consumption.
What’s one thing this week that excited you?
One of the things I love about my job is building solid relationships with some of my customers, and to some extent, traveling along with them on their coffee journey. Sometimes, this means that I have conversations about extraction, flavour profiling, equipment, and the desire to be carried to a different part of the spectrum of what coffee can be. Other times, it means that I actually get to taste beans brought in from different parts of the world.
Earlier this week, it was my privilege to receive a bag of Ethiopia Yirgacheffe all the way from Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters located in San Francisco. Super excited to try it out for myself, and for those who want to try it but can’t make their way down across the border.
OH, and it was also our 2nd year anniversary this Monday. Hooray!
How long have you been working in coffee and how has your journey evolved over time?
If we count the early university cafe days, I’m almost hitting the 5 year mark.
Perhaps surprisingly, I never started out a coffee drinker, but I was enamoured by the interactions across the counter between people, all of which was instigated by coffee. I wanted to be a part of it, so I applied for a barista position at my university. I then went on to trying out for a specialty coffee shop, getting the position, jacking the training, and opening up my own. Joking. I thought my time with coffee had ended, but the opportunity came up to continue the career with my mom’s sudden possession of a convenient store that was too small and hidden for candy and newspapers, but just big enough for coffee and chats.
My journey has evolved from jumping into it for kicks, to really discovering what it means to deliver a solid cup of coffee that is easy enough to understand, yet mystifying enough to explore further.
Yours isn’t the typical coffee story, how did you decide to venture out on your own? Can you tell us who you work with most?
As mentioned, the venture was more of a push off the cliff than a careful, well-thought out plan. I am partners with my mom, but as I am the one carrying more of the coffee knowledge and the how-to, you can usually find me behind the counter.
However, my coffee friends are a huge support to me and they seriously help me become better on the daily. The kind people whom we get to work with on a weekly basis for coffee, baked goods, and tea, are also essential to our success today*.
*Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Pallet Coffee Roasters, Herkimer Coffee Roasters, Kafka’s Coffee and Tea, East Van Roasters, Cadeaux Bakery, Swiss Bakery, Damien’s waffles, O5 Rare Tea, Justea.
So you run a specialty cafe in Richmond, for those who aren’t from Vancouver can you tell us what that means and what reservations one might typically assume about opening a cafe there?
Opening a specialty cafe in Richmond has been very interesting. You are basically trying to disrupt an existing coffee culture built on convenience and brand recognition (which is a huge and unshakeable force in the Asian market), and bring something that can be at first seen as undesirable (shout out to my tea drinkers). On top of that, there is a language barrier for some who walk through your doors. What you introduce in your space then, should be something recognizable but also very different from, or better than, the norm.
It is not an easy task, so you need to keep in mind what you are about, who you are, what you want to bring, and what you want to change. Depending on so many variables, it can either be a quick sprint, or slow but steady. Just don’t glamourize over the idea of having a coffee shop for the sake of it, be ready to put in the work, commit to it, and do your best.
Opening a cafe on your own is a huge undertaking, what is one lesson that you have learned or can share with others out there?
So. Many. Lessons.
Besides learning the need to find space for myself, re-ignite creativity, laugh, eat, cut hours, carve out goals, wake up early(-er), and keep a core group of friends, the one thing that I am always learning to do is to stay humble. This includes not being offended, not being intimidated, not being deaf to advice or opinions, and also knowing my worth, trusting myself, and believing that what I have to offer is just as valid as the one next door. I’m still working on it, but I’ve come to realize that what I have is like a different kind of beauty that at the end of the day, it’s all perspective, and it’s all okay.
Have grace for yourself, but it is also a call to stay educated, to keep learning; to read, lead, and repeat.