90+ Profiles: Getting to Know Brian W. Jones

JonesWho are you and what do you do in coffee?

I am Brian W. Jones, a designer and collaborator in various coffee-related endeavors. I started the website “Dear Coffee, I Love You,” co-founded the late Coffee Common, and recently helped start a new coffee roastery in Berkeley, CA called Supersonic Coffee, where I am the Director of Brand and Design.

How and when did you get started in the coffee business?

My first job in coffee was barista at a Starbucks in 1999, followed by barista positions at several independent coffee shops over the following years. I stopped working in coffee halfway through college and went on to work at several design agencies after I graduated. I fell back in love with coffee at the Intelligentsia on Broadway in Chicago when I accidentally wandered in one afternoon. A couple of years later, in 2009, I opened a coffee and pie shop in rural Alabama with a few friends and started writing about coffee on the internet. That was the beginning of the beginning of getting back into the coffee business.

What jobs have you held in the industry?

I’ve been a barista, a designer, a competitor, an event organizer, and a business owner.

What people and/or things inspire you, coffee-wise?

Coffee-wise, I’m really inspired by the people who are challenging the status quo. People who are experimenting, and pushing the current understanding of the coffee experience into new realms. I’m really excited to see what coffee can be. I also look at many things outside of coffee to inspire my work. I really enjoy going to cocktail bars and fine dining restaurants that have really nailed the service experience. One thing the coffee industry can always use more of is inspiring service.

What would you like to see change in the coffee industry?

There are a lot of beliefs floating around the coffee industry that aren’t always based on facts. I would like to see more experimentation and more pushing beyond the boundaries to discover what works best.

Also, the specialty coffee industry is quite small—and the internet makes it even smaller—leading to the development of trends where people are essentially copying what others are doing and applying a similar formula to their own business without regard for context or the integrity of the original idea. As a designer, this is disappointing. Whether it’s the name of a business, or branding, or the interior design, there are a lot of the same things being done and it can be frustrating to observe.

Lastly, the coffee industry has a problem with giving and accepting honest criticism, which impedes growth and progress. The great thing about this industry is that it’s small, friendly, and accessible, but the alternative side to that camaraderie is the reluctance to hurt someone’s feelings. I don’t mean to imply that we should be publicly shaming others, but personal, constructive feedback can go a long way.

What is your favorite coffee beverage or brewing method?​

Black coffee brewed with an AeroPress or a V60. The “Cappuccino Al Freddo” at Tim Wendelboe comes in a close second.

What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to coffee?

I’ve had several people tell me that “Dear Coffee, I Love You” was their first introduction into specialty coffee and it inspired them to pursue work in the industry. It’s incredibly humbling to hear that sort of thing. Inspiration has always been one of the primary goals of the website so it’s nice to hear that it’s been successful in that regard.

What do you think others would say is your greatest contribution to coffee?

Cool t-shirts.

What’s next for you?

Building Supersonic into an awesome company that employs awesome people who want to share awesome coffee with the world.

Who’s the person you’d most like to see us interview next?

I would love to see an interview with Patrik Rolf Karlsson. He is someone that I don’t think many people in the U.S. coffee industry know about, but he also has a unique pathway into coffee. He has always been a great person to talk with honestly over a cup of coffee and always brings new perspective to things. Patrik is incredibly ambitious and has an endless curiosity for new flavors and service experiences that he can learn from. I really look forward to seeing what he can bring to his new role at Five Elephant in Berlin.