#43: Mentorship in Specialty Coffee: Students Become the Teachers | Panel Discussion | SCA Lectures 2018

One of the “special” things about specialty coffee is the connections that coffee people make with one another—beyond simply making deals, beyond simply hiring and firing, we are an industry of people who are drawn to share, learn, and grow with one another. Mentorship is one of the most powerful professional tools in that regard, and something that sets the specialty apart from the commercial: It also, however, comes with great responsibility, and sometimes even risks.

Today’s episode – recorded at Specialty Coffee Expo in 2018 – features a panel, led by moderator Ever Meister: Candice Madison of Irving Farm Coffee Roasters; Katie Carguilo of Counter Culture Coffee; Lem Butler of Black & White Coffee Roasters; Nicholas Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters; and Mansi Chokshi of the Specialty Coffee Association.

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Table of Contents

0:00 Introduction
1:45 Introducing the panelists and explaining their backgrounds
10:20 A discussion of panelists’ experiences about what mentoring has looked like in their careers
15:45 A discussion about the specific mentors the panelists have had in the past
32:00 What’s the point at which you become comfortable being a mentor?
46:15 Sometimes mentor relationships shift to friendship or in other ways. What has been your experience with that?

Audience questions
1:03:00 When did the moment feel right to push your careers further, to move from mentee to mentor?
1:10:00 How important mentorship is to people who don’t fit traditional cisgender or racial profiles in the coffee championships
1:18:00 Outro

Episode Transcript

0:00 Introduction

Heather Ward: Hello everyone, I’m Heather Ward, Senior Manager of Content Strategy at SCA and you’re listening to the SCA Podcast.

Today’s episode is a part of our SCA Lectures series, dedicated to showcasing a curated selection of the extensive live lectures offered at SCA’s Specialty Coffee Expo and World of Coffee events. Check out the show notes for relevant links and a full transcript of today’s lecture.

This episode was recorded live at the 2018 Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle. Visit coffeeexpo.org to learn more about this year’s schedule of lectures – and get your tickets!

One of the “special” things about specialty coffee is the connections that coffee people make with one another—beyond simply making deals, beyond simply hiring and firing, we are an industry of people who are drawn to share, learn, and grow with one another. Mentorship is one of the most powerful professional tools in that regard, and something that sets the specialty apart from the commercial: It also, however, comes with great responsibility, and sometimes even risks.

Please join us in welcoming today’s panel, led by moderator Ever Meister, as they discuss how to create these relationships, how they can be mutually beneficial, and how to prevent them from doing more harm than good: Candice Madison of Irving Farm Coffee Roasters; Katie Carguilo of Counter Culture Coffee; Lem Butler of Black & White Coffee Roasters; Nicholas Cho of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters; and Mansi Chokshi of the Specialty Coffee Association.

Also, I’ll be jumping in occasionally to help you follow along in the podcast

Ok, team – let’s go!


1:45 Introducing the panelists and explaining their backgrounds

Erin Meister:  Okay. Well, welcome everybody to Mentorship in Specialty Coffee. Students become the teachers which is a panel featuring these fine folks over here who I will introduce in a moment and I will also just let them sort of speak about themselves. My name is Meister. I work at Cafe Imports. This panel was my idea, so you know who to blame. But mentorship is a topic that has, I think been coming up a lot in the past few years, especially as people are trying to find new pathways in the industry and really looking to some of the folks who seem to have attained some kind of goal or achieved some sort of benchmark either in their career or just sort of in certain directions or achieving a certain degree of recognizability?

Is that a word? It is now. Recognition, sure. And so, I just thought as I sort of think about the ways that people coming up in the industry can sort of grow and develop and also the ways that we can sort of help each other make a more dynamic professional community. This was something that sort of came up for me over and over and over again sort of thinking about the idea of mentorship.  What are the uses of it? What are the benefits? What are the drawbacks? What are some of the dangers on both sides? What are the responsibilities of having this kind of relationship? And as I was thinking about mentorship, there were literally five people that came to mind and they all just so happen to be sitting here, which is amazing.

Most of people on this panel have actually been, at some point in my life a mentor to me and I think probably some of them have been mentors to each other and certainly there are other people who have been really impacted by each one. So, they’re really special. You can see their names on the board so you can tag them and follow them on all their social media. But, I want to introduce you to Lem Butler from Black & White Coffee Roasters in, North Carolina. Candice Madison from Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. New York. Mansi Chokshi from the Specialty Coffee Association. We got Katie Carguilo from Counter Culture Coffee and Nick Cho from Wrecking Ball Coffee.

I’m going to ask each person on this panel just to sort of tell us really briefly about, I don’t know why I’m talking to them. I’m going to ask each one of you to tell us really briefly just about your growing up in coffee and just a very short background if you want. And I also want to say although this first question will be very much like one person after the other I prefer a panel discussion that’s more like an actual conversation. So, if you guys have questions for each other questions for the audience or if anything comes up, I want this to just sort of be, we’re five people who like each other and we just have a conversation.

So just pretend that you like me for a second, just for the next 45 minutes or so. Yes, something like that. We’ll start with you Lem because you’re sitting right next to me and you just took a mouthful of water.

Lem Butler:  My name is Lem Butler. I work, well, I actually own Black & White Coffee Roasters in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Before that I worked at Counter Culture Coffee for 10 years in a couple of capacities. And before that. I worked in a cafe, very small. What you would call a mom and pop shop and I began in 2003, mainly from ignorance and just needing a job and that was the first thing I saw and pursued and 15 years later I’m on a stage with some very impressive folks with awesome resumes and talking to you guys.

Candice Madison:  Yeah, no, I am the least impressive person on this panel. There’s some awesome people up here who I’m proud to share the stage with. My name is Candace. I’ve been in coffee for just under 10 years. I am not American. So, I started in specialty coffee in London. I worked as a yoga teacher and because I was doing Ashtanga Yoga first thing in the morning I had to get coffee just happened to be one of the only 16 at that point specialty coffee cafes in the UK. And I realized after a while, I was drinking more coffee and then asking for barista shifts and doing more of that than I was actually yoga teaching. So, I’m no longer a yoga teacher weirdly enough. I moved through being a barista, got my Q license as an Arabica grader, became a roaster. I’ve been a teacher for most of my life. So, moving through barista and roaster into education and doing all the same at the same time is very natural for me. I work as a Q grade instructor for Arabica coffee. I’m starting a whole new education program for Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, and I get to hang out with awesome peeps.

Mansi Chokshi:  I’m Mansi. I’m actually not from the coffee industry but I joined the Specialty Coffee Association of America 10 years ago. It’ll be 10 years in May. So, I feel very official now that, oh yeah, sorry, not as a member. I joined as staff, so I still work there with SCA. I’m the Director of Experience. I previously was the Director of Membership. I learned everything about specialty coffee from all of you actually because my job was to go around, meet all the members, help them all connect with each other and that’s pretty much how I’ve been progressing in my career at SCA as well. I still build communities. I work with the guild leadership also with other smaller communities. If anyone was at Re: Co I work with the Fellows Community. So, this is a big part of my job, is building community and connecting people. And even though I may have not come from a specialty coffee background I feel very well connected with all of you just because of my daily job and what I get to do. So, I feel very fortunate to be here and on the stage with extremely well educated, qualified people. So, thank you.

Katie Carguilo:  Hi, I’m Katie Carguilo. I started in coffee in 2002. I was in college and I got a job at a coffee shop in Washington DC. Coffee shop actually owned by this guy and like most of us coffee kind of put its hooks in me and I became really interested in the industry. One of the benefits of working at the coffee shop that I did was that Nick was really passionate about introducing us to the industry and sent us to barista competitions and to SCA events even though we were just Baristas at his shop. And so, I saw a larger vision that I could have a place in coffee as a career. 10 years ago, I started working for Counter Culture Coffee. I first worked for them in New York City for seven years, Meister and I worked together doing coffee education and customer support. In 2012 I won the United States Barista Championship and then in 2015 I moved to California to continue working for Counter Culture but in a quality control and coffee purchasing role at our roastery in Emeryville. That’s my story.

Nick Cho:  Hi, my name is Nick Cho, Nicholas Cho. My wife Trish and I run Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters in San Francisco., been doing that for about five/six years. Before that, once upon a time started a coffee shop in Washington DC called Murky Coffee in 2002. Katie was, I think our are fourth or fifth hire for a little, tiny shop that we had at the time. And over the years, it started ’02. My first SCA Conference Expo was 2004 and like a lot of you have experienced or hope to experience this weekend, know that you will. I met a lot of interesting people who very much became my mentors in the industry. And so, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart for a number of different reasons and I’m going to try to not cry from up here during the next hour.

Erin Meister: That’s funny. I think all of us are actually probably feeling a little bit that way. I definitely am like I may cry during this panel. Who knows? It’s the first day of Expo.

Nick Cho:  Make it a contest. who cries first.


10:20 A discussion of panelists’ experiences about what mentoring has looked like in their careers

Erin Meister: Yeah. Oh, yeah and start the timer. Okay great. So, this is funny. This is actually one of the slides where it’s literally a definition of the word mentor and then the rest of the slides are just quotes from famous people saying stuff about mentors. It’s almost like I didn’t take IDP. Well, one of the interesting things, first of all, there’s two definitions of the word mentor because I didn’t realize that mentor was actually a character in The Odyssey, which is I guess where that name, where that word comes from. Learned something here today. But so, the dictionary definition of a mentor is a trusted counselor or guide. Basically, someone who leads you through on a journey or pushes you as a person, either personally or professionally.

I think a lot of people probably have teachers that they consider mentors to some extent. That relationship, it’s almost designed to sort of have that feeling, have that impact on people. But, I think that when you work in an industry and you are looking for mentors among some of the people who are your peers or some of the people who might be your bosses or your co-workers, mentorship might have a slightly different definition. I wanted to also ask the folks on the panel if there was something in particular that the word mentor meant to you. If someone were to say, do you have a mentor, or have you ever been a mentor to someone? What does that relationship look like in your careers especially having a really wide range of length of time in the industry and experience in the industry? You’ve probably encountered very different types of people who have been mentors. So, I’d love to hear whoever might have an idea about that, please.

Mansi Chokshi: I’ll start. So, yes I agree with you. My story of mentors are friends. They could be bosses. I think the one word that stands out is they have a commitment to your success and that’s really what I think holds special and true to me for somebody who I would consider a mentor or somebody who I would who I would mentor. So, it’s that commitment and it’s really in the progress for the other person.

Katie Carguilo:  Well, the word that comes to mind for me is guide. I like to think of a mentor as not somebody that tells you what to do or what you should do, but really helps you explore and find the right answer for yourself.

Lem Butler: Just to echo on both of those. I always looked at mentors in three stages or three types. The peer-to-peer kind of mentor, the career developing mentor and then the life developing mentor. The peer can be someone who works with you. If you start a new job, that onboarding person that’s been assigned to help and guide your orientation to the company or wherever you may work and then the career person where you talked about your boss or the owner of the company guiding your career, not necessarily in the job that you are. They could be someone who works in another company or whatever, but they’re just guiding your career and what you want to do. And then, what I feel is pretty important to me is that that life mentor, it could be someone you work with but for me, it’s usually someone that’s not even in the industry but is more of like a guide of like well-being, helping out with your life goals.

Nick Cho: For me, mentors a weird word that I don’t think about except in settings where it’s let’s talk about mentors. To me, and I’ve seen this, and Meister, we were talking about people emailing sometimes, “Will you be my mentor,” and I think it’s still interesting. For me it’s a little bit like saying, “Can we be confidants?”

Erin Meister: Yeah.

Nick Cho: That’s something that’s an attribute of a relationship that develops over time. The way I see it and I understand that’s just my point of view. The relationships that I characterize as either me receiving mentorship or having mentors or being a mentor for other people, it’s just something that happens through the course of a relationship like almost any relationship. It’s a special sort of thing, special circumstance and it just kind of emerges through the ether of things like, “Wow, this is actually a mentor kind of relationship. Oh, yeah, it is.”

Erin Meister: Yeah. I mean that’s interesting. The idea of a peer to peer mentor is really interesting to me because I think that that’s something that we don’t often imagine when we imagine what a mentor relationship looks like. But also, what Katie said, that idea of someone being committed to your success. That being sort of a mutual commitment to lift each other up, to sort of push each other forward. I think that kind of relationship can really happen with anybody. It could be a customer to a barista to be honest. Someone who goes out of their way to maybe tell your boss that you’ve done a really good job. Someone that you just make a really intense connection with to a certain extent. I think guides sort of show up in all forms.



15:45 A discussion about the specific mentors the panelists have had in the past

Erin Meister: Hey, that’s a good segue to the next slide. And it’s a quote from Robert Frost, which is also interesting because Robert Frost was kind of a jerk. But this quote, “I’m not a teacher but an awakener.” I would love to know who the awakeners, who your mentors were.

I mean, I already said you all are kind of my mentors in the industry in one way or the other. Some folks, I haven’t actually worked with you. But even just sort of watching from a distance the way that you facilitate other people’s growth, the way that you support other people, even if it’s not necessarily someone who’s working with you or under you has been really impactful for me. I would love to know who maybe some of the people that come to mind for you are if you feel like sharing that.

Candice Madison: I was always really scrappy. I’ve always gone after what I wanted and so, I didn’t really give people the chance to naturally become my mentor so much as just had such a thirst for knowledge in the coffee industry. It kind of became apparent who could deal with my constant questions and constant enquiries all hours of the day and night conversation. And, I guess my first mentor in coffee, in terms of taking an interest in my career and going out of his way to teach me would have been Tracy Allen who mentored me through my roasting and how to navigate certain unavoidable but not sign posted pitfalls along the way. And although Tracy is faded from being a mentor in my career, still a great person and a great guy. The ones that really stand out for me just organically are all women.

So, I was really lucky. I find it’s funny because we talk about gender issues in coffee, but I have been incredibly lucky to never have to want for finding female, or women of color, or people of color to look up to who really were committed and invested and people that come to mind are L. D. Revie, Trish Rothgeb Nick’s wife, Ellie Hudson, Phyllis Johnson from afar and then peers like Tameka Lawrence and Michelle Johnson and others. I’ve been incredibly lucky and, but it was quite funny because mentorship is organic for me. I realized that I have become mentors to people without realizing it and the sense of responsibility once I recognized the relationships that I was in is huge. And so, I have even more respect for the people who have stuck by me and then made themselves available. And it is, it’s that accessibility, availability and that commitment and concern that really are the hallmarks to me of that relationship. So, thanks ladies.

Erin Meister: How about you Nick?

Nick Cho:  What’s the question again?

Erin Meister:  Who’s someone you would consider your mentor?

Nick Cho: I think Lem talked about three categories that you think of when you think about mentors I think of two different categories for me and they’ve been my coffee mentors and then they’re my sort of life mentors. And, last Saturday a young couple who the husband Chris, I saw grow up since he was a baby, came to visit San Francisco so we had dinner. As we were talking I’d kind of forgotten for a bit, because I haven’t seen him in a really long time, but his father was the head pastor of my church that I grew up in.

And Reverend Young Jin Cho who, being a pastor then with United Methodist system. So, district superintendent and then eventually became a bishop before he retired last year, and I was just overwhelmed by a feeling of just gratitude and just humility that I hadn’t really thought about it.

And, I knew this whole time and if you asked who are your mentors in life, I would have listed him, but it really made me reflect on his impact, on the way that I think he taught me how to think the way that I do. He taught me to doubt, and to question, and to struggle and about how all those things that we run away from are actually important parts of our human experience. That love doesn’t exist without pain and all that sort of stuff and the ideas, the way that I think about stuff where if everyone seems to be trending in a direction then what are the things that are being overlooked right now. People know me really well. That’s defines the way that I approach pretty much everything. So, there’s him and there are a couple other people that are like that from my formative years. But then as I mentioned before, I come in the 2004 Expo that was in Atlanta that year.

It’s funny to talk about now, but I met Trish who is now my wife. We were married to other people at the time. It’s not scandalous, I promise. It’s much more banal and boring than it might seem. But I just came across people. I was introduced to Peter Giuliano who has become a really good friend and a big coffee mentor to me. Trish was a big coffee mentor to me. She encouraged me in ways that no one really else had. Just hearing me out, struggling with these ideas and she would just listen on the phone and go, “Nick you’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time.” That felt really good to hear and then Rick Reinhart and a couple other people like that. For some reason they would take my call and I felt really fortunate in that way. I started a podcast right around that time called Portafilter Podcast. Some of you have heard it and the genesis of that was having these one-on-one conversations where I felt like I was being mentored by these coffee people who knew so much more than I did. And it felt really selfish to keep it to myself.

And so, it just strikes me that to be able to be a coffee mentor to people through a unilateral that just like recording podcasts and putting it out there. It just dawned on me that that’s actually a thing

Erin Meister: Yeah

Nick Cho:  that happened. Good people have come up since then and over the years they’ve just said I’ve learned so much. My coffee 101 was listening to just all the Portafilter Podcasts back-to-back. And yeah, it’s pretty neat. It’s awesome.

Erin Meister:  It’s awesome. Yeah, go for it Katie.

Katie Carguilo: I was just going to say that I too think that my idea of what a mentor is has evolved over the years. When I was first becoming very interested in specialty coffee being a viable career for me. I remember that I went to an SCA in Charlotte. And I had known about Peter Giuliano because Nick talked about him all the time and how great he was, and I asked Peter at a party if he would be my mentor. I specifically used that word like we’re talking about and he said yes, and there were a few times when we talked on the phone. I traveled down to Durham which is where Peter was working at the time to spend a day with him to learn more about the ins and outs of what a day to day being a coffee buyer is.

And as my career sort of progressed I think that the meaningful relationships for me have been about peer-to-peer mentorship. I think I learned a lot from Peter, but Peter is sort of like a pillar of the industry who was a mentor for all of us. The things that I learned from him I feel like we all have learned like the power of storytelling and the importance of being generous with information and the importance of looking for answers as much in the past as looking to the future. And as time went on, if I’m going to name people that were mentors to me it would be people like you Meister, like Tommy Gallagher. The people that I work with now Tim Hill, Kim Elena Bullock who’s now the. Sustainability Manager for the SCA but who I worked with also. People like Colleen Anunu who I can call a friend and I also can bounce ideas off of her and ask her who should I contact about these things. People that can put me into contact with people to make connections and build ideas. And those are sort of the more ways that I look for mentorship in my life now than I did when I was starting out.

Erin Meister: Yeah. I think that’s really interesting to think as well about the people who you can disagree with in a way that is not contentious but helps you both to sort of grow and work out ideas. I think that we often have this image of a mentor being someone that you just sort of like sit at their feet, and just listen to them talk and I think that you learned so much from challenging people. And so, maybe choosing someone who’s feels unchallengeable or who doesn’t seem like they would be on the level with you sounds sort of strange. I don’t know. Does that sound like it would? Yeah, Okay, just not.

Mansi Chokshi:  Absolutely. Yeah.

Erin Meister:  How about you?

Nick Cho:  In other words? It’s not a relationship.

Mansi Chokshi: Yeah, and I think that’s important when your Mentor is or whoever you’re looking to your peer to peer mentor to be. You want to bounce ideas off of each other and you want to make sure that okay, I want to hear what the other perspective is, and I definitely have that with Ellie. A lot of you know her but we’re total opposites but we’re peers and we work together in a lot of different ways and that’s one of the things that I look forward to. I’m like, okay. I’m going to go talk to Ellie about this because I know she’s going to challenge it in some way. And you want somebody in your life that is going to encourage you and help you figure out maybe where the blinders that you have because we all have blinders and we all think certain ways. And you need somebody that’s going to always be on the other side of that. And then, just to mention since we went around and mentioned mentors.

I had, when you sent around the questions I had mentioned that I think Rick is one of my mentors as well and I think Nick and a bunch of people already mentioned him. But one of the things that’s unique about that is he’s removed, he’s not my direct boss and I found that important because when he was my boss, it was really more him guiding me on. “Okay, this is how you do your job, and this is what you need to do. This is who you need to know, or this is the history of this company.” And really bringing me into the coffee industry and helping me understand but as soon as we became more distant in our relationship as colleagues, then I was able to just kind of peek into what his vision was and him helping me develop my vision on where I wanted to go, and it was no longer like I reported to him. So, I felt that it was important, and I know a lot of people look to their bosses as mentors, but sometimes it’s important to have people that are not your bosses because they have also have that commitment as a boss.

Erin Meister: Yeah.

Mansi Chokshi: So, I think it’s important to also look for people that are outside of that work environment.

Erin Meister:  What about you Lem?

Lem Butler:  Very early on, my first coffee mentor was Samantha. She was the General Manager of the Daily Grind Espresso Cafe when I was hired. She was just a straight up boss. She ran the bar like I’ve never ever seen in my life and still I haven’t ever seen anyone run a bar like she did. And she really taught me how not only to be a really good barista, but she taught me how to take care of guests in the café and I thought that was very important and that is where I learned how coffee really brought people together. And then, from that same Cafe the owner Jane Brown was more of a career mentor. She took it upon herself once she saw that there was something in me that would keep me in the industry, and I had no idea.

I thought I would be a barista to for maybe six months, a year and she saw that I had something, and she took it upon herself to really nurture that and develop that. She was responsible for me competing in the barista competition, and she was responsible for me meeting folks at Counter Culture Coffee. And we mentioned Peter Giuliano and Kim Elena Bullock. I met them there and they eventually became career mentors, but the one person at Counter Culture that’s kind of resonated even to this day as a career mentor was Cindy Chang currently Ludviksen. She became my first coach in the barista competition and so that kind of movement from The Daily Grind to Counter Culture was facilitated by Jane Brown and then Cindy just picked up where Jane left off and I started competing a lot more and I started working at Counter Culture four years after working in a cafe.

So, those were my early mentors, those three and then as I started working at Counter Culture meeting Peter Giuliano, Camelina Bullock on my first Origin trip. These folks were very instrumental in my development as a coffee professional and then on the outside of coffee when I mentioned that life mentor I had two and one unfortunately has passed away. But another guy, I’ve known him for like 20 years and both of these guys have been really amazing at how they’ve centered themselves. One, Marche he’s a Buddhist and the other guy is a Rasta and he’s Caucasian and he’s a Rasta but that’s another story. But these guys are so centered in who they are and so comfortable in their own skin. It’s just amazing to have a conversation with those guys over the years. Marche was actually responsible for me meeting my wife who I’ve been married to for a while and he’s also responsible for my approach to being very calm when I’m super nervous through meditation and getting in touch with who you are through meditation. So, I mean a lot of people say you’re so calm on stage when you’re competing. I owe a lot of that too Marche. But I’m really not that calm.

Erin Meister: Now I got to meet that guy. Oh my God.

Lem Butler: So, those were my early mentors and my life mentor Darren Lynch, he is still around.

Nick Cho: I think it’s worth mentioning that no one’s mentioned family members or parents at this moment, and I think that an important component of a mentor is that it’s optional. It’s an opt-in. If someone chose this it wasn’t something like there was no obligation actually. I think it’s a really important component.

32:00 What’s the point at which you become comfortable being a mentor?

Erin Meister: Yeah. That’s funny when you mention, Katie you describing going up to Peter and saying will you be my mentor and I’ve actually in the past couple of months gotten emails with the subject mentor that are like will you be my mentor and it freaks me out so much. I can’t because you feel like you can’t say no, but suddenly, this is a good segue, what’s the point at which you feel comfortable becoming someone’s mentor? For me, it’s almost like I can sure show you how I do things wrong. That’s fine. If you want to follow me into making mistakes and being ignorant, I can do that all day. I’ve been doing that for my entire career. But it’s a really weird moment when you go from being mentored to feeling like you that’s within your capacity. Was there a particular point at which you felt like, “Oh yeah I could totally be a guide for someone else.” Is it still something that you kind of struggle with, that comfort level?

Candice Madison: I still don’t feel ready.

Erin Meister:  Yeah.

Candice Madison:  Yeah.

Erin Meister: Not reassuring me thank you.

Candice Madison:  No, you mentioned parents Nick, and I was thinking about this. I was not prepared for the fact that I have had recently become my parents’ parent. It’s a really weird feeling and anyone old enough and going through that just knows it’s just very strange flip-flop of relationship where you, my parents were strict. Caribbean parents don’t play around man.

So, I still don’t eat in the street or drink soda in the street. And if I have a cigarette occasionally, shut up, I hide it in the street because if my parents, even to this day saw me doing any one of those things. Please not the smoking, but if even saw me do that today I still look around if I’m near my home. But now, it’s the other way around where I have to help them. Early stage dementia has come in, health things have come in and you flip-flop, and you don’t realize it’s happening. And then, when you do it’s very unsettling and I realized that when I was having more and more people come to me and ask advice or no one’s ever really used the word “mentor”, but they’ve done everything but. It’s just a really uncomfortable feeling because I’m like, but I don’t know enough yet. I’m not there yet, don’t look at me, look at somebody else.

But that happens organically just through the way that you move through your career. And it became such a thing that I think the first time I ever noticed it, my first boss in what was not specialty coffee, a cafe on Portobello Road where we served coffee that had been in a bag for four years and was still dated to be fresh for the next three. Yeah, that kind of place. I remember he naturally became my mentor when we were hanging out. He was also a Caucasian Rasta and we were hanging out in the cafe.

Erin Meister:  What!

Candice Madison: I know, listening to a lot of Reggae and he was yelling at me across the café. This is obviously my first job in coffee, 2008. “That milk is too hot.” And I was like, “How do you know that?” And he was, “I can hear it,” and I was, I am a Buddhist, so I was like, “Oh my God.  Divine what is going on? You can hear the temperature of milk.” Because I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know that that was perfectly normal, and he could hear. He’s like, “It’s screaming.” I was like he’ has an emotional connection with the milk. Yeah. Don’t worry about me, I’m fine.

And it’s funny that like recently he got in touch with me. He’s like, “Oh, wow you’re a Q instructor. I’ve been wanting to become a Q grader, and I’m really hoping I can take my class with you.” And I realized and remembered that we’d moved certain ways apart, but I’d come to roasting before him weirdly enough, so he had been asking me questions about roasting. Then I had become a sensory person and so he would ask, because I’m a student of Nottingham University for sensory skills, sensory science and he would ask me sensory questions and he became a green buyer and he was asking me Q grade questions. I’m like, oh this is flipped.

And that was actually one of the experiences that felt really organic and really comfortable. But it’s when people approach you and I realize that I have a lot of deference and a lot of gratitude towards the generosity of my own mentors because they must have been having the exact same thoughts and these are women and men and people I consider luminaries. People I consider gospel when it comes to coffee and it’s weird to think of them putting their socks on in the morning going, “Why is Candice asking me these questions? I don’t know anything.” So, it’s daunting. I don’t think it’ll ever not be daunting. I’ll never feel like I know enough to pass it on to other people, but I’ve made it my life’s work. And through the work that I’m doing at Irving Farm it will always be through education. Because I was given and gifted so many opportunities that I almost feel like I had no right to be given by people who were guiding me and helping me and cajoling me and giving me those connections and networks, that Katie was talking about and suggesting that I do certain things I would never put myself forward for. Mansi has just mentioned something that I’m thinking about.

And it’s like wow, I need to be able to give this back to you because you know what? I never had a work mentor, I never did. I had a peer to peer mentor at work in terms of my boss and I were peers. We were learning to roast almost at the same time. For my second roasting job. I was learning on a new roaster, he was learning entirely. But I never had that boss mentor and I felt really awful about it until I realized how many people took over that one role and how lucky I was. So, that just feels natural to me that I will always give back what I can to make sure that people can have all the opportunities that I did.

Nick Cho:  Meister those people who emailed you, did you know did them?

Erin Meister: Yes.

Nick Cho: The people that you knew.

Erin Meister:  Yeah.

Nick Cho:  Okay. I was just curious. It’s like just out of the blue, will you be my mentor. It’s will you marry me? It’s almost like you don’t know.

Erin Meister: At first I thought it was just a misspelling of my name. I do get called a lot of different things.

Nick Cho: Yeah. Yeah. I do also want to highlight, Candice mentioned that you didn’t have a certain kind of mentor. There’s two I guess perspectives that have already shown up here. One is which find your mentors in your life. Your bus driver might actually be a mentor for you and the flip side which is call a spade a spade. If you don’t have a mentor don’t pretend that you do, you know what I mean? It’s sort of understanding that. It’s interesting, it’s a little bit weird to talk about but I don’t have that doubt feeling when it comes to, and maybe that’s why. Again Meister, we talked about this. My most proud legacy in the coffee industry is all the people who I have had the pleasure of working with who continue to, of course the people who don’t work in coffee too, but it’s just very visible reminder of that.

All the people who work in the coffee industry who are doing amazing things today. Katie being maybe the most important to me, who have worked with me over the years and have gone on to some amazing stuff. For me it was just part of an extension of the relationship that I want to have with people, and I mentioned that Trish became my mentor. One of the things that she and I have in common that really drew us to each other was that when we meet people, we just have this way of like really wanting to connect in a deeper way and not waste time. Line up single file don’t all come at once kind of thing. But that it is a, I don’t know if it’s a skill. It certainly feels like a gift. I think, for me it does feel, I’m not a religious person today. I mentioned pastor before, I’m not religious now, but it does very much feel like a calling. It’s just a thing I’m supposed to do and so in my life I feel like I have to do it and do it gratefully and the best I can.

Mansi Chokshi: Yeah, authentically. I can follow that. I definitely agree. I don’t feel freaked out by somebody saying that. Although somebody hasn’t said, “Hey would you do this?” But I think people ask you, “Hey, will you connect me connect me to this person?” You know this person. I saw you talking to this person. One of the things that. I didn’t get a chance to mention before, but I will mention now is I work and volunteer with the IWCA, the Women’s Coffee Alliance and that’s a group that focuses on supporting and advancing women in producer countries, and I didn’t realize for them how much they look up to the people that are on the global board.

And for me, it was just I was actually learning from them by going to all of their events and learning whatever they needed. If they needed a partner connection or whatnot, but they actually really look up to the global board as their leaders and they want more connections and they want to learn. And sometimes it’s as simple as I helped a lady just organize her PowerPoint presentation. We talk about these things and, so simple but at the same time it was something that she found very helpful because then she can take that and sell her coffee with it.

Erin Meister:  Yeah.

Mansi Chokshi: And so, I don’t know for me. It’s just an act of caring. It’s something that I would normally do anyways, it’s something that if someone asks me in the hallway whether or not I had my SCA badge. If they ask me, “Hey, you know this person, or do you know where I should go?” You would help them right. And we talked about this from a simple perspective of your guiding somebody. Well, if you take a little bit more authentic feeling to that and say okay, I’m going to help this person, check on them after a month. “Hey, how did your presentation go? How did that PowerPoint work out for you? What happened with that?”

It just takes that and that’s why I think that sometimes we put a lot of onus on the mentee to really be the person that has to drive the relationship with the mentor. And while I agree with that, because you have to be driven as well to get what you need out of what you’re looking for. Sometimes, and I think this is one of one of the things that I struggle with I don’t always realize what my weaknesses are, and it takes somebody to come out and say, “Hey, I recognize this as a strength. Let me help you. You’re really good at that.” It takes somebody saying that for you to feel motivated like okay, yeah. I want to do this again. I want to feel like I want to move forward in that. And if somebody doesn’t recognize you in that way, then you feel a little bit like, okay, maybe I wasn’t so good at that. Maybe I didn’t do such a great job at that lecture. I’m not going to do that again.

So, I think it’s just one of those natural things that it’s just about caring and helping and really looking at people from, not the perspective of what am I going to get from it? But what are they going to get from this interaction that I’m having. If you do that, whether or not you call it a mentorship or not. I think it’s the start to something like that.

Nick Cho: I don’t know. I feel like I’m talking too much. But, Mansi what you’re saying reminds me or makes me think about a little bit is, me as a mentor and the people I know who have been mentors in my life. They’ve all been called arrogant and full of themselves and know-it-alls. We all have, and I want to say it takes courage, but like that’s the price. But that also means that for our audience and for maybe as far as being able to give advice to you all who are thinking about how can I be a mentor, be a better mentor. We’re at SCA Expo for a lot of us who own businesses, taking that leap of faith. Oh, my goodness, I’m getting off of the working for other people thing and becoming my own business owner. It feels like a big leap of faith and a lot of risk and it’s really scary.

Similarly, there’s a lot of other societal rat races that we get caught up in and to break out of it feels really scary and one of those is, I think I can say one of those is mentorship. The idea of being a mentor is like being an entrepreneur. You’re basically saying that the normal sort of relationship is not good enough for me. I need something that’s more than that. I actually am willing to put myself out there and take the risk and if I give somebody advice and they’re like who the hell are you to say that, that’s actually the risk. And that’s real and so, to some degree its fighting through that, to some degree it’s trying and failing and trying a different way and learning from those mistakes. But, as we’re talking it just dawns on me that it’s one of those things like well, how do I become a mentor? It’s like you have to break. It’s not just about say nicer things or say more supportive things or not even spend more time with people.

It’s actually breaking out of that societal rat race thing. How we normally interact and be willing to connect on a deeper level that opens yourself that makes you vulnerable and that is asking the other person, the mentee to be vulnerable too with you together. And that’s the only way that that connection happens. Otherwise, it’s just the bus driver who says cute things sometimes.

46:15 Sometimes mentor relationships shift to friendship or in other ways. What has been your experience with that?

Erin Meister:  That’s actually really interesting. Thanks for pointing out the next slide. I think one of the really interesting things that I think about, and this speaks to, apparently I’m the only one who’s nervous about being somebody’s mentor. So, I’m such an introvert INFJ.

Nick Cho:  No, you should be.

Erin Meister: Okay.

Nick Cho: It’s like the Jedi thing. It’s like Yoda. You should be. you should be scared.

Erin Meister: But the idea. For me personally I think that the people who have been my greatest mentors have been the ones who have allowed me to fail and sort of encouraged me to continue and have sort of seen whatever potential I may have had even though I just screwed up at something. And I also think that, that goes in the other direction too. I think that it’s easy to have this idea of a mentor as being perfect, as having to be an authority, as having to be the person that has all the answers that is the perfect guide. And I think that Nick is talking about this risk and this vulnerability that both people have in that relationship.

And there have been times certainly when my professional mentors have disappointed me in some way, or we’ve butted up against one another and our relationship has changed, or the nature of my job has changed, and our relationship has changed. I think that that’s a really interesting component of this too is to remember that we’re all just people who work in an industry together. There’s no one in here that has all of the answers and is going to do everything right all the time. And so, I kind of wonder what that relationship has been for you all either in terms of your own offering mentorship or being mentored by someone who you recognize at some point was just human. How does that how does that affect your relationship? Is that when it changes into more of a friendship or what has been your experience in that sense? I want you to start Lem, is that okay?

Lem Butler:   Why, thank you. Yes, that’s an interesting question. So, I’ve had several occasions where I felt like my professional mentors or peer to peer mentors have let me down for lack of a better description and that has changed the relationship, but it also has, because of how other people in my life have approached life. They’ll say well that door may be closed. But something else is another opportunity has arisen and

Nick Cho:  How did they let you down Lem?  You don’t have to get into detail, but

Lem Butler:   Well, So, I felt like my career was going a certain direction and when his, I’ll have to give an example. There’s just no way around it. I worked for a company for 10 years and I love this company. To this day that company has been very instrumental in my development as a coffee professional. On a whole, that company is amazing. There are certain individuals in the company that I disagree with how they’ve done things and I felt like in 2016 when I didn’t really want to compete again until I was inspired by Saša Šestić and some other people in the competition circuit.

And so, I wanted to compete again and someone who have felt was really in my corner in my own career development told me that it wasn’t going to happen. I was going to compete for that company, and I thought that was very disappointing. That’s why, I don’t know if anyone knows, I competed under a different company in 2016, and that was a reason that happened. This is also the same person that I felt when I applied for

Nick Cho:  When you won.

Lem Butler: Yeah, so I won. Yeah.

Nick Cho: Let’s not leave that part out.

Lem Butler: Alright so he didn’t want me to compete. I competed for different company. I won and then that same person said now we have to give you 110% support. But anyway, whatever, and this is the same person that I applied for another position and their office was next door to mine and they interviewed me over the phone, and I thought that was very disrespectful. And I could have let that really bum me out. But I talked to my life mentor, Darren Lynch and he explained to me that when he started in his industry. He has a plastics recycling company and in ’94, he was working for a company that was fairly large. And they took great care in developing his career and he felt like they had his back and when he was passed over for partnership, it really hurt him really bad, but he looked at it as another opportunity to start his own business. And now he has a company that’s been running for over 20 years and he’s doing really well.

So, he pointed that out to me and then the wheels started turning at that moment that maybe I need to go and do my own thing. And then, fast forward to after 2016 another position in that company opened up and I felt like my peer mentor in the company was really pushing me in the direction to work in his department. And when I applied for that position after being on three continents and 25 different coffee farms, winning the US Barista Championship doing really well in the world, I felt that my resume was sufficient for this position and instead of giving me a reason like well, we found someone more qualified for this position. His answer to me not getting the position was I think you’ll be bored, and I felt like that was more of a not necessarily a direct racist answer but more of an institutionalized racist answer, it’s not because you’re not qualified, it’s because you’ll be bored with the position.

Nick Cho: It’s because I don’t see you in that spot.

Mansi Chokshi:  He made the decision for him.

Lem Butler:   Exactly. So, it was at that exact moment that I just went back. Darren was telling me about his company that he worked for and what he did and that was my time where I needed to exit a company that I still, don’t get me wrong, I love the philosophy of this company and I always will, and I am in debt to Brett Smith. He was backstage with me right before I went out to the announcement of winning and I was expecting to get sixth place and he was just back there hanging out with me and the other competitors and at that moment I remembered when I first started working for Counter Culture in 2007. I was in a car with Brett Smith driving down to Coffee Fest in Atlanta. And I was like bam in a car with the owner of this company, got a roaster in a car with me, one of the marketing managers in the car with me. I’m like man I hope I live up to the expectations. And I was just hired for production and I was so stressed out that I was going to let these guys down in Atlanta.

It was just really amazing that this guy was backstage with me just shooting the crap, shit, whatever you want to say. Yeah. So, don’t get me wrong. I love that company and forever will be indebted to what that company is about and what they’ve done for me, but those are the two moments and those two people in that company really changed how I looked at them and as mentors.

Erin Meister: Wow.

Katie Carguilo: It’s funny. I had a similar experience one time when I was applying for a job. At this time, I had worked for Nick and I was applying for an entry-level position and the person that was interviewing me was trying to dissuade me from taking the job. And the reason was he said, at your current job you get to travel a lot to industry events, compete in barista competitions and at this job, we won’t necessarily invest you in that way. There won’t be a guarantee that you’ll be able to compete and so when I was thinking back on this experience, I don’t want to say that like my mentor failed me. That’s not what happened.

I think one of the things that I received out of my relationship from Nick and how I approach, how I mentor people now is the importance of really truly supporting people and really truly trying to understand their point of view if you’re going to help them. And I think that had I been talking to Nick about a position. He would have understood what I wanted out of that and would have given me the benefit of the doubt. But this person was looking at me as sort of a protégé of Nick and not really being able to distinguish like the person that I was and what I wanted. So, I had to make it really clear. It’s okay to me that it’s an entry-level position. I understand what I’m signing up for and that is what I’m going for.

And having that communication solved that problem. But, it was disappointing, and it was hurtful to hear that that person thought that I couldn’t handle that. That I wouldn’t be interested in the work because it wasn’t the same thing that I was doing

Erin Meister:  Yeah.

Katie Carguilo:  at the time which is like when you’re applying for a new job. Who wants their job to be exactly the same as the one that they currently have. So, I think about that a little bit and myself growing into a mentor role is that I don’t want the people that I am helping just to be associated with me and the things that I do. I want them to have their own voice and path and communication and really be able to will their way into whatever they want in the industry.

Nick Cho: Both those stories really make me sad. And what I’m taking away from that is the idea that one way that mentors fail is they reveal themselves to not be good mentors. It’s not just like other just human. Actually sometimes, different people are good at different things in different degrees. And I thank both of you so much for sharing. Both of those really make me think about how being a mentor for someone, it’s important to sort of know who they are. But a big part of the journey that you’re on with that person together is showing them their potential. Very often where they might not know themselves or what’s really special is when they think maybe they have potential for something. They’re not really sure and you’re able to come and go, “Are you kidding, you would be amazing at that.” And that type of support it’s just a nitrous oxide thrust into the engine for that person and just watching people grow. We all need that. It’s a big thing for me just seeing people much more for their potential, especially for their resume and experience but even for who they are and what they’re doing right now.

Candice Madison:  I think that it’s not just accepting that your mentor can fail but also accepting that failure is a mentor.

Erin Meister:  Oh, yeah.

Candice Madison:  I think a lot of people see it for face value what it is. I remember, I was running around doing a lot of stuff for a couple of years and people were like, “Wow you have this amazing life and you’re doing all these things.” And I was like, “Yeah because every time I apply for a job, they tell me I’m too overqualified and so I don’t have a salary job.” It looks awesome that I can make a lot of money being a consultant, and I can because luckily I was saying that I put myself through all of my education. Took a whole bunch of trips, made a five-year plan. I did this all myself because I didn’t have a mentor. I used the nest egg that I had to buy a house on all my coffee travels and all of my education.

I don’t want anyone else to have to do that if I’m around because I’ll point you in the right direction because that wasn’t there for me until I found the right people to speak to. But, I felt like a failure for a really long time because of the exact same reason that Lem was given his excuse. You’d be bored, you’re too overqualified, we can’t afford you. These were things that were said to me and they were ostensibly congratulatory, but they weren’t. It was a huge sense of failure and I know a lot of the reasons why some of those people were saying things. And I think what cannot go unmentioned and what is not escapable from the makeup of this panel is one of the reasons that people consider us mentors as because they don’t see people like us a lot of the time in the positions that were in with the experiences that we have.

So, recognizing that you’re a mentor to a vast swath of people, not just who look like you who don’t look like you but who are just grateful to have somebody who looks like you in a position that you’re in. That’s also another layer of responsibility that I feel as a woman of color, and especially as a black woman in a consuming country and I feel like I cannot not live up to that. So, for me it’s not an option. I have to offer as much guidance and help as I can because I have a responsibility to pull up the ladder that people who are below me. So, yeah embrace that failure.

Mansi Chokshi: There’s something else that I think I would want to add to this. Is that the failure as a mentor especially in a work relationship. Sometimes it could be that you don’t recognize that you’re holding somebody back and I think that’s what I’m recognizing in some of these stories and I’ve had a lot of people especially when I was in the membership department. We have membership assistance and that position, it’s very useful, it’s very helpful, but it’s not a lifelong position. Okay, we have to be real with that and sometimes when you’re in a position where you’re supervising people, you have to understand that you can’t just hold on to these people forever just because they’re great.

And if your access to that person is so critical, your developing that relationship with them so you can hold onto that outside of your position is so much greater and more valuable to you. So, I think one of the things that. I’ve learned yes, there’s turnover in that position at SCA but that’s because that’s a normal growth thing. You learn about things, you understand how this works, you get to work in the membership. But then you’re supposed to grow out of that. And if your boss doesn’t really recognize that or is not able to say, okay I think it’s time, you’re getting to these skills. Let’s help you find another place. To me it was always valuable to know that that person was going to stay within our organization and help them find a home that meets their passion. But if a mentor really fails at that, then they’re going to lose that person and I think that’s what we saw in a couple of examples here.


1:03:00 When did the moment feel right to push your careers further, to move from mentee to mentor?

Erin Meister:  Wow. Thank you. Wow. Good grief. I’m having so many feelings up here behind this microphone right now. So many feelings that I actually haven’t paid any attention to how long we’ve gone tonight. If I don’t stop us, I won’t actually care. I would just keep asking questions because I just want to keep having this conversation. But I’ve got one more “slide.”

I think yeah. I just kind of wanted to wrap up by having some kind of closing thoughts about approaching that mentorship relationship and I don’t know, just kind of reflecting. Maybe if anyone has any questions we could do that. I don’t really have a conclusion for this because I didn’t expect to feel kind of as verklempt as I do.

So, I guess what I would really kind of want to finish up by saying is that I think every single person has the potential to be in that kind of relationship and I don’t think that it has to be one or the other. I think that it’s the kind of relationship that you can have with many different people in many different capacities and that the more we sort of single each other out and look for one person to fill all of those needs that we have, the more limiting it can be. And I think what we’ve heard from these panelists is a mentor can be anywhere, anyone and you could be that person to someone that you don’t even recognize. And I think that there’s a lot of value in that and a lot of responsibility too, and if there’s anything else that you think you would want to share with the audience, with these fine people before we send you out to get as many smoothie samples as can possibly fit into your body.

Nick Cho: Maybe we should do some questions.

Erin Meister:  Yeah, okay. How about you?

Audience 1:  I guess for me, I would like to ask. Maybe you guys have already discussed this already but what for you guys is a sign that you were ready to take that next step. You talk about moving out of your job, realizing that it was time to go in a different direction. What was the sign for you guys that it was the right time? Was it that feeling that you were maybe, like Lem was talking about, kind of reaching the boundaries of where you could grow within the company that you were in. What was that experience like for you?

Erin Meister: to become a mentor or?

Audience 1: Yea, going beyond the mentees?

Nick Cho: Just the guys.

Katie Carguilo:  I felt pretty thrust into it after I won the Barista competition. All of a sudden I just feel like the transition is when people start asking you questions and I think it’s important to say you don’t know when you don’t know something, but I also think if someone is coming to you for advice, it’s important listen and really try and help them through a problem. So, I have always felt like having confidence and experience in an area is a precursor to be able to mentor people. I don’t think it is.

But that’s like a feeling that I have and definitely when I moved into a different department and I realized that people in the old department that I worked in would come to me a lot with questions. Like how would you handle this type of situation with an account? I realized that I was a mentor to those people because I had had that job for such a long time and really could be seen as a resource for them. And another thing that I sort of realized just in my work life mainly is watching the things that I’m saying or writing about and hearing the people training other coffee professionals repeat those phrases or those takeaways about what matters about coffee. That hat was a really cool, or has been a really cool experience in a realization for me that wow people listen, and they read the things that I will write and so being more thoughtful about that. And how I’m guiding people to think about coffee has become more and more of what I think about it my day-to-day.

Lem Butler:  Yeah, I’d like to echo that too. It’s like after winning 2016 it just sort of happened that people would just get in contact with me, but it was it was a matter of outgrowing. I outgrew The Daily Grind. I needed something else. I ended up at Counter Culture and I got to that point where I was outgrowing what I could learn more at Counter Culture and I needed to do something else. But after winning 2016, I would get crazy emails from people, Instagram messages of people asking me questions about how they can be better competitors. Martin Shabaya from Kenya. I met him in 2016 and he continued to keep in contact with me. Not that I had anything to do with his presentation in 2017 Seoul, but he was the first African country to make it in the semi-finals and worlds and it made me cry because I’ve been in touch with this guy for a year and a half. So, it was just like, all of a sudden people were looking at me as the mentor and I was no longer the mentee, but I still am a mentee so it’s kind of bizarre.

Candice Madison: Yeah, I would echo that and say that I definitely am always going to be a mentee as well as a mentor. And, for me it came about way too early for me in coffee and I was way too cocky about it early on. When I started in coffee after five months, I competed. It was a disaster. But it was an epic disaster that people spoke about and had a lot of respect for which I thought was pretty cool. But then I started judging within like nine months because I realized unlike the actress and classical musician that I was making coffee on stage wasn’t for me. However, giving feedback was definitely something I could do and really enjoy doing. And so, I started judging and then 18 months into my coffee career I was a WCE judge, judging finals and Latte Art in Seoul. I know.

So, these things I just thought were like fun things to do and I didn’t realize the respect they garnered in the industry and so from a very early age in the industry. I was being asked questions and being looked on with the respect that I felt a little cocky about for the first year and then distinctly uncomfortable with because I was like, whoa, wait a second. Like this was all a big mistake. I just took a couple of chances and they won. But then I realized that even taking that chance is a big deal and people want to hear about that and having these experiences are valuable because you can give some form of advice, but I would think that as a mentor you need to respect where you are and what you can talk about and what you can speak of and the more authentic that you, are the more valuable your mentorship is. So, I think that recognizing your limitations as a mentor is really important. Don’t speak about things that you don’t know about. That’s fine. The first thing they tell you when you become a Q instructor is saying I don’t know is absolutely fine, but I can find out for you. That’s the second part and that’s the mentoring part.


1:10:00 How important mentorship is to people who don’t fit traditional cisgender or racial profiles in the coffee championships?

Erin Meister:  Yeah, one more question I think. Yeah, I saw you first.

Audience 2:  So, if I am to point out the obvious. None of you up here are [1:10:48 inaudible]. A lot of conversations happening about the gender gap, the gap between people of color as participants in the competition circuit. I’m wondering if it [1:11:05 inaudible]. What’s the relationship there. How is that?

Lem Butler: Very crucial.  I’m the only black man who’s won the United States Barista Competition. And I’m the only black man has ever won

Nick Cho: First

Lem Butler: Coffee competition.

Nick Cho:  The first.

Lem Butler:  The first?

Candice Madison:  The first of many to come.

Lem Butler:  The first of many to come? Okay, you guys are very optimistic. As I look in this room, I don’t see any black men. One here earlier. Oh, there he is. We’re here. So, it’s very important. Before I even won the US I ran into a guy in Long Beach and he just ran up to me. He was like, “Hey, man, I just want to thank you, you are an inspiration.” And I was like, “dude I’ve only made it as far as semi-finals like five times. Come on.” And he’s like, “No dude, there’s no one else out there who looks like me who competes and that’s an inspiration.” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m thinking about quitting.” He is like, “Dude, don’t quit keep doing it.” And because he told me that in addition to a couple other people I competed again and again, and finally, I won.

Greg Lefcourt, he’s a judge in the coffee competition, the barista competition and he tells me over and over again every year when I run into him that if he did not see me compete in Charlotte at the Nationals he would not be in coffee. And now he’s a judge in the United States Barista competition and he’s competed before and that is just awesome. There are other stories out there that I don’t even know exist. So, I think it’s very crucial for us to continue what we’re doing.

Candice Madison:  And it’s not just the competitors. So, I’m coaching a couple of people from my company as judges and they’re judging here. One of them will be judging finals, which is a huge deal for me because remember it’s not just the competitors you want to see. It’s people in every facet and people forget that about competition. It’s like government there’s a whole bunch of white men that make decisions about my body. If there was one black person in there, black woman in there making decision about my body maybe I’d have a little bit more respect for the decisions that come out.

So, same with competition, you can compete as a person of color all you want. But if everyone judging you doesn’t look like you well, that’s some bullshit right there. So, as Beyoncé said at Coachella ain’t that a bitch. The first freaking black headliner, black woman headliner. And so, for me, it’s incredibly important to see that reputation ripple all the way through competition and not just judges but people in WCE on boards, people decision makers have to represent the people that they want to see and it’s true if I’m going to competition and be judged by a whole bunch of people that don’t look like me. Maybe I don’t go to a competition because maybe I’m thinking that implicit bias is going to suck. So, yeah, I think it’s incredibly important and my mentoring these girls coming here, women sorry coming here this weekend was a big deal for me and the fact that they reached out and they’re in my company and I can give all that support to them. That’s yeah, that’s invaluable.

Nick Cho: I mean, you asked a question about diversity inclusion, but in the context of mentorship and I would say that if we’re talking about competition then I think it’s kind of obvious, but it extends way beyond the competition. This is the kind of thing that goes from the top down and then from the bottom up at the same time. And, we talk about institutional issues and systemic issues, but what’s happening, the reality of situations and that statistically we don’t have certain people who look and express a certain way in certain numbers. And keeping it real, real talk like it might just be that of the three such and such identified people, with certain type of identity that they’re never going to be that good at the barista competition.

There’s some people that are just never going to win, who are never going to do that well. That’s just reality. The answer is not obviously well, we’ve got to get more of exactly that kind of person. You just need to see more of every type person in every facet and one of the things that I continue to be aware of through my work and the sort of my field of proximity of the people in my life who I come across who I start becoming a mentor to and had that sort of relationship. That I have to be more intentional and actually say no to some people so I can say yes to others and that’s something that’s hard.

I think it’s hard to say no. It has been set up here a few times. But that’s the sort of stuff that gets you in trouble and someone says well that asshole said no to me and you have to sort of believe in yourself and understand the sort of greater purposes that you’ve chosen yourself and picked yourself to do. And yeah, Trish and I we actually say we get all these emails all the time asking different things and to be honest, we kind of laugh about it and go, no man no. This doesn’t happen over email from Colorado, from somewhere across the country. We’re busy not busy watching TV or whatever. We’re busy being mentors for the people that really need us and that we’ve connected with right now. And more and more like putting that effort in and making the hard work to seek those people out and make those connections in an intentional way in terms of the way, what you want to see.

Erin Meister: This was awesome. I loved listening to you all talk really openly about your experiences on both sides of this relationship. Obviously standing up here talking to my mentors has been really meaningful. And I just want to say to all of us in this room. I think I personally feel this way every Expo weekend when I look around at all of these people that are just so inspiring. And you see people across the room, and you go. Oh, I know that person. I recognize that person. You get so excited just to be in the same room with them. And I think that this is the opportunity that we all have to make those connections.

If you see someone that you like what they do, you appreciate what they do, and you think that they are an inspiration to you in some way. Or if you see someone that you think you can help go say hi to them. That’s literally why we’re all here and I think we often get kind of intimidated by each other. Oh, I follow you on Instagram I couldn’t possibly talk to you.  It’s just Instagram and we’re all just working in coffee. So, that’s kind of my last take away too is use this opportunity, use this weekend to take what these amazing people have said and let it marinate, let it extract a little to draw it back to coffee and just go out there and.

Nick Cho: And then drop it in the cooling tray!

Erin Meister: Yeah.

Nick Cho:   Watch it spin around.

Erin Meister: Let it steep for about 12 to 24 hours.

Nick Cho:  No.

Erin Meister:  Well, thanks everyone so much for coming out to this panel, and let’s hear it for the panelists.


1:18:00 Outro

Heather Ward: That was Ever Meister, Nick Cho, Lem Butler, Katie Carguilo, and Candice Madison and Mansi Chokshi at Expo in 2018. Remember to check our show notes for a full transcript of this lecture and visit coffeeexpo.org for tickets to this year’s event.

This has been an episode of the SCA Podcast. Thank you for join

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