ROASTER: Julia Lancer
YEARS ROASTING: 3 years
COMPANY: THE SPARROWS, GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
We have a ton of emails from Julia. Ideas, thoughts, simple exclamations of excitement and joy for being our featured September roaster for Matchbook. Julia is the Director of Coffee for The Sparrows in Grand Rapids, Mich., and she’s a dynamo. She doesn’t stop. Thoughts come quickly to her, and she’s invested in all her projects 100%. You’ll see for yourself when you get your Matchbook release—she’s made something special, by hand, for each and every one of you. :)
Julia chose a naturally processed Costa Rican coffee, processed at the Don Sabino Micromill from Finca El Jordan. It’s a mix of Caturra and Catuai, and Julia picked this coffee from Cafe Imports La Bodega line because of its delicate acidity despite it being a fully natural coffee. Despite her seventeen (yes! You heard that right!) years in coffee, Julia is always learning, and this coffee is a beautiful articulation of a coffee that has taught her something new. “Meister [of Cafe Imports] once told me that, ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your coffee prince.’ I think about this every single time I cup coffee. It makes me laugh and keeps my interest piqued.”
For Julia, working on her coffee for Matchbook has been a kind of retrospective of her coffee career: “This project has become an important collection of memories and experiences that I have accumulated over 17 years in the coffee industry. Every detail is a very intentional nod to someone or something that has gotten me to where I am at this very moment. I am not, nor have I ever been, alone on a coffee island. This project has allowed me to reach out to coffee friends far and wide to tap into a collective memory.”
So we decided to do the same. Instead of having Julia tell us about herself, we asked her coffee friends to share stories. These are the ones we liked the most—but we’ll continue to share more on social media throughout the month.
“That first time I met Julia, she taught me how to make my own seitan. She was very much like ‘FUCK THE MAN FOR CHARGING YOU MONEY FOR THIS, MAKE YOUR OWN!!!’ It was so delicious, and I still remember standing over the steaming pot of floating gluten and how good it smelled and how much I loved being in the kitchen with Julia. I brought the recipe home with me, and made it so much that I can specifically pinpoint that seitan recipe as the cause of my subsequent debilitating gluten allergy.” Aimee Argote, Accounts & Order Specialist at Big Spoon Roasters, on their favorite memory of Julia.
“Seeing Julia play the drums cured my adult acne.” Chapman Newnam, Personal Assistant, on Julia’s strengths.
“Julia doesn't have an ego when it comes to coffee. She doesn't treat roasting as a prestigious position or some sort of secret alchemy. Instead, she's willing to share her expertise and skill with everyone. She's got this unique gift of being able to explain things without being condescending or patronizing. Like Einstein said, brevity is genius. Her way of going from broad knowledge to minute detail with grace and precision is hard to come by.” Molly Batchik, Educational Publisher, on Julia’s roasting style
“We were working a shift together and listening to Neurosis at a pretty reasonable volume, when a customer came up to the counter and was offended by the music and asked us to turn it down. Julia said to them, ‘Well, another customer just asked me if we could turn it up, so I guess I'd better leave it at this volume, huh?’ That pretty much sold me on Julia Lancer. Been friends ever since. We have like four buddy tattoos.” Lily Curtis-Harris, Merchandise Manager at Sweet Marias, Sales and Freight Logistics at Coffee Shrub, on a work memory with Julia.
“Well, for the sake of making Julia look cool I guess I'll throw myself under the bus and share one of my most embarrassing moments. Ugh. Ok. Here we go. As a younger twenty-something I hadn't really learned how to, well, hold my liquor. In a desperate attempt to get 'in' with the Ritual crew at my first official Rituals staff party, I had several shots of cheap vodka on a nearly empty stomach. This magical liquid courage I had consumed at a rapid rate was paired with a set of dancing shoes, I guess, because I made my way to the dance floor.
“Julia followed me like a kinda mama bird as I swayed around and likely made a fool of myself. She grabbed me by the arms to hold me up, our eyes met, and four simple words fumbled from my lips: ‘JULES, I'm gonna barf!’ Without skipping a beat she reached her hands out, caught it, and disposed of it. Everyone around us was none the wiser and I was eternally grateful. What I'm trying to say with this sort of gross story is that Julia is one of the greatest folks I know. She doesn't half ass anything, being a friend, shredding on her drums, perfecting the greatest Seitan recipe, and definitely not roasting. Ya'll are lucky to be privileged enough to sip on her brew.” Jamie Smith, Roasting and Production Manager at the Tartine Manufactory, on one of her favorite Julia memories.
“Julia’s approach to everything seems focused on dismantling an often-held asinine attitude that knowledge and skill should be selfishly manned by some ambiguous gatekeeper. She comes at all things in life with determination, and in particular she gravitates toward challenges that women are often excluded from. My fav Julia pastime is watching her learn stuff, become an expert at it, and then run apeshit down the halls of gatekeeper’s dorm rooms busting open all the doors and allowing all the stuff she’s learned flood out into the streets.
“It’s really beautiful to watch, and rooted in something so vitally important: spreading the idea that we're stronger when we allow more voices to be heard, and that the relationships we build will be more lasting and more resilient when we build a community that encourages curiosity through education and openness and kindness...I fell in love with Julez through her music, and watching her kill it on the drums, but when she talks to me about coffee—what she gets out of it, where she wants to push it—I recognize immediately that all my favorite Julia parts are present in her passion for coffee as well.” Aimee on Julia’s approach to coffee—and life.