ROASTER: Jamie Smith
YEARS ROASTING: 6 Years
COMPANY: Coffee Manufactory
It’s been a fucking wild 2 years. This time two years ago, I was still roasting at 20thstreet Sightglass, living in Oakland, and desperately trying to figure out if I was too old to change which side to part my hair on. Update: same side. It was too much pressure. In the last 24 months, my life has been on a seemingly endless wild ride. In August of 2017 I decided to move on from Sightglass and joined the newly budding crew at Coffee Manufactory and I haven’t looked back. Okay, okay, maybe I looked back a little as I am quite possibly the most deeply nostalgic and sentimental critter on this orbiting crust bucket. Seriously though, no regrets. I have learned more about myself, my trajectory in coffee, and I am feeling so hopeful for the future. For funsies here’s a little recap for of Season Two:
I started my journey with Coffee Maufactory (CM) as a Roasting and Production manager at our original Jack London Square facility in 2017. From there, I moved into Quality Control and Green Buying which is a job I’ve been working towards for a very looooooong time. In January of 2018, I went to Seoul, South Korea with Tartine and CM to get our roasting facility off of the ground. The day I got back from Seoul, I moved to Los Angeles to aid in the opening of our now fully operational (woo!) roasting facility in Downtown Los Angeles. Next up? Went to Oaxaca with Caravela Coffee to judge Aromas 2018 and had my world rocked by some phenomenal Mexican coffee. In November, I got married in my neighborhood bar to my best bud in a small ceremony surrounded by close friends.
After a year in LA, we decided it wasn’t for us and came to the realization that our hearts belonged to San Francisco. On December 1st , we started our journey back to the bay. On that same day, someone decided to put a kink in our plans, stole our U-Haul containing everything we owned, and we came back to SF with just the clothes on our backs, a little heart broken, but with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the Bay Area. We were greeted with towels, toiletries, warm meals, and big hugs. In January, we recovered the U-haul and were able to salvage some of our memories and thanks to our community replace the rest via a Go Fund Me set up by my boss and good friend Jeremy Brooks (thanks, bud.) Now, we’re settled in SF, I’m the Head of Coffee at Coffee Manufactory, and in 2 weeks I’ll be headed down to Honduras and El Salvador on my first real buying trip. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK! There’s so much more but you, uh, get the idea.
It’s been kinda nuts, but I wouldn’t have changed a second of it. I pushed myself hard to take leaps I normally would have avoided at all costs. I failed a few times, triumphed in others, and did it all battling and anxiety disorder and the most severe bout of depression I have experienced in a very long time. Feelin’ good, feelin’ great (most of the time) how are you?!
As far as my coffee career goes, I’ve spent the last 14 years with doubts and a lack of direction slowly climbing the coffee ladder. I’ve always known that I wanted to be behind the scenes and for a long time it was roasting, but I was wholly unclear as to where I truly wanted to end up. Green buying? QC? Roasting for-ev-rr? After years of working with the end product of the supply chain, I started paying closer attention to the bigger picture stuff, the beginning of it all: seed and soil. I began to focus more on the politics of coffee, the coffee price crisis, sustainability and what we as coffee professionals can DO better at - not just in our cafes but at the farm level. *There’s a lot of shit we can do better at café level *ahem* inclusion *ahem* toxic masculinity* but, I’ll save that convo for another time.
Through this, I realized there is a serious lack of transparency in coffee across the board. I wanted to do more, be better, and contribute to a greater community of people who have truly helped form who I am today. I mean, at the end of the day, anyone who works in coffee owes their jobs to farmers and producers who literally carry the coffee we drink daily on their backs. They tirelessly work to cultivate, mill, hand-pick, and make about a fraction of the money we make pouring hearts into cappuccinos. Some folks can’t even drink the coffee they produce - think on that one for a hot take.
Which brings me up to where I am today. From afar, I watched Chris Jordan (COO of Coffee Manufactory) and crew give birth to an idea of stripping coffee back down to its roots, forming meaningful and sustainable relationships with producers, learning and leaning on each other to have a deeper understanding of the entire supply chain, and at the end of the day serving up some killer cups of coffee. I wanted in, I wanted to be part of it. I’ve now been with CM for a year and half and in my current position I am exactly where I want to be. I get to roast weekly, cup amazing coffee, travel to meet all the wonderful folks who produce our coffee, educate, and lead a super amazing team in Oakland. I’m on the right path and I worked hard for it.
My level of respect and understanding of the broad supply chain and all the folks in it has grown leaps and bounds. I think we as a coffee community (myself included), tend to get lost in the newest coffee craze, coffee competitions, bag aesthetics, shit talking, how much we like or dislike *that new café* etc…that we lose sight of the shit that really matters.
As I progress in my coffee career I want to go to sleep at night knowing that I am doing all in my power to be a responsible coffee consumer and buyer. I want to make sure I extend that same level of respect, advocacy, and support to my staff. I want to continually push myself to do better and hopefully encourage others to do the same. If we make coffee as a whole more transparent at the consumer level we can change the lives of so many people who are more than deserving. Often, I have folks ask me why a cup of coffee costs so much? I usually respond, “What do YOU think is too much? WHY?” Most people offer little or no response, and that my friends, is the problem. We’ve got to work harder together to use our platform to educate consumers and focus on the on foot print we leave behind.
To summarize, this has been an incredibly longwinded rant about the value of community: the coffee community, friend communities, the Bay Area community. They’re all so important to me. I’m trying hard to nurture them all and pay forward the support and generosity I’ve experienced.
With 707*530*805, I’m trying to give back. 707*530*805 are all area codes for communities that were affected by California wildfires. A percentage of my release will go towards the Camp Fire Relief fund. My first community is my home, California, which has been through hell and back in the last couple of years. Folks I know and hold dear have lost homes and loved ones to these devastating fires. As someone who on a small level knows what it’s like to lose it all, I can’t imagine what these communities are feeling. Please know that if you purchase my release you will be helping my community in a small way!
Let’s all step it up. Tip your baristas, learn about where your coffee comes from and how much it really costs, send your staff to origin, keep advocating for those who can’t in your café, personal life, and beyond. A few conversations, a little extra effort, and a g-dang smile go a long way.