ROASTER: Hannah Ulbrich

RELEASE: Play Thing

COMPANY: Copper Door Roasting Co.

What do you expect when you see a bag of coffee from Ethiopia? What experience do you imagine when you walk into a specialty coffee shop? What comes to mind when you think of the words, roaster, boss, business owner

Did you think Hannah Ulbrich? Well, you should have.

This month is all about upending expectations. Hannah Ulbrich, our featured roaster for the month of May, has been subverting expectations for years, and when we first started talking with her, she sent us a link to an article about the gender confidence gap. The article looks at top management positions at Hewlett-Packard, and showed that, “Women working at HP applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job.”

“I've done a lot of research about women in business,” Hannah says, citing the study. “And Forbes…stated: ‘Men are confident about their ability at 60%, but women don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list.’ Basically women need to have more faith in their abilities.”

Hannah is the owner, roaster, and boss over at Copper Door Coffee in Denver, Colorado, but her life didn’t always point to coffee, at least not professionally. “My first coffee job was in high school at a small Italian bistro in my hometown of Modesto, CA. From there, I always found part time jobs in coffee shops. They were the places I wanted to spend my time studying, reading, listening to music and talking with friends.”

Hannah would go on to pursue an academic route. “After I graduated with a BA in English Literature (emphasis in Medieval literature) and a MAed, I went on to teach high school and college courses,” but coffee remained tangibly important, staying on her list of must haves for a new city to live in. “Coffee never left me; we even chose to move to Denver based on the local coffee shop scene.”

After settling into teaching, an opportunity came that she couldn’t turn down. “I was given the opportunity to buy a small roasting company at a time I was an adjunct professor, and it just felt right.”

How’d she go from teaching medieval literature to owning a business? She began by asking a lot of questions. “Coming from a teaching background, I knew that asking questions was the only way to get answers, and having the right questions to ask denotes a higher level of understanding; therefore, I stared asking all the questions I could about coffee. There was a lot I didn't know, and I just had to learn. Now I am happy to help consult others who are looking to roast, open coffee shops, grow a business, etc…”

In chatting with Hannah, there’s a feeling of go-get-em-ness that feels intangible. Like every choice is measured and precise, and one thing comes logically after the next. But then you pause and remember, this person owns a motherfucking business, roasts her own coffee, and is a mom and boss to boot. Somehow, the steadiness of her decisions is the most subversive move she can make.

There’s a certain toughness you build when you’re the leader, and with this release, Hannah hopes to subvert the normal expectations her friends and colleagues have of her. “The theme for my release is  ‘Play Thing.’ It is light-hearted, fun, and even comes with an amazing toy,” she says. “I chose to do this because I wanted to show a side of me that I don't often project. Being a boss, a mother, a judge, I usually forge through my insecurities and try to come from a place of authority and seriousness.

Is that intentional? To a degree, sure, but it comes from necessity. “I found out early that people didn't take me seriously unless I was serious. Now, I want to show a little of my fun, playful, ridiculous side.”

Along with showing a new side of her, Hannah also hopes to encourage the women around her to show their true colors, and find confidence in their strength. “One of my goals for the year is to get more women involved in judging the USCC Roaster Comp. I'm the only female judge at the moment, and I want to flip that! Women are capable but often sell themselves short. I'm hoping to host some woman only cupping/training sessions this summer to prove to these women that they are capable!”

Hannah’s release is meant to be about believing you can do anything. Thinking beyond the limits that others have set. Thinking beyond the limits you’ve set for yourself. If anything is meant to be liquid courage, it’s this coffee. And if not, you’ll at least have some fun playing with the toys she’s included for you. :p