What's your story?
I grew up in Woonsocket, RI, about twenty minutes north of Providence. I moved to Austin in March 2020…yes, THAT March 2020. It was a very strange time to move halfway across the country but so far things have been pretty great. I spend my spare time reading, watching various sports, working out, learning new skills, and playing music.
How long have you been in the coffee industry?
I started working in coffee in 2005 as a buyer at my local Whole Foods Market.
What got you started?
I had been working at WFM for about five years or so as a Produce Team Member largely because I was traveling frequently to play music all over the world and they were willing to put up with that, until they weren’t. I had returned from touring all summer to find that I had a new boss who didn’t feel inclined to put me on the schedule so I picked up hours at another store who eventually ended up hiring me as their Coffee Buyer.
I had no coffee experience other than that I enjoyed drinking it but I got a bit of a crash course within the first few months. I had won a sales contest that ended up being my first origin trip to Costa Rica with some other buyers and folks from Allegro, WFM’s coffee subsidiary. That trip really opened my eyes.
I continued as a Coffee Buyer for almost three years across a few different stores and I also continued traveling as much as possible until I found myself in the position of exhausting the goodwill of my boss once again. I ended up being moved into a position in grocery which was not for me. This was the impetus to finding my first roastery job.
I got a job as a part time production assistant at a local roaster called New Harvest and I got the opportunity to begin learning how to roast during my time there. From there I went on to roast for George Howell and became the Head Roaster and Green Buyer at Fazenda. I’ve learned a lot from a lot of the best people in the biz and I hope I can try to pay it forward in my new home.
How would you describe your approach to roasting?
I want my coffees to do what they do best without me getting in the way. I try to discover what’s great about a coffee and minimally intervene to present those characteristics. The roast is just the lens through which we realize a coffees potential and I just have to focus the lens.
How would you describe the coffee you’re roasting at Medici?
We have some pretty great coffees at the moment and some on the horizon that I’m very excited about. Most recently I dialed in the roast profile for the Sierra Mixteca and I’m thrilled at how dynamic this turned out. The flavor, acidity, and body of this coffee are clear and complex but perfectly balanced.
How are you committing Medici Roasting to become a responsible member of the supply chain?
We are a drop in the bucket at the moment but what we can do in the short term is pay great prices for coffee sourced in partnership with responsible importers. We have pretty good traceability on many of the coffees we buy but we aren’t buying enough coffee to ultimately have much impact on our suppliers one way or another.
The good news is that we can build the systems we’d like to implement from the ground up instead of having to change how we operate. As we grow we can build equitable relationships that scale up alongside us. My personal commitment is to constantly seek improvement and build on our past successes and spread that success as far and wide as I can.
What are the top challenges facing you and other roasters in 2021?
There are many problems in coffee at the moment whether its climate change, disruptions due to civil unrest and natural disasters, accessibility, etc…but at the intersection of all of the problems is income inequality. We need to find ways to get out of the system of buyers dictating the price of coffee to the producers. Once producers have the guarantee of a living income that includes the costs of production, maintenance, labor, and a dignified existence, the other problems become easier to tackle.
What are you most looking forward to as Medici’s roaster going forward?
I’m looking forward to building something great here. Medici has a long history in the communities we serve and I’d like to build upon that legacy by elevating the quality of our coffee program and identifying producer groups that we can grow with over the years.