Humans of coffee: Aga Bukowska

Who is Aga Bukowska?

A girl who wants to squeeze the most out of life. Who loves talking with passionate people, drinking coffee and taking pictures. Who thinks that there is no other way of doing things than doing them at 100%. Professionally, I am Expansion Supervisor at Coffeedesk, which is the leading coffee & coffee accessories distributor in Central/Eastern Europe. I am responsible for finding new spots, negotiating deals, operational synergy and marketing activities of our coffee shops. After 7 years of working in advertising agencies, I said to myself that I love everything about coffee community and I want to be a part of it full-time. As I’m the kind of person who can’t half-commit, here I am.

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What is your favorite childhood memory?

As a child I used to spend all of my holidays at my grandparents farm. I remember waking up at 5 to a cup of cocoa my grandfather just made with freshly squeezed milk. Then going to a fair at the nearest city to sell wheat and oat from the fresh harvest and then buying some ice cream on our way back. I remember getting home, my grandmother greeting me with a kiss and asking what I would like to eat. I used to ask for fennel soup and we were going together to their field to fetch fennel, carrot, and a few potatoes to make dinner. Then we were picking up horses from the pasture and sometimes my grandfather used to let me ride them. Then I was going to bed and there were kittens sneaking on my pillow.

I think that this kind of small farm do not even exist in Poland anymore! I am smiling when I am thinking about it right now and I am so grateful that back in time, childhood was not so sterile and people were not overprotective about kids doing kids things. I am not judging them because I may also be this kind of parent one day, I am just happy that me, and my dearest little sister had this kind of experience.

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If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

I believe that you always regret things that you did not do in your life rather than those you did. I once saw a great quote, on GIRLS TV series, that stated ‘I am very je ne regrette rien’y about it’ and I told myself that I would love to apply this and be very je ne regrette rieny about my life. I stopped making lists of things that I would like to do, I simply try to grab any opportunity that reveals it self.

What do you feel most proud of?

I am proud of having the courage to quit corporate 9-5 job, switch careers and starting everything from the very beginning to pursue my passion.

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If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

First of all, my camera. Right now I see life through frames, I look at the world around me and I see pictures. I am a total amateur in this area but I just love this feeling of capturing the moment and it would be hard for me to resign from it. Second thing, a Kindle reader. I am addicted to reading, I’ve been reading at least one book a week and I can’t imagine giving it up. Last, but not least, my beloved Moleskine notebook to write up my memories and thoughts.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

I don’t want to have a tombstone, I would like to be cremated. I don’t like the idea of taking away the space from the living. Neither do I want to even think about being eaten by worms! But if I had to leave people with one sentence, I would go with something funny, I once saw a tombstone with a signature cake recipe, that’s a heritage!

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What is Coffee Spots Polska?

@coffeespotspolska a project that was born out of passion to coffeeshops visiting. With Krzysiek, the owner of @storcafe in Warsaw and the author of Warsaw Coffee Guide from last year, we are working on a guide of all Polish specialty coffee spots. The idea behind it is not only to describe great coffee shops, but also to let people know what specialty coffee is, where it comes from and also to show its origins and history in Poland. We are meeting with passionate people who were the founders of coffee scene in Poland to describe it well and every day we are learning something new. We are visiting all the cafes that serve specialty coffee and alternative methods. Surprisingly, the scale of it is enormous, we have more than 100 spots in 25 cities on our list, so we are travelling a lot, talking with people, drinking coffee, taking pictures and videos, writing. I do not have any spare minute until July, when we plan on publishing, but I love it.

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What is your favorite kind of coffee?

I am a great fan of naturals. My favourite coffee is fruity and winey. My friends who are coffee professionals, are always making fun of me, for them this kind of beans as too obvious or even overfermented. But I am not pretending to be a Q-grader or a cup taster and I think that the best coffee is always the one you like. For example, I couldn’t get enough of @gardellicoffees Uganda Mzungu or @lacabracoffee Brazil Jaci. Regarding the method, I definitely prefer pourover to espresso and I find v60 the most consistent method so I use it most of the time.

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

I have two favourites in Warsaw, where I spend most of my time. One is @kawiarniacoffeedesk, where both team spirit is amazing and coffee beans range is one of the widest in Poland. Second one is @storcafe, situated in one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Warsaw, I love its interior, its jungle of plants and their amazing cake selection (with cashew cheesecake on the top of the list).

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What does a perfect day look like?

I wake up early in the morning, I drink a glass of lemon & ginger water and I do my yoga sequence at open air watching the sunrise. I make pancakes for breakfast and eat them with fresh fruit. I kiss my husband and we laugh at our cat together. I ride my bike, I drink coffee, I talk with people who love what they do, I read books & poetry. I cook a dinner for my friends and we eat in the garden.

Humans of coffee: Reg Barber

Who is Reg Barber?

Reg is an artist who ended up designing and manufacturing coffee tampers.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

Walking alone in the snow on our ranch when I was very young. I pretended that the field was an ocean covered in ice and I was flying my airplane over it.

If you could have a do-over in your life, what would it be?

I have always longed for my own coffee shop, which is what I was working on when I began making coffee tampers. Another do-over would have been the ability to have patented my coffee tampers.

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Image supplied by Reg

What do you feel most proud of?

Designing and making the World Championship trophies.

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

  1. My camera: I love taking photos.
  2. My gun: being from a ranch in southern British Columbia I began hunting for for food (deer) on horseback at an early age with my Mom who has just had her 100thbirthday and is good health. I have never missed a hunting season.
  3. My Polaris General 1000 side by side for exploring.

 What do you want on your tombstone?

I’ve been there and I got the T-shirt.

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Image by the Cutthroat Journal

What is your passion project?

I have always wanted to start a barista school for Native Americans. I am a Native Indian (Okanagan) and I would like my people to know what a rewarding career the coffee industry can be.

What is your favorite coffee?

The most memorable coffee I’ve had was in Australia when Rob and Anna McGregor of Coffee Lab in New Zealand came to visit Sean Edwards and I in Port MacQuarrie, Australia. Sean is the owner of Café Culture magazine and Golden Bean of Australia and North America. Rob and Anna brought with them coffee for a pour over. It was an Ethiopian Konga Sedie. Delicious.

What’s your favourite coffee shop?

In Penticton, BC there are no coffee shops where you will find me. During my time in Victoria I would hang out at the original Discovery Coffee and Roastery on Discovery Street.

What does your perfect day look like?

Getting up at 5 AM and having a full day of making tampers and being very tired but satisfied at the end of the day.

Humans of coffee: Tyrone Watson

Who is Tyrone Watson?

A handsome spiritual cowboy and aspiring beam of light. At least, that’s what my Instagram bio says. I’d say that I’m a twenty-something year old who hasn’t got it all figured out just yet. I’m a human being, yogi and extremely passionate young dude who can sing along to any musical at the drop of a hat. But more than that, l love coffee so, so much that I packed up my desk at a corporate job to jump head-first into the coffee industry with nothing but my background as a volunteer barista, my relentless optimism and my desire to learn.

One day I’m hoping to include coffee professional, barista trainer and Batman.

Tyrone feels so formal. Just Ty is perfect.

What is your favourite childhood memory?

I’d probably say it’s all the simple stuff. I’m an empathetic person so how things feel is so important to me. Getting picked up from school in the afternoon, falling asleep in the back of the car and adventuring down to the coast during December. As I get older those really ordinary moments become more and more special.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

If you could have a do-over in life, what would you do differently?

I’m here to learn as much as possible, so I don’t make a habit of spending a lot of time looking behind me because it always served a purpose. If I had to give my younger self some advice: Listen less, feel more and don’t take anything too seriously.

And buy more Bitcoin. Or sell more Bitcoin. I’m still not sure exactly what Bitcoin is.

What do you feel most proud of?

Always having a sense of humour. Life is tough whether you laugh or not, but it’s way more fun if you do. Falling in love with coffee and leaving my corporate job when I recognised that it wasn’t right for me makes me feel good, too.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

If you could keep only 3 possessions, what would they be and why?

  • My iPhone. It’s such a convenient camera and learning tool.
  • A yoga mat to practice anywhere.
  • Birkenstocks. There’s a line in Will & Grace where Will says, “And by the way some sandals can be very dressy.” I’m both horrified and impressed at how often I hear myself saying the same thing.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

The same thing as my high school year book: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

What is @boymeetsbean?

Boy meets bean actually started with some advice from Shan Venter (@pretoriacoffeegirl) during a long chat about getting started in the coffee industry.

Technically, it’s an Instagram-based photo blog that explores coffee, coffee culture and coffee people in South Africa. More than that, it was a way of filling my time when I left my job by forcing me to adventure to different coffee shops and engage with the people behind the counter to learn as much as I can about coffee.

I’m an incredibly visual person and I love taking photos. Instagram is such an easy, accessible way to explore and express that creativity.

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Photograph by Lianri Malan

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

At home, I love a French Press. Otherwise, a single cortado is my go-to. A real favourite at the moment is a Konga Natural from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia.

In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

Spout Coffee in Pretoria, especially over weekends. During the week I’m usually at Vintage Coffee in Menlo Park, or out and about in Joburg. I’m in love with Dear Maria.

What does a perfect day look like?

Early morning. Black coffee. Good music. Better people.

Here’s the best advice if you’re thinking about getting into speciality coffee

I had a serious bout of cabin fever a few nights back. I needed to get out. So I grabbed my camera and laptop and headed to a coffee shop. The plan was to blog.

When I ordered a cappuccino the barista asked me if I’d like to try their festive season blend. And after describing it to me I asked him if a cappuccino was the best way to appreciate the work that went into it. His eyes lit up and he asked if he could prepare it in a chemex. He was super excited about the idea.

I listened carefully as he described each step in the brewing process. Why he was wetting the filter paper. Why he chose the grind size he did. Why he let the coffee bloom. Why the pour was a slow, circular exercise. Why he was watching the timer. And why he really appreciated me giving him the chance to brew me a chemex.

We tasted the coffee together. He complimented my slurp. We talked about the tasting notes. Then he let me go.

I enjoyed everything about that experience. I enjoyed that he was so young. I enjoyed that he was so genuinely excited about talking me through the brewing process. I really enjoyed the coffee. And I enjoyed making a new friend.

That’s the best advice I can give you if you’re considering getting into speciality coffee. Embrace the learning. Ask questions. Be inquisitive.

Yes, sometimes you’ll meet a barista for whom the job is only a job. He won’t be interested in giving you an education. But sometimes you’ll meet Gusty. And he’ll inspire you to learn more.

Go meet your Gusty.

 

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If you’re in Durban, here’s where you should be drinking your coffee this weekend

I woke up this morning to a tag on Instagram by Counter Culture. They’re celebrating the fact that their Simnikiwe Mkhize (@iamsimplicity) has just been voted the best barista in KZN.

The news came as no surprise. I’ve met Simnikiwe. And within minutes she became one of my favorite people. If you’ve met her, I’m sure she’s one of yours. She served me a perfectly crafted chemex and, without a doubt, one of the best smiles in coffee.

She’s one of the reasons I’m so keen to check out Counter Culture’s new space on Florida Road. One of many reasons. Like their Tanzania and Brazil blend roasted by Bishop’s Coffee. Or their rotating single origin pourovers. Or their ramen and beer nights. Or just shooting the breeze with Luke about the state of speciality coffee in South Africa.

Until you and I are able to pop in, here’s a peek at the new shop:

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Humans of coffee: Tim Wendelboe

Who is Tim Wendelboe?

I am a young (at least at mind) person who likes to work hard and do things my way and what I feel is the right way. I grew up in a very safe and suburban area outside of Oslo in Norway but never felt that I fit in 100%.

In my late teenage years I had my rebellious years where I got tired of school and wanted to do the opposite of what everyone else around me was doing. So when most of my class mates signed up for the university to go and study, I decided I was going to take a year off and work to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. That is how I ended up in coffee as a couple of months after high school I started working at Stockfleth’s in Oslo. After running the company for some years with my friend Alex, I finally had the courage to leave the company to start my own roastery and espresso bar. It had been a dream of mine for many years to be my own boss. I guess that runs in my family.

What is your best childhood memory?

I think summer vacations were always the best. My father used to have a boat and we would travel to the Swedish coast line for weeks during summer with my mum and sister. We had some friends we would always go together with and my favourite activity would be to row our little red inflatable rubber boat around as fast as I could.

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If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?

I am not the kind of person that goes around and regret things. I think I am a result of the things I have done in the past and although mistakes have definitely been made, those are the times I feel I have learned something and really grown as a person. I have never been the person who looks much back at things. I tend to look forward. I want to move on and improve and progress.

What do you feel most proud of?

Obviously I am very proud of what my team and I have achieved over the past 10 years with our small roastery and coffee shop. But having a small influence on peoples lives is probably what I find most touching. Whether it be that someone discovered coffee or started working in coffee because they  tried our coffee or by  being able to help some of  the farmers I have worked with for some time now. It is so rewarding to see that they have managed to get their heads above water economically by working hard and smart in order to improve their product and are now consistently growing fantastic coffees that has a higher market value.  It is a privilege and an honour to be able to help others improve their life whether it is a farmer or a barista.

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If you could only keep three possessions, what would they be and why?

1. My farm in Colombia, as I could grow food to feed myself.

2. A pair of boots to walk in as there are snakes and bugs on the farm and I am not a big fan of little creatures like that.

3. I guess the third would be a jumpsuit then as I have to have some clothes on to protect myself from the hot Colombian sun.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

That is for someone else to decide. Life is too short to be thinking about death. If it has my name on it that should be enough. My friends and family would remember me in their own way anyway regardless of what it says on a stone.

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What is Finca el Suelo?

Finca el Suelo means the soil farm and it is my 7 hectare coffee farm in Colombia. I am on my way there as I write this as unfortunately the project is not going so well at the moment due to my absence. I really need to work there more but it is hard when I also run a coffee shop in Norway. The project is about trying to produce healthy soil on my farm as opposed to the dirt that is there now, so that I can grow healthy coffee plants. I have taken a course in soil biology and want to prove to the world that it is possible to grow better tasting coffee and more quantity of coffee with no use of mineral fertilisers or chemical sprays. Mother nature has been farming forests and plants for millions of years successfully without the use of any mineral fertilisers or synthetic pesticides. The biology in a healthy soil is what feeds the plant but we have been very good at destroying the biology in our soils for the last hundred years by over-tilling, applying salts and chemicals. This gives us less healthy food and depleted soils. I really believe we need to change the way we grow food around the world and move away from the unsustainable methods we are using now. Since coffee is one of the worlds biggest cash crops I hope that my project can inspire more coffee farmers to leave their chemicals behind and start farming the natural way and hopefully together we can inspire other farmers around the world to do the same. But before I can start changing the world I need to succeed with my farm. When I do, the plan is to start helping others do a transition towards biological farming by setting up a training centre on my farm.

What’s your favorite kind of coffee?

My favourite coffee is a filtered black coffee. It can be brewed on any brewing method as long as it is made on good ingredients and is well extracted, but I tend to use a pour over or an Aeropress when I make my own coffee. The best coffee is the one I have in the morning before sunrise at Elias Roa’s farm Finca Tamana in Colombia. That is where I stay when I work on my own farm as we are neighbours and I also buy coffee from Elias. It is always a pleasure to taste the fruits of the labour together with the farmer who produced the coffee so those are my favourite moments.

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In which coffee shops are we likely to bump into you?

I actually don’t have enough time anymore to hang out in coffee shops, so apart from my own shop it would be Amor Perfecto in Bogota. I normally spend a lot of time there when I am in Bogota. The owner and some of the baristas are good friends of mine so I normally taste coffee with them or simply sit there and work while drinking their delicious coffees. I would love to go to coffee shops more often as we have some great ones in Oslo where I live, but my life is quite busy at the moment so if I go,  it always happens when I am traveling.

What does a perfect day look like?

I would have a day off work and it would include good friends and family, my wife, maybe some golf but definitely good food and wine. Oh and a nice cup of coffee.

Photography by Benjamin A. Ward