Humans of coffee: Ashley Els

Who is Ashley Els?

I really struggled with this question – it’s something that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now. It’s easy to define ourselves by what we do and what we have. The culture of today tells us this and leads us to neglect the essence of who we truly are at our core, down at the fibres that we have been woven together with.

I recently have discovered who I am and will forever continue to do so… I am a teacher, a lover of all things coffee, an amateur writer of sorts, lover of people but above all a son of my loving Father.

What is your best childhood memory?

Definitely travelling down to my grandparents, who lived in Outeniqua Strand (a beautiful stretch of the Garden Route), early in December. I’d go before the rest of my family and spend time with my precious Nanna. We’d bake, cook, chat, go to the beach and catch up. A week or so later the rest of the family would arrive. I remember just sitting that Christmas looking at everyone laughing, cherishing every moment. It was so wholesome and fulfilling.


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

Nothing… I shy away from the idea of “do-overs”… Being naturally flawed as a human being I continually practice to a live kinder, more loving life. There is enough pain, callousness and hurt in this world, I don’t want to be a part of that but sometimes, I am… However, I can learn and “train” not to be. The moments that most consider as “do-overs” help me to do that. They open my eyes to small moments where kindness can become who I am. The moments we’d classify as “do-overs” in our lives provide the opportunity to learn and grow. Each and every moment has shaped me into the person I am today. Without those moments that challenged me; stretched the daylights out of me; and pulled me in every direction –  forcing me to step up, mature and grow – I’d be a crappy human. Aaaaand, I still have a very long way to go. The point is, the moments that could become “do-overs”, I try see as “new-beginnings”, because it is not the end, just the beginning of a small little path of kindness and love to be paved.

What do you feel most proud of?

My family and myself…

As a family, we have had a disconcerting moment or two. One thing that stands out over the course of our lives was the death of my father. At the age of 14, I lost my father to a botched robbery. He was a staggering 37 years young.

My grandparents had lost their son; my aunts, their baby brother; and me, I lost my father at a time in my life that was crucial. Despite this, we have risen overcome the heartache (mostly, haha) and dealt with the loss. In all honesty, without any hesitation or shadow of a doubt, it is only by the kindness, love and grace that God has poured out onto our lives. Straight up, yo!

I am most proud of, and would like to honour, my grandparents and aunts for traversing the hyperborean plains of heartache, grow increasingly more loving and always being present. In the face of our loss, I’ve seen them bear the depths of their souls in anguish and from that place a compassionate and appreciative living was cultivated.

I’m kinda chuffed of myself for being who I am today (I had A LOT of help!!). By the love and grace of Jesus, friends and family over the years who have journeyed with me and have never given up and have never stopped praying, I have become who I am today. I still have a long way to go, but I have an incredible community who supports, loves and encourages me to grow – for that I am incredibly grateful. They call me out on my crap and speak life into the potential within me.


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

My Bible for sure, a knife and my cell phone. Within the Word of God I find my hope. A knife is just always handy to have and my cell phone just makes distance communication just a bit easier. Only slightly though. 😉

What do you want your tombstone to say?

“A man after God’s own heart who loved fiercely and lived kindness.”


What is your passion project?

I’m an Educator so making a distinct difference in the lives of those I encounter daily would be an aspect of my passion project. Teaching in an all-girls school, as a young male, my passion is to change their perceptions of themselves and females in general. The media devalues women and dictates who society and culture thinks they should be. It tells them that they’re not enough without a man, that they should settle for relationships that demoralise and devalue them. Time and time again I am shocked by how girls perceive the (terrible) ways boys and men are treating them as acceptable, it has become a cultural norm. My heart is to break that… My dream is that when the girls leave school that they know their value – that they are enough and sufficient as daughters of the Father and content with who they are. My passion is to see a revival of self-worth in the perceptions of the girls I teach. Similarly, the opposite for men is true – to teach them how to step up and step out. A wise woman once told me what a wise man once said, it goes like this:

“The most difficult thing about being a man is being a man.”

Let that sink in for a while…

Also, I would love to build a community that forms a safe space where people can authentically do life together without pretence. When people are accepted for who they are and when they are taught to embrace their story they can experience permanent transformation in the deepest place. I dream of a place where truth is revealed and where roads will be crossed, connecting people so that they are sustainably built into and cultivated into the people they were created to be – to fulfil their true and full potential.


What’s your favourite kind of coffee?

There are so many. I just really love all types of coffee! If I had to narrow it down, I would choose the following two: a ristretto cappuccino (always a double!!) I used to be a big double capp and americano (when I thought milk was for babies) fan – I then saw the light… The flavours in the ristretto capp are just that much more soul soothing.

Ultimately, a Chemex is a firm favourite – the flavours are always so prominent and because of lack of milk one can have a few cups without “over doing” it (not that there is such a thing in a barista’s life, psh). There’s always extra to go around so the Chemex is like a community coffee, which is always (mostly) a fun time!

I’ve had some pretty incredible single origin Burundi beans out of Long Miles Coffee Project and a few delicious Ethiopian Yirgacheffes.

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

Most likely Vintage Coffee. It’s such an incredible space and I volunteer there. If you’re a Friends fan you’ll know what “Central Perk” is. To me, Vintage Coffee Menlo is kinda like that. There’s always someone you know, something interesting going down or a laugh to be shared. Other than that, I make my way out to Father Coffee in Rosebank every so often and if I’m there I definitely make a stop at EB Café – I’ve been influenced and taught well ;).

What does a perfect day look like?

Waking up early, spending time with God, sharing a Chemex and a good breakfast with my community. A day at the pool or beach with a braai and a nap on a couch somewhere in between all of that. Endless conversations with laughter and banter are a must. Ending the day with good food, delicious red wine and wholesome company would be the ristretto to my cappuccino. 😉

Follow Ashley on Instagram. Photographer: Shannon Venter

How to design a café

You’ve seen me comment countless times on my instagram posts that “coffee spaces are my favourite kind”. And they really are. I’ve often wondered what goes into designing a coffee space. So I asked an architect. Here’s what Ledda Russo Architects had to say about how they went about creating the space that is Salotto Cafe in Sassari, Italy:

The project is the result of reading the existing context. The main action was to reinterpret, respecting the character, an important Liberty interior, located in the main square of the city of Sassari. The main element of the new project is the bar, located at the end of the room, defining a scenery where the bartender and his activity take on a central role. The supporting plane of the bar is made in matt Orosei marble. The “bar facade” is made up of a series of wooden panels realised with the new 3d printing technology, in which there are different shades and where three-dimensional geometries overlap. The back of the counter, there is a dark grey steel bottle holder, which through the alternation of horizontal and vertical elements, this “architecture” defines the final appearance of the bar. The remaining elements inside the room are a succession of handmade furnishing pieces , combined in complete harmony with each other.







Photography by Barbara Pau

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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.

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.

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: Wira Handaya

Who is Wira Handaya?

A creative coffee enthusiast. Started with passion for video taking, cinematography to be exact. Back in the old days, coffee was only a drink that helps me stay awake for the day, and I started getting inspiration from taking and playing around with coffee photos I took.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

I would probably say that is the feeling when I see my son. When the world still feel safe and carefree. I would careless about what I should do for fun, because everything I see, feel and touch still is new and fresh.


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

Life is perfectly imperfect. I wouldn’t change anything because everything builds who I am today.

What do you feel most proud of?

Simpelfideo. I have come a long way with many obstacles taking coffee photography but I still managed to build this name all through self learning and experimenting.


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

My heart, my love and my soul. haha

What do you want your tombstone to say?

God bless the world. HAHAHAHA


What is simpelfideo?

Food photography that is simple yet creative that can sell and make money to support my journey on becoming a greater photographer 🙂

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

Black, simple and strong.


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

It hard, because I live in Indonesia. But if you ever likely to come, contact me and I will be there.

What does a perfect day look like?

I would start with a cup of warm and tasty coffee, and enjoy the rest of my day chilling by the beach with my lovely family, having bottomless coffee to always keep me calm and awake.

Humans of coffee: Kyle Wade Sheppard

Who is Kyle Wade Sheppard?

In a nutshell, I’m a husband, Jesus follower, professional photographer and coffee enthusiast, so basically your average Instagram hipster haha. I’m a big picture oriented dreamer with an excessive amount of energy and I’m frequently stoked about a great many things. Professionally, I travel and shoot weddings with my wife (Kyle Loves Tori Photography) which is a crazy awesome gig, I couldn’t be happier with it! When I’m not traveling, I manage social media and content creation for local businesses in St. George, UT, where we live currently. Though I live in Utah, I’m a native born Coloradan at heart, and I’m very proud of my home state.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

My dad bought a digital SLR sometime when I was in late elementary school/middle school. He would take pictures through out the week at the summer camp my family ran. Sometime in high school, I remember my mom telling me that he, referencing my dad, had a special eye for it. I don’t know why that moment lodged so firmly in my memory, but I remember latching on to that and wanting to be like him and have that same “eye.” I could write a bunch of these little stories about watching my dad as I grew up and how many small things he did impacted me and made me the person I am and strive to be.

Photographer: Alyssa Ence

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

Honestly, I really love where my life is. A lot of mistakes that I made and paths I chose that I’m not proud of still led me to where I am, so in the large scheme of things, I wouldn’t change anything.

That being said, I would change my attitude and learn some lessons earlier. Namely, I would take a hold of the idea that anything worth doing is worth doing well and embracing a willingness to be inconvenienced. Even though I’ve been taught those ideals for a long time, I didn’t let them sink in until the last couple of years and if I had taken them to heart earlier I think I could have grown more and left a bigger impact on the people I interacted with.

What do you feel most proud of?

Right now? The growth of my business. I left my job managing a local coffee shop earlier this year to go full time with photography, a goal I’ve been working towards for almost 4 years now. The business is growing more than I thought possible and I’m incredibly stoked to reap the benefits of all that hard work. It’s a huge blessing

Photographer: Tyler Rye

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

Man that’s a hard question. I tend to more practical rather than sentimental when it comes to possessions, so I would probably say my computer, my main camera (I’m going to include a lens on there too, so that might be cheating), and my phone. I can pretty much do everything I need to with those three items.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

“Whatever he did, he did well. Whoever he loved, he loved dearly.”

What is The Handsome Wade coffee blog?

When I officially left the coffee industry to go full time as a photographer, I knew I’d want some sort of outlet for my coffee passion, so the coffee blog was born! I named it in part after my Grandpa Wade, because he was primarily responsible for getting me into coffee. According to the internet, Kyle comes from a Gaelic word that means “handsome” and that was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I use it as a creative challenge to photograph and write on a consistent basis. It’s an opportunity for me to share what I love most about the world of coffee and it’s an invitation for others to see that world through my eyes.


Photographer: Alyssa Ence


What is your favorite kind of coffee?

I love coffees with a more fruity and floral flavor profile, so pretty much anything from Africa, especially naturally processed Ethiopia’s. I love lots of complexity and profile shifts that tend to occur in natural and honey processed coffees. As far as brew methods, Aeropress is king in my book, followed closely by the V60.

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

To be honest, we don’t really have that many coffee shops here in St. George, so I end up doing coffee at home primarily. When I do venture out I usually end up at The Harbor, a church sponsored student/community center that offers pour over coffees from Hidden House Coffee Roasters. When I travel however, I love to check out local shops. Some of my favorites are: La Barba in Draper, UT; Corvus Coffee in Denver, CO; Kiln Coffee Bar in Grand Junction, CO; Wesley Andrews in Minneapolis, MN; Quixotic Coffee in St. Paul, MN; and Slate Coffee in Seattle, WA.

Photographer: Kyle Sheppard

What does a perfect day look like?

I have two drastically different answers to that, because I love having variety in my life, too much of any day would lose its lustre very quickly for me.

In one of my perfect days, I’m shooting a wedding. I get up early with my wife, swing by a local coffee shop and meet up with the bride early to photograph her getting ready. I get to watch the anticipation build as the girls get ready and then go hang out with the guys for a bit (they’re usually playing games or something). As the day goes on, we get to know the couple and the people they’ve chosen to have closest to them on their best day. During the ceremony, we get to watch two people make some of the most important promises of their lives and begin a new chapter of life together. We get to take them to an amazing place, away from the hustle and bustle, so they can have a moment together to take it all in, just a moment to themselves. And finally we get to party like crazy with them. It doesn’t always happen in that order or exactly like that, but I love every minute of it.

At home, I get up early and make myself a cup of coffee and start my day with a chill hour of reading and praying before heading up into the office to work. Ideally, I get to meet up with some of my friends either for more coffee, rock climbing or bike riding. I then get to spend my evening with my wife watching Netflix or playing Mario.

In a nutshell, my perfect day revolves around variety and getting to spend time with other people either who are close to me or who I get to be a part of the best day of their lives.

Cover image by Chad Braithewaite

Humans of coffee: Sara Zuluaga Parodi

Who is Sara Zuluaga Parodi?

I was born and raised in Medellín, Colombia in a coffee grower’s family. From a very young age coffee has been part of my life. Growing up in the very heart of the coffee production in Colombia has allowed me to experience and learn about the whole process from within. I will say I’m a business woman of many many hats because I love the coffee world, I’m passionate about traveling and I’m a certified yoga instructor.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Spending time in the countryside of Colombia was definitely an amazing experience, from riding horses, bikes, climbing all kind of trees to swimming in rivers. I feel very privileged for being able to enjoy my exuberant country since I was a kid.

Sara2 by martin nambert
Photography by Martin Nabert

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

Nothing at all. I feel proud of who I am and I believe that all the experiences that we have in life are the result of who we become.

What do you feel most proud of?

Last year I did an amazing 6-month trip around the world where I visited 16 countries. I saw the cherry blossom season in Japan, one of the most incredible and amazing things I’ve experienced in my life. I also volunteered at a kindergarten in Vietnam, lived in a remote island in Thailand, indulged in “La vie en rose” in France, pigged out in Italy, almost froze to death in the UK… I saw the world with different eyes and that made me realize how amazing life is, how beautiful people can be and how happy you can be with just a little. Furthermore, I learned that you set your own limits and that you can do everything you wish for.

Sara by MartinNambert
Photography by Martin Nabert

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

  1. Passport: As traveling is one of my passions, this is my access to key to different worlds.
  2. Camera: So I can keep memories of all the places I get to see.
  3. Chemex:  Because it’s my favorite Brewing method, of course.

What do you want your tombstone to say?

Don’t look for love, look for coffee hahaha.

What is “Women of Coffee”?

I’m working on a project that empowers women of coffee to be independent and reach for bigger and better opportunities through education and the support of different entities.

What is your favorite kind of coffee?

I love Ethiopian Yirgacheffe! That clean taste and bright acidity with complex floral and citrusy notes is definitely my favorite… And if it’s Chemex brewed, then it’s perfection.

Sara by Bennedict
Photography by Benedict Kraus

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

Algarabia: They have a social project with coffee being produced in what used to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods Medellin. It’s of very good quality.

La Cafeteca: Owned by one of my coffee masters, they have the best coffee in town and also an amazing variety of naturals and honeys from Antioquia.

Café de Amalia: Located in downtown Medellin, a nice cozy spot to enjoy different profiles in a different area of the city.

What does a perfect day look like?

First, a cup of natural coffee on Chemex from my coffee farm, then some yoga to wake up followed by a round of banana pancakes with honey and more coffee. Afterwards, bike ride to ease the digestion and make room for lunch with family and friends. Then, maybe a little nap on my hammock, spend time with my dog and enjoy the sunset at my coffee farm on the top of the mountains. I’d probably wrap it up with a delicious dinner, a book and  some wine.

Cover image by Benedict Kraus