122 episodes

Ashley Rodriguez talks to folks about gender, race, sex, and other important issues in coffee. We invite people from all realms of the coffee world to share stories and engage in discussion - we want to hear from you! Contact us at bossbaristapodcast@gmail.com

Boss Barista Boss Barista

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.2, 68 Ratings

Ashley Rodriguez talks to folks about gender, race, sex, and other important issues in coffee. We invite people from all realms of the coffee world to share stories and engage in discussion - we want to hear from you! Contact us at bossbaristapodcast@gmail.com

    The Augie's Coffee Union and the Rhetoric of "Family" [120]

    The Augie's Coffee Union and the Rhetoric of "Family" [120]

    On July 4th, Augie’s Coffee, which is a branch of five coffee shops in the Inland Empire region of California, announced that they would be closing their retail locations. They made this announcement on social media and cited concerns because of COVID-19 as the reason they were closing their doors. And because of the stores closing, they were also laying off 54 members of their retail staff.

    However, just a week prior, on June 26th, dozens of Augie’s employees were sitting in a town hall with the owners of Augie’s Coffee. Co-owners and father/son duo Austin and Andy Amento, listened to concerns from employees about the way the company was handling the coronavirus—remember the cafe shut down in July, almost four months after shelter-in-place order became widespread across the nation. They also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of wage increases and job security they felt at work. Unionizing was a way to make their concerns heard.

    In this episode, I talk to two members of the Augie’s Union—the union has yet to be recognized by the Amentos. Brianda Medina and Jina Edwards have worked for Augie’s for years: Brianda for eight and Jina for two and a half, and they tell us what it’s like to try to improve their workplace, a company they’ve been part of for years—and how little contact they’ve had with ownership.

    It’s funny that Augie’s is a family-run company, because the use of the term “family” when it comes to employing people—telling them you care about them like they’re your family, or that we all work together as a family—comes up a lot, and I imagine this isn’t unique to Augie’s. By forming a union and then losing their jobs, the former employees of Augie’s had to contend with what that actually meant, and whose interests are really being protected in situations where one person holds all the power.

    • 48 min
    Sarina Prabasi On Café Spaces as Centers for Community Action [119]

    Sarina Prabasi On Café Spaces as Centers for Community Action [119]

    This entire conversation started with a tweet.

    I was working on a story about coffeeshops and their historical place in society—as gathering places, communal spaces to share ideas or areas to come together and engage in community action. I asked a question about this, and Sarina Prabasi tweeted back at me: “I wrote a book exactly on this topic.”

    Sarina Prabasi is the co-owner of Buunni Coffee in New York City, and as I mentioned, she wrote a book about her experiences called The Coffeehouse Resistance: Brewing Hope in Desperate Times. By the time I ordered the book and started reading, my story had been killed—which is unfortunate—but it was worth going on a journey of pitching this story, doing research, getting connected with Sarina because it led me to her book.

    Sarina’s book is nothing like I expected, which you’ll hear her talk about in this interview. It’s autobiographical, and we hear about Sarina’s childhood growing up in Nepal and then going to school in the United States, then drinking coffee in Ethiopia, getting married, and coming back to the United States—all before she even talks about opening a cafe. But it all comes together. Sarina brilliantly builds these momentous personal experiences to a point—the point where she decided that her cafe could be a center for collective action.

    In this episode, we chronicle her book, and we also talk about the things left on the cutting room floor. Sarina and her husband, Elias, entered the specialty coffee world after being in Ethiopia for years—Elias is from Ethiopia, and Sarina worked there for years, and that’s where they met—and found a pretty homogenous industry, one that didn’t speak to their experiences. We’ll also talk about how COVID-19 has affected the efficacy of coffee shops as gathering places, and what you can do to activate community change and organizing within your cafe. Here’s Sarina.

    • 45 min
    Cxffeeblack's Renata Henderson and Bartholomew Jones on Making Connections [118]

    Cxffeeblack's Renata Henderson and Bartholomew Jones on Making Connections [118]

    I’m honored to have two guests on the show today—Bartholomew Jones and Renata Henderson of Cxffeeblack. To say that Cxffeeblack is a coffee roasting company is an understatement. Cxffeeblack is a brand, an educational platform, a music outlet, an informative podcast, connecting the ancestral history of coffee to the modern day. Renata and Bartholomew, who are married and raising two children in Memphis, Tennessee, didn’t just aim to start a business, but set off on a mission to impact social change.

    “The cxffee plant was stolen from Africa in 1616 by two Dutch spies. Three years later the first stolen black bodies landed in Jamestown Virginia.” This is written on the back of each bag of Guji Mane, an Ethiopian coffee from the Sidamo region that Cxffeeblack sells on their website. In this episode, we talk a lot about intent and self-knowledge. Both Renata and Bartholomew tie both their own personal histories and the colonial history of coffee to the current state of the specialty coffee industry and challenge how we view and consume coffee. It's actually hard to summarize this episode because Renata and Batholomew touch upon so many big ideas, and what makes this episode special is the clear connection the two have built together.

    For so many people, the memories of coffee they have growing up—as an occasion to gather with family and share stories—doesn’t match up with what the specialty coffee landscape actually looks like. This episode is about making connections. Both the tangible, like what does it mean when specialty coffee doesn’t reflect the experiences of its members—in particular Black people, who coffee was stolen from—and abstract connections, like how identity and life experience manifest in the art and creative endeavors we take on. Cxffeeblack is a creative enterprise, and much of that energy comes from the connection and freedom of expression Renata and Bartholomew have made.

    • 57 min
    Ciera Young On Getting Mortgage-Ready, Part Two [117]

    Ciera Young On Getting Mortgage-Ready, Part Two [117]

    This is part two of my interview with Ciera Young, owner of Mama’s Brew in Houston, Texas. Part one was originally recorded for the Matchbook Coffee Project podcast, so in part two, we dig deeper into the meaning of specialty coffee and why Ciera rejects that label for her own coffee roasting business. I’d strongly suggest listening to part one before you listen to this episode—we talk about Ciera’s background and entry into coffee in part one, and jump directly into it in part two. Here’s Ciera.

    • 49 min
    Ciera Young On The Recalibration of Coffee, Part One [116]

    Ciera Young On The Recalibration of Coffee, Part One [116]

    As some of you know, I work with a group of people called The Matchbook Coffee Project. Every month, we team up with a roaster and give them complete creative control over a coffee—they choose how they want to roast their coffee, what the bag label looks like, and a unique piece of swag meant to represent something about them.

    This episode is sort of a hybrid between Matchbook and Boss Barista. Ciera Yong is the owner of Mama’s Brew in Houston, Texas, and she’s the July featured roaster for Matchbook. When we first chatted about recording, Ciera touched upon so many big themes that we decided we’d not only air her Matchbook interview on this channel, but we’d do a follow-up interview going deeper into some of the ideas she puts forth.

    So what you’re about to hear is part one of a two-part episode. Part one is recorded specifically for Matchbook, so we talk about Ciera’s background in coffee and how she went from brewing coffee for her friends in her dorm to starting her own business. As the interview goes on, Ciera pushes on the definition of specialty coffee, and why she, a Black business owner with a background in both large scale quality control and small-batch roasting, doesn’t want to be labeled “specialty.”

    And that’s where episode two will pick up. The second of this two-part episode was recorded specifically for you, the Boss Barista listeners. We’ll go deeper on what it means to label yourself as a member of the specialty coffee community, and how exclusionary practices are embedded in the fabric of our industry—and what folks like Ciera are doing with their businesses to bring more people in and actively pursue equity. So here’s part one of our interview, which again was recorded for Matchbook so you’ll hear an intro that refers to the project. And part two is already waiting for you to listen when you’re done. Please enjoy! 

    • 54 min
    Jake King and Connan Moody Provide Free Coffee Training for Baristas [115]

    Jake King and Connan Moody Provide Free Coffee Training for Baristas [115]

    There is a lot of work that goes into learning how to make coffee. Learning how a machine works or making a great pour over or how to steam milk—there’s a lot to take in. And sometimes, learning how to make coffee can be sort of daunting.

    Usually, when you become a barista, skills are transferred through big establishments. First, you usually have to work in a coffee shop, and then you get trained by either someone who works at the cafe or by a roasting company—and there aren’t many options otherwise to actually learn more about coffee.

    Gyst is changing that. Gyst Coffee Training, which is based in Atlanta, wants to teach people how to make coffee on their own terms. Gyst was started by Jake King and Connan Moody, and their goal was to make training accessible to anyone. All trainings are free and student-driven, meaning that the instructors work to meet the needs of students and not the other way around.

    In this episode, I talk to Jake and Connan about why a free training program like Gyst is so important in the coffee industry. Information can be really hard to come by in the coffee industry—along with tools, or a space to learn, or hands-on experience, and Gyst attempts to make information widely available to as many people as possible.

    Because trainings are student-led, folks are encouraged to learn on their own terms. Learning is prized above all else, and with Gyst, Jake and Connan work to provide information freely and in a manner that’s meant to welcome all folks looking to learn. Here are Jake and Connan.


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    • 51 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
68 Ratings

68 Ratings

Old Man Beans ,


I'm kind of surprised that this show doesn't have more reviews. It's given me so much information and resources to move forward in the coffee community. Ashley does a wonderful job of highlighting the issues that this industry faces.

Marshall737 ,

Umm I’ll pass


sparkiebee ,

Cofre Industry Community 💞💞💞

Learning so much, feeling so connected to a community of baristas I didn’t even know existed! LOVE

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