“Kate is one of the greatest people I’ve met in my years in coffee. She’s knowledgeable, charismatic, determined, and loves to connect with her community. I met her five years ago when she was the coffee matriarch and my manager at Messenger Coffee Co., and I have had the honor of also working with her at two different bartending jobs since then. Over the years, she’s taught people in the Kansas City industry so much and has been a beacon during hard times. She’s pushed me to become a better barista and encouraged me to shoot for goals I didn’t think I could hit. She’s established stellar coffee programs at many cafes over her decades in the industry, and try as she might, she can’t escape it. Kate represents so much of the good this industry offers and is so much of why I’m still working in coffee. She’s dynamic, fun, and a force to be reckoned with.”
Nominated by Kayla Schaudt
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
I love that coffee always seems to keep something for itself. You can’t quite ever crack the code on roasting or brewing to the fullest potential. Coffee makes you work for it.
What was your first coffee job?
In 2000, I worked as a bookseller for Barnes and Noble, but all the really interesting people worked in the cafe. They were always short-handed, so I kept volunteering to help in the cafe. We had these massive steaming pitchers and one of the baristas taught me that the milk was foamed correctly if a bar spoon would stand up in the pitcher, supported by the foam. I have since discovered otherwise!
What is your current role in coffee?
I guess advisory would be the best way to describe my current role. I help some folks with training and recipes, as well as systems and management consulting.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your life?
Absolutely—for me, it was a “barista jam.” I’d gotten a full-time cafe manager job after my little intro to barista life at the bookstore. Our roaster, PT’s Coffee, had invited us to attend a cupping of really extraordinary Nicaraguan coffees. After that, I was hooked on the pursuit of flavor and coffee quality.
What issue in coffee do you care about most? What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Seeing so many cafes rise and fall and watching talented and motivated people grow frustrated and leave the industry has really shifted my attention to workplace issues. There is a huge lack of leadership in many cafes and roasting companies. A lot of times, a responsible barista is promoted into a management role, without any training in HR or fair labor practices. A lot of cafe managers spend their days putting out fires, or putting band-aids on situations that owners won’t acknowledge, instead of leading. I observe a huge lack of resources being allocated toward staff training and development, employee retention, and equipment and facility upkeep. A lot of the opportunities I was able to pursue early in my career to educate myself outside of my cafe don’t seem to exist anymore.
Beyond educational and growth opportunities, I have also observed a lot of shady or downright illegal labor practices. A lot of this seems to come from hobby owners and/or inexperienced management. The people in a business are everything! Boss Barista podcast has been a huge source of solidarity and I am very excited to see the impact of Glitter Cat’s HR program. My heart will always be with coffee people.
Do you often make coffee at home?
I make coffee almost every day now that I work in a wine shop! My three go-to methods are the Origami, Kalita 155, and V60. I’ll usually try all three on a new bag of coffee until I find what I like best for that coffee. I also cold brew my old beans.
What is your favorite song to brew coffee to?
Superstition by Stevie Wonder.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Anything that involves working with a team doing their very best and having a good time doing it.
Who inspires you in the world of coffee?
There are so many people who inspire me by pushing for inclusion, quality, guest experience, creativity—I could go all day. The one human that I have been inspired by, over and over, is Holly Bastin. She is always curious and willing to experiment with coffee, never dogmatic. She knows the value of people and professional boundaries. She has a ton of knowledge and shares it. She has a knack for fostering self-actualization in baristas that have a desire to get better.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Leonard Cohen. I feel like he would have known all the best places to go and observe people and make up little vignettes about them.