BARISTA SPOTLIGHT: AUTUMN MEDINA
Barista Spotlight was born out of the need to give baristas a platform to share their stories and recognize their often overlooked hard work. Our aim is to amplify the voices of marginalized baristas including but not limited to Black and Indigenous people, LGBTQ+, as well as Persons with Disabilities. For the month of September, we shine the light on Autumn Medina from Monogram Coffee.
Tell us the story of how your relationship with specialty coffee began.
I worked for the big siren chain and I thought I knew a lot haha. Five years into it, I felt a hunger to learn more about coffee after exploring other cafés. Knowing coffee was my passion, I spilled my heart out about it to three other coffee enthusiasts and, well, it will be four years in November.
Describe a moment in your career that left a lasting impression on you.
Working in different cafés from chain/specialty/brunch has all been very different from one another. One thing that has left such a big impression and has been a very big motivator to make coffee my career wasn't just the beverage or the process and everything there is to learn, but specifically the interactions I have had that have started with someone coming in. Sometimes they're not in the best headspace or best mood, 'cause life happens, and some people will tell you things that defeated them that day or hurt them or just woke up like that. But even just genuinely asking them how they are and knowing that person came in for a hot drink--making it with attention and care, I have seen it make all the difference when they take their first couple of sips and exclaim how good it is. Sometimes they smile and other times they just leave looking a little less worn, but each of those moments stays with me, especially the feeling it gave me the first time I wanted to make someone's day a little better.
What's your go-to music playlist when you're on bar?
What TV show are you currently watching?
Favourite show--Avatar: The Last Air Bender
What coffee topics do you wish were explored further and discussed more often in the coffee community?
To always return to the roots of where coffee comes from and to recognize that without its history and knowing where it comes from, we can't improve anything. To recognize the people that are the reason we have a coffee industry at all. Coffee has kind of just become "gimme a shot of caffeine" or "give me something to give me energy" versus looking at it the same way we look at wine. They can charge so much per bottle and no one says anything. But a bag of beans that costs $40, people just can't comprehend why it would be so expensive. The roots are always important and we have to always keep taking care of them, which includes looking at the slave history and continued oppression that's happening today.
What are some of the goals you would like the specialty coffee industry to achieve this year?
Lay out the numbers. We need transparency. Cafés get fancier, farmers stay underpaid. The industry must also support and make room for some REAL diversity and for performative allyship to be a thing of the past. Actions before the words on an Instagram post, not the other way around.
Is there a charity or organization you would like to highlight?
To the front lines. Specifically for Black Trans Lives who need bail as they are celled in their birth gender and are at high risk for their lives and safety.
Please let us know if there are any additional stories you would like to share!
I'd like to take the opportunity to share one of my experiences as an Afro Indigenous Latinx barista. I was helping two older women and during our interaction I was speaking to one of the ladies about the nice weather and how it was much warmer than I anticipated and how warm I was haha. She agreed but the other woman grabbed my sleeve and pulled and yanked it back and forth, calling it a thing and of course I'm hot in it. It was dehumanizing. She was looking down on me 'cause being a barista is not seen as a profession. Like you would never grab your doctor, you would never grab a lawyer, but I'm just a barista so who cares. In her society I am not at a level that I deserve basic human respect. Plus you add inherited racism to that, because as a white person she has inherited racism. A lot of people just want to deny racism because we live in Canada, like "it's not that bad." You're not a person of colour saying this. Why can't you listen to the people of colour that are telling you their experiences?
I have hope for the future of coffee but I know there is a lot of work to do. I am privileged enough today to have this safe space to talk and share my experiences. Thank you Eight Ounce Coffee for acknowledging BIPOC folx and providing a safe space for these crucial conversations.