Get to Know Nick Francisco
We wanted our customers and the greater Canadian coffee community to get to know some of the team at Eight Ounce! Here, in the second part of a three part series focusing on the Wholesale Relationships team, we chat with Nick Francisco! Nick is the Pacific and Prairies Relationship Manager, based in our head office in Calgary where he has been a friendly face there for exactly one year now. Enjoy getting to know Nick as we deep dive into his origin story and how he found redemption in coffee!
- Jon Dempsey
Hi Nick! My first question is how did you get into coffee and how did you end up where you are today?
OK so I've been asked this multiple times and it’s like a hard left turn from where I started to where I’m at now. I guess I started in college, I did kinesiology so nothing really directly connected to coffee in a sense, aside from the fact that kinese [sic] kids love coffee, especially when you work out and stuff like that, (and do) sports, I guess it goes hand-in-hand with the caffeine thing, but it was never a huge part of my life to be very honest.
So you didn’t drink coffee in high school?
No, nothing like that. I really got caught into the Starbucks craze when that happened in college, I mean you were always the cool college kid when you were sitting in a cafe or Starbucks specifically, and there just happened to be a Starbucks in Saskatoon in the actual university itself, so that was kind of the only cafe I had. That’s kind of where I got exposed to coffee but I wasn’t into it per se. From there, I moved back to Calgary and I started working for another strength conditioning company and that's when I met an Irish guy named Shane who whipped out his AeroPress, so he was that guy in the office who would grind his own coffee. His setup, I remember so vividly because I copied it, was a HARIO Slim (hand grinder) and AeroPress, and he would just be up in the morning grinding his coffee, and I was like what are you doing man—why don’t you just get pre-ground coffee? He was like ‘it’s so much fresher’ (this way) and so he kind of walked me through the process and that's when I started to realize there is a little more nuance to coffee.
Was that like a gateway for you, those early brews you had?
100%! I was just used to Tim Hortons and Starbucks and his coffee blew my mind, and then he was like ‘hey you know we have an Analog pretty close to this location it's by the Calgary farmers market, let’s take you there and get a pour over.’ So I had my first pour over at Analog at the farmers market.
What year would this have been?
This is like 2017, so fairly recent. My first pour over blew my mind so at that point I was like where can I go for more of this? Then I went to Sought & Found and I had a Bombe Ethiopian coffee and I'd never tasted fruit in coffee and I never thought it was a real thing, until I had that, and from there on in I started to get really nerdy, (asking myself) how can I make this at home?
Were your friends into coffee like this at the time?
Not even, it was a solo mission, kind of a self-guided coffee education in that sense, and then I started to get deeper into it so AeroPress turned into Chemex, and Chemex obviously turned into Chemex filters, and the only place I could find Chemex filters was Eight Ounce, and that’s when I (first) came into the showroom and I was like holy crap, this is the Disneyland of coffee! I didn’t know half of these brewers existed, and that's when I met the team and I met AJ specifically first.
When was this?
This was 2021. There’s a lot of time we skipped by.
In that interim period I assume you were brewing coffee at home, as a daily routine, trying different coffees?
So you were then spending time at the Eight Ounce showroom becoming a regular customer?
Yes, and then AJ told me every time I was here to buy a geisha, a Hatch geisha - the El Paraiso Luna - and I was like no I'm not spending $60 dollars or $50 dollars on a bag of coffee until I did and it was like the best coffee I've ever had in my life, and up until this day every time it comes out I’m always buying a bag of it.
OK so you were not adverse to spending your disposable income on these exotic coffees! (Laughs)
(Laughing) No I didn’t think there could be that big of a difference between say specialty coffee or something typical you get at a cafe, but now that I kind of delved into specialty coffee and higher end specialty coffee, I think that's where all my money goes to now!
And what's your go-to, do you drink espresso drinks, milk drinks or mostly filter?
I'm a pour over addict, I haven’t really delved into espresso yet, pour over is my daily driver for sure.
OK so tell us about how you went from becoming a pour over geek to someone who is now working at Eight Ounce?
A lot of it stems from Covid. The whole two years of isolation really pushed me into a deep, deep depression. I was working as a strength conditioning coach for my own company for at least five years and it was starting to get to the point where I was definitely burning out and it was starting to affect everyone around me, I felt like a different person. Hence I decided to follow my passion, now that I’ve dug deeper into coffee and know the kind of surrounding information around that, I was like let’s pursue something I actually want to do now that I'm pretty much at rock bottom. So I stopped my business and I applied for the customer experience position and they were like ‘hey you talk a lot, you should be in the showroom,’ and I was like perfect! So I started in the Eight Ounce showroom a year ago. I then did custom branding and eventually worked my way into the wholesale team.
So basically the roles had reversed in a way where you were then becoming an ambassador of coffee, sharing your passion with customers who were coming into the showroom?
Absolutely! It's funny because I didn't know where the point was where I was asking questions about how to make coffee, or coffee related questions, to the point where I was actually educating customers on it. Friends I’ve had for years were like ‘when did you get so knowledgeable about coffee, when did this happen?’ And I’m like I honestly have no idea but I'm working here every day just learning more and more until now I'm looking to do coffee competitions — quite full circle!
Back to the mental health struggles—it's nice to hear you talk so openly about it. Was coffee a way out of that, was that passion a way to get you motivated to get out of that slump?
A little bit of both. I didn’t realize I was so passionate about coffee until I had a conversation actually last year with Kitty of Sought & Found. It’s a lot of the ritual, so you wake up and look forward to making that first cup of coffee.
Yup, I literally will think about that first cup of coffee I’m going to make in the morning as I’m falling asleep!
Before I sleep I'm already like OK, what recipe am I going to use? Which coffee am I going to have? We’re spoiled because we work here so we have access to a lot of coffees so my coffee drawer in my desk will usually have like four or five different bags!
So can you elaborate on your current role at Eight Ounce and how has it been to transition from the showroom to this new role?
My current role now is wholesale relations for Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C. To be very honest it was very overwhelming at first, I feel like I didn't really know too many people in the coffee community, so that presented a lot of challenges to create contacts and create relationships, but at the end of the day that’s the main purpose of the role. (Recently) I've had a lot of fun during a trip to B.C. for the AeroPress competition. I met hundreds of people on that trip and everyone seems to be super nice and it's exciting to get my feet wet in the community a bit more.
So you’re going out and you’re visiting with cafe owners and cafe managers and becoming a point of contact for them, I assume?
Absolutely. It’s even as simple as just having a nice conversation with a few of the baristas, just to hear their stories. A lot of them have way more interesting stories than I do about the coffee industry or just being in the coffee industry, it's always nice to see what comes before me and to see where people are headed!
Love it! Any final thoughts?
No, any fun questions?
(My colleague Katie, who sat next to us during this interview, chimed in)
Katie: If you could only wear one clothing brand for the rest of your life, what would it be?
*We all laugh*
If you had to choose only one coffee gadget to brew with everyday for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Thanks Nick, that was great!