The Inaugural Sprudge Twenty Class Of 2019

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Hello! Welcome to the official announcement of The Sprudge Twenty, presented by Sprudge and Pacific Barista Series.

This is a new program for us here at Sprudge, happening today for the very first time. What you’re reading will become an annual tradition honoring and amplifying leaders in the global coffee community, as part of an ongoing partnership with Pacific Barista Series. Pacific is dedicated to championing leadership and excellence in the coffee industry, and to supporting coffee culture as it happens worldwide.

We’re thrilled to announce this year’s inaugural Sprudge Twenty class. Twenty people who are changing the game in coffee, whose work challenges and excites us, from every step of the coffee value chain. It includes entrepreneurs and coffee producers (they’re often one and the same!), working baristas and cafe owners, career professionals and those whose careers are just starting, competition success stories and folks working quietly behind the scenes, leading by example.

From a massive list of nominees around the world, below please find the inaugural Sprudge Twenty class presented by Pacific Barista Series. Each one of these members will receive a spotlight feature in the coming weeks on Sprudge, so get ready to know them a little better. For now, read on to discover the Sprudge Twenty presented alphabetically, and thank you.

Want to nominate someone in your community for the next Sprudge Twenty class? The nomination schedule for the 2020 Sprudge Twenty presented by Pacific Barista Series will be announced this fall. Sign up for the Sprudge Newsletter and never miss an update. 

Nicole Battefeld – Röststätte of Berlin, Germany

Nicole Battefeld — Röststätte of Berlin, Germany

Nominated by Melanie Boehme

Nicole Battefeld is the head roaster and barista team leader at Berlin’s Röststätte. A former professional chef, Battefeld is the 2018 German Barista Champion and the founder of the Female Barista Society, “a project to encourage women by sharing knowledge and passion for coffee.” The Society is currently raising funds to offer free education, technical training and other opportunities to womxn and female-identified coffee professionals in Germany and beyond.

Jenny Bonchak – Slingshot Coffee Co. of Raleigh, NC

Jenny Bonchak (Photo courtesy Jenny Bonchak)

Nominated by Emily Davis

Jenny Bonchak is the founder of Slingshot Coffee, a boutique ready-to-drink coffee company based in Raleigh, North Carolina. An accomplished specialty coffee entrepreneur, Bonchak built her brand from scratch in 2012, starting out hand-packing and brewing every batch herself from inside a shared kitchen. Today Slingshot is distributed nationally through major grocery brands like Whole Foods, Publix and Target; Bonchak has been named as a Fellow for the 2018 Class of Coca-Cola’s Founders Forum and as Southern Living’s 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year. She manages the brand and oversees the project alongside her partner, Jonathan Bonchak, and together the couple has finaled at multiple national United States Brewers Cup events over the last decade.

Daniel Brown – Gilly Brew Bar of Stone Mountain, GA

Daniel Brown (Photo by Mary-Claire Stewart)

Nominated by Justin Brostek and Juanita Brown.

Daniel Brown is the founder of Gilly Brew Bar, a successful and important new coffee company based in the Stone Mountain suburb of Atlanta. Housed inside a historic 19th century home known as “The Mayor’s House”, purchased in 2015 by Brown and his wife, Shellane Brown, Gilly pushes quality and innovation across an ever-changing range of premium coffee “elixirs” featuring dried herbs, bitters, and aromatics. Brown was nominated by multiple people for The Sprudge Twenty, and in one nomination essay is described as “one of the most innovative, creative, savvy interpreters of the coffee experience I have ever encountered.”

Click here to learn more about Gilly Brew Bar from their official website.

Nora Burkey – The Chain Collaborative of Queens, NY

Nora Burkey (Photo courtesy Nora Burkey)

Nominated by Benjamin Myers

Nora Burkey is the Executive Director and Founder of The Chain Collaborative, an international organization dedicated to “investing in the capacity of Change Leaders in coffee growing regions and accompany them as they drive grassroots, sustainable development in their own communities.” Through Chain Collaborative, Burkey and her team have helped develop projects with coffee producers in Ecuador, Nicaragua, Uganda, and other coffee growing regions around the world. They also collaborate with the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) for The Partnership for Gender Equity, an ongoing research initiative looking at the intersection between coffee and gender for coffee producers worldwide.

Gisele Coutinho – Pura Caffeina of São Paulo, Brazil

Gisele Coutinho (Photo by Tony Chen)

Nominated by Sabine Parrish

Gisele Coutinho is an entrepreneur and coffee educator based in São Paulo, Brazil. She’s the founder of Pura Caffeina, a subscription service offering coffee delivery by bicycle within the city, or by mail nationwide. She’s recently launched the Casa Pura Caffeina, an education space providing access and resources for the São Paulo coffee community. Sabine Parrish offers this depiction from her nominating letter:

“Gisele was the first in her family to go to university, majoring in journalism with an emphasis on scientific communication. This training has served her well—I’ve been lucky enough to take two of Gisele’s courses, and she has an amazing knack for making the many complexities of coffee something even novices can begin to approach without fear. Even though I no longer live in Brazil, I still look forward to my weekly email showcasing the available coffees—the newsletter is always delightfully written and filled with moments of joy.”

Felix Felix – Dune Coffee Roasters of Santa Barbara, CA

Felix Felix (Photo by Chach Hernandez)

Nominated by Kay Cheon

Felix Felix is a working coffee professional and competition barista living in Santa Barbara, California, where he works as a Cafe Manager for Dune Coffee Roasters. Felix is one of several nominees who was highlighted for their exemplary customer service, and for approaching coffee work with a level of care and consideration on par with fine dining. From Kay Cheon’s nominating essay:

“As one of our store managers, Felix sets an example for service and work ethic to all of our employees, and is always looking to improve his skills as a manager and barista. Before he and I worked together, he would always come in and ask me questions about the coffee we were serving that day, gently asking me questions about what flavors we were getting and just generally being excited about coffee and its potential to bring people together. He holds Danny Meyer and his book Setting The Table in the highest regard, and is genuinely the most creative and heartfelt person when it comes to customer service.”

Will Frith – WillFrith.com of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Will Frith (Photo by Huynh Nguyen Tan Phat)

Nominated by Elizabeth Chai

Will Frith is a career coffee professional working to “change the way the world sees Vietnamese coffee.” Frith has roots in the American Pacific Northwest, working for companies including Batdorf & Bronson and Modbar. Today he is based in Ho Chi Minh City, where his work includes training and education for the city’s booming coffee scene, the development of his own concept cafe project, and a wide-reaching green coffee initiative built around introduction arabica varieties to a region traditionally known for robusta. Sprudge has covered Frith’s work in Vietnam since 2013, and today his updating regularly at his own eponymous website.

Sara Frinak – Ally Coffee, based in Atlanta, GA

Sara Frinak (Photo by Elizabeth Chai)

Nominated by Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp

Sara Frinak is well-known to a generation of American coffee professionals as a tireless volunteer and supporter of coffee events, both regional in the American Southeast, and nationally through the Specialty Coffee Association’s USA competitions circuit. In addition, Frinak is an Accounts Manager with Ally Coffee, a green coffee trading company based in Greenville, SC. From the nominating essay by Sprudge Editorial Advisory Board member Diana Mnatsakanyan-Sapp:

Sara is someone who exemplifies kindness and support in the coffee industry. She never hesitates to help her coffee community, volunteering countless hours with the SCA and local organizations, spending her time and resources to empower young coffee professionals in the southeast and beyond. She is a community cheerleader, relentlessly positive and enthusiastic, treating the victories of others as her own.

Priscilla Fisher – Floozy Coffee of Newcastle, New South Wales

Priscilla Fisher (Photo courtesy Priscilla Fisher)

Nominated by Grant Gamble

Priscilla Fisher is the co-founder of Floozy Coffee, an Australian coffee roasting and retail company based in Newcastle, New South Wales. Fisher opened the brand in 2017 alongside co-founder Kristy Mujana.

Floozy is at the forefront of fusing specialty coffee culture with feminism and social enterprise. Proceeds from both retail and wholesale coffee sales at Floozy go to benefit The Rough Period, providing sanitary items to at-risk women in and around Sydney. Floozy’s coffee program highlights the work of emerging coffee producers worldwide, with a focus on women-owned coffee projects. Their coffee ships worldwide.

Laura Gonzalez – @StrongWomenOfCoffee of Vancouver, British Columbia

Laura Gonzalez (Photo by Claudia Cantu)

Nominated by Stacey Lynden

Laura Gonzalez is the founder of @StrongWomenOfCoffee an Instagram account documenting the work and achievements of female-identifying and non-binary coffee professionals around the world. Born in Guadalajara, today Gonzalez is based in Vancouver, where she works at Genius, an espresso equipment supply and tech service. Through this work, she has helped lead multiple tech training seminars and info sessions, affordably priced and focused on offering resources to women and marginalized members of the coffee community.

Kristina Jackson – Intelligentsia Coffee of Boston, MA 

Kristina Jackson (Photo by Jon Santos)

Nominated by Rose Woodard, Rob Rodriguez, and Kat Melheim 

Kristina Jackson is an exemplary member and leader in the specialty coffee community. Her work is centered first and foremost on the city of Boston, where she is the founder of the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective, but it reverberates worldwide by offering a radical example of inclusion. Her work provides a roadmap towards confronting marginalization for coffee professionals of all backgrounds and identities, and to ensuring that the next generation of coffee pros see a place for themselves in coffee culture.

Sprudge readers are familiar with Jackson’s work through our coverage of the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective, and from Jackon’s Fall 2018 appearance on Michelle Johnson’s Black Coffee event panel in New York City. She is also an exceptional working barista at Intelligentsia Coffee’s Post Office Square location, a facet of her professional work captured vividly in this nominating essay (one of several Jackson received) from Rob Rodriguez:

“[Behind the bar], she often creates an experience and space where, despite how many people are in the shop, you feel as if you are her singular focus. This is reflected consistently in her exceptional coffee brewing skills. Each cup and shot regularly consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. While I could speak endlessly on her hospitality and coffee service skills, what sets Kristina apart from the rest is that her vision for an inclusive and equitable coffee community in Boston is strictly unmatched.”

Elle Jensen – Amethyst Coffee of Denver, Colorado

Elle Jensen (Photo by Charlie Burt)

Nominated by Kat Melheim

Elle Jensen is an entrepreneur, community organizer, and coffee professional based in Denver, Colorado. In 2015 Jensen opened Amethyst Coffee on Denver’s Capitol Hill; in 2018 the brand’s second location opened in the Berkeley neighborhood. In 2015 she launched the Cherry Roast, a landmark “platform and coffee competition to support and provide visibility for womxn/trans/GNC/gender queer coffee professionals.”

In her nominating essay, Coffee People Zine creator Kat Melheim writes “[Jensen] creates a welcoming and inclusive space for guests and baristas alike. She is an amazing, transparent, and honest business owner with the interests of the community at heart.”

Sam Keck – Commonfolk Coffee of Mornington, Australia

Sam Keck (Photo by 3000 Thieves)

Nominated by David Bishop

Sam Keck is an entrepreneur and founder of Commonfolk Coffee, located in the town of Mornington, on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne. Keck has spun a successful roaster/retailer into a series of social enterprise efforts, including Zukuka Bora, a farmers initiative benefitting coffee growers in Uganda; and Home Ground, which is focused on providing training and job options in hospitality to unemployed and at-risk youth in Mornington. By fusing the high demand for quality coffee with organized social enterprise, Keck’s work shows us how coffee can do more than just taste good—it can also do very serious good for communities at home and around the world.

Haley Lytle – Cryptozoology of Denton, TX 

Haley Lytle (Photo by Zac Cadwalader)

Nominated by Kara Herman and Ben Lytle

Haley Lytle is a co-founder at Cryptozoology, a quality-focused multi-roaster coffee bar located in Denton, Texas. Lytle is one of several nominees featured for their exemplary expression of service and hospitality in a specialty coffee environment. A working barista and entrepreneur, Lytle’s work in coffee helps advance the culture in ways large and small. Here’s more from a nominating essay by Kara Herman:

“Haley specifically thrives on efficiency and makes it an art. She is able to communicate with customers while knocking out an order before the customer even walks away from the bar. (Almost every time!)… She has been incredibly encouraging and inspiring to me. I am only a few months into joining the coffee community so I am very glad to be learning from her… She makes sure that our team is efficient, happy, learning, and exhibiting the best customer experience possible. She has a gentle way of teaching and showing me how to do certain tasks better and explaining why it will make an overall difference in what we are doing. High-quality drinks and exceptional customer service are our goals and she makes sure it happens while having a lot of fun… She goes above and beyond but has no idea.”

Aubrey Mills – Dapper & Wise Roasters of Portland, OR

Aubrey Mills (Photo by Grahm Doughty)

Nominated by Tyler Geel

Aubrey Mills is the Director of Wholesale at Dapper & Wise, a coffee roasting company with locations in Beaverton and Portland, Oregon. In her role with the company, Mills has avowedly championed the disparity in cost of production across the specialty coffee chain. She’s made public education her goal, focused on educating the public for the need to pay more for quality coffee and address wage instability for coffee producers. These issues were addressed at a recent forum hosted by La Marzocco USA in Seattle, Washington, during a Dapper & Wise cafe residency.

Umeko Motoyoshi – UMESHISO.COM and related ventures, Oakland, CA

Umeko Motoyoshi (Photo by Evan Gilman)

Nominated by Kat Melheim

Umeko Motoyoshi is an entrepreneur, coffee professional, technologist, social media provacateur, whistleblower and advocate for the marginalized. They are the founder of Umeshiso.com, the VP of Technology at Sudden Coffee, and the creator of @wastingcoffee on Instagram, among other ventures. They are the Sprudgie Award winner for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence for 2018, and the founder of CHANGING STRUCTURES in collaboration with the #CoffeeToo Project. In 2018 Motoyoshi was a named whistleblower in the Four Barrel Coffee sexual harassment scandal and subsequent legal action.

TBCH that’s roughly half of what we could have listed here for accomplishments related to Umeko Motoyoshi, who exemplifies the spirit and intentionality of the Sprudge Twenty through their multi-faceted work across the specialty coffee industry. Read more in Sprudge co-founder Zachary Carlsen’s recent interview with them here.

Laetitia Mukandahiro – Kigali, Rwanda

Laetitia Mukandahiro (Photo courtesy Laetitia Mukandahiro)

Nominated by Chelsea Thoumsin

Laetitia Mukandahiro is an accomplished coffee professional born and raised in Rwanda. Originally from the village of Musasa, located near the famed Dukundekawa cooperative, Mukandahiro distinguished herself early in her career as an accomplished and capable professional cupper. She’s worked for the Rwanda Smallholder Specialty Coffee Company (RWASHOSCCO), for the washing station management firm KZ Noir, and today for the noted Rwandan coffee exporter Bufcoffee, where she serves as Quality Control and Sustainability Manager. Mukandahiro is a certified Q Grader and has served on multiple international Cup of Excellence judging panels. Her continuing work with BufCafe includes establishing a training center and affording ongoing opportunities for Rwandan youths interested in a career in coffee.

Kazuhiro Nagasawa – Nagasawa Coffee of Morioka City, Japan 

Kazuhiro Nagasawa (Photo courtesy Kazuhiro Nagasawa)

Nominated by Mami Sakamoto

Kazuhiro Nagasawa is an entrepreneur and coffee professional based in Morioka City, some 300 miles from the city of Tokyo on the northern tip of Honshu. He is the owner/operator of his own eponymous small town coffee brand, Nagasawa Coffee, founded in 2012.

Here’s more on why Nagaswa Coffee is special from Mimi Sakamoto’s nominating essay:

“Let me explain a little bit about my hometown, the city of Morioka and its relationship with coffee. Coffee is loved by all generations here, and many families have their favorite coffee roasters and cafes. But what they call “coffee” has traditionally meant a dark roasted, thick, strong tasting drink. When Nagasawa Coffee opened in 2012, their coffee selection had fruity, lighter or sometimes unique tastes in addition to “traditional” dark ones.

Mr. Nagasawa was not trying to follow “in-fashion” coffee then. His coffee choices are not swayed by trends. Instead, he is cultivating his own world of coffee, traveling from Africa to Taiwan to keep his knowledge current, and expressing everything he’s learned here for the locals. I think this is how a barista in a small town can contribute to change and influence the world of coffee.”

Chris Tellez – Show & Tell Coffee of Kitchener, Ontario

Chris Tellez (Photo courtesy Chris Tellez)

Nominated by Priscilla Fisher 

Chris Tellez is a coffee professional and entrepreneur based in Ontario, where he serves as a regional sales representative for Phil & Sebastian Coffee and owns and operates Show & Tell Coffee. A career professional, Tellez has been competing in the Canadian barista competition circuit for more than a decade. His work came to international attention in 2019 for a protest routine on the Canadian Barista Championship stage, calling out an official World Coffee Events rule disallowing the use of alternative milk. Tellez’ routine was timed to the launch of a petition formally requesting WCE reconsider the rule.

Freda Yuan – Origin Coffee Roasters of London, United Kingdom

Freda Yuan (Photo by Gary Handley)

Nominated by Cat O’Shea

Freda Yuan is an accomplished coffee professional based in London. She is the Head of Coffee at Origin Coffee Roasters; a two-time UK Cup Tasters Champion, placing 3rd in the world at the World Cup Tasters Championship in 2017; a licensed Q Grader and SCA educator in both English and Mandarin; and an MBA from Middlesex University. Yuan has worked many roles throughout her coffee career and has been a vocal champion for recovery and advocacy related to eating disorders.

The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Pacific Foods Barista Series. For more information on the Sprudge Twenty, visit sprudge.com/twenty.

Nomination schedule for the 2020 class will be announced in Fall 2019. Follow Sprudge for updates. 

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