Gisele Rodrigues Coutinho: The Sprudge Twenty Interview

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Gisele Coutinho – Pura Caffeina of São Paulo, Brazil

Our coverage of the Sprudge Twenty interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series continues this week on Sprudge. Read more about the Sprudge Twenty and see all of our interviews here.

Gisele Rodrigues Coutinho nominated by Sabine Parrish. 

Gisele Rodrigues 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.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

What issue in coffee do you care about most?

The valorization of professionals involved throughout the coffee chain.

What cause or element in coffee drives you?

What drives me is that changes in coffee—whether in the fields, in coffee shops, research, or championships—never stop. Coffee is alive and it challenges me constantly. I love challenges.

What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?

Consumer education. People need to understand the amount of work necessary and just how much it costs to fill a cup with quality coffee and how many studious people need to work at this to make it happen. Coffee is not just coffee.

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

In the drink, what I most like is the diversity of flavors we can show the world. More generally, I like how coffee can connect people from different social classes. In Brazil, there’s hardly anyone who doesn’t drink coffee. Coffee has a marvelous affective value for us.

Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?

Absolutely. When I fell in love with coffee, I was in the habit of visiting a coffee shop called Sofá Café, which is in my neighborhood in São Paulo. One of the baristas became my friend and big inspiration. He made incredible double ristrettos! It was like I could truly experience the sweet honey aroma. The barista was Rogério Itokasu, who unfortunately passed away from cancer in August 2016. His energy is still present in my life and the months that he was ill were what changed my life and motivated me to work with coffee. I wanted to give value to my life by doing what I love and fighting every day.

What is your idea of coffee happiness?

To see more black women in charge of coffee businesses throughout the world.

If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?

A job like what I do today. Be in charge of my own coffee delivery service and courses for anyone who is passionate about coffee, democratizing quality. But I’m hoping for a bigger space with the capacity for more people and a bigger and better structure.

Who are your coffee heroes?

My friend Rogério Itokasu who even when stricken with cancer and without the ability to speak was able to work in a coffee shop, piloting a La Marzocco and extracting such quality with such patience. My barista friends are also my heroes, certainly!

If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

With the rapper and music producer Amir Mohammed El Khalifa, aka Oddisee, who loves specialty coffee. Hey, man! I’m here waiting for your visit to Brazil! I really hope someone schedules a show for him here and I can have a coffee with him. I’d definitely take him to Takkø, a coffee shop owned by my friends, because I think he’d really identify with the space. And of course, I know he’d adore Casa Pura Caffeina and the coffees I have here.

If you didn’t get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Working as a journalist. I worked in politics, with the workers’ movement here in Brazil. We live in a very complicated moment here in terms of social rights and liberty. If it wasn’t coffee, I know I’d be working with this still. But coffee conquered me totally—I didn’t have a chance! I’m really happy doing this, in charge of my small but valiant business and what this represents for the small community of black coffee professionals here in Brazil.

Name three coffee apparatuses you’d take into space with you.

Aside from coffee, I’d bring a hand grinder, my little black kettle signed by Tetsu Kasuya, and a Kalita 155.

Best song to brew coffee to:

“Morra bem, Viva rápido”, [“Die well, Live Fast”] by Don L (Brazilian rapper)

Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?

In Brazil, owner of a coffee roastery with an affiliated social project focused on race, giving TED talks, drinking coffee throughout the world, and a black belt in Jiu-Jitsu.

What’d you eat for breakfast this morning?

Eggs, bacon, fruit, and a big cup of brewed coffee that was very clean and with an absolutely brilliant acidity.

When did you last drink coffee?

Right before I sat down to respond to these questions! And it’s already past 11pm.

What was it?

A yellow Catucaí cultivated in Jesuânia, Mantiqueira, Minas Gerais. It was produced by Delmar Villela and roasted by his brother Luiz Pereira Villela in Itajubá. He’s one of the best roasters in Brazil.

Thank you. 

The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2019 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty

Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge. 

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