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.
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.
This interview has been lightly edited.
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
There are a lot of playing fields in the industry that aren’t exactly equal. For example, people who compete [in barista competitions] and are able to buy “fancy” coffees and expensive gear for competitions often end up with a bit of an edge. I think it should be equally accessible for as many people as possible and I want to help with that.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Bringing people together and how passionate our community is in working toward a sustainable future.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
I don’t think this issue is overlooked, because most of us are aware of the problem of female producers fighting to have the same respect, support, and opportunities as their male counterparts in many countries where coffee comes from. It is such a big part of their culture and is so deep that I think many of us might not even understand, and I think it is unbelievable that so much teaching is still necessary that women are equal and should have the same opportunities.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
The opportunity to never stop learning. Coffee is such a complex world that it constantly amazes me.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
A major revelation moment came when I started working in coffee and was sitting at a table with 12 males and I was the only female. That’s when I started to realize how male-dominated this industry was. Not sure if that counts as a coffee revelation…
It absolutely does. What is your idea of coffee happiness?
It would be amazing to be one of the first industries to have equal pay and diversity in all sectors of the industry. Of course, we’re close in the service end, but there’s so much more that’s often not considered in how coffee gets to a consumer.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I’d love to learn about green coffee buying. I think it is one of the most interesting jobs in the coffee chain with tons of responsibilities. They need to be aware of the global market, quality, sustainability, ethical producers, etc.
Who are your coffee heroes?
Everybody in a marginalized group in the coffee industry is my hero. So many are fighting to have a more inclusive industry: womxn, LGBTQ+, non-gender conforming, POC, etc.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Gertrude Stein strikes me as someone who really knew how to entertain and converse. I’d love to hear about Saturdays at her salon, with Picasso, Matisse, and Hemingway. She must have had some interesting stories to tell. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a woman I’ve always admired. I wonder if she’s a coffee drinker.
If you didn’t get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
It is very difficult for me to picture what I’d be doing if I wasn’t in coffee. This is not because it was my dream job, and been part of my life for a long time, but because as an immigrant sometimes our opportunities are uncertain. I was just lucky to get offered a job in coffee and find a community that is welcoming.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Anybody who is willing and happy to share their coffee knowledge with me is a mentor and there’s always something new to learn from other people.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
Get out of your comfort zone as soon as possible. Great things will happen if you do.
Name three coffee apparatuses you’d take into space with you.
I guess hand grinder, a Chemex, and a scale.
Best song to brew coffee to
Any song by Selena Quintanilla is a good song.
Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?
I try not to think about the future too much—it gives me anxiety—so I just try to focus on one day/week at a time.
What’d you eat for breakfast this morning?
Shakshuka. My first time—I loved it.
When did you last drink coffee?
Three hours ago.
What was it?
It was a Chinese washed pour-over.
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.