Specialty coffee is a rabbit hole that goes so deep, there’s no end to it. There are so many categories within this niche, it’s easy to get overwhelmed if you are just starting your coffee journey. I have gained the most by networking and talking to people. I had to apply it to gain a further understanding on a particular topic like brewing, for example.
What are the other mediums for coffee knowledge? I am fond of reading but with the kids around, I can hardly find much time. I’m currently reading the Standart magazine, and I have just renewed for a second year, more on that in another post. I was mostly interested in reading because I have always had this infatuation to write.
Videos are a great resource and adds a dimension that can help you learn faster. YouTube is great, but it’s mostly the production quality that we become addicted to even if the content itself is irrelevant.
Podcasts have played a pivotal role in staying-up-to-date, more than I thought it did. Dubai never had a real lock down, the way US and Europe did. There was no work-from-home for the construction industry, it was blissful in terms of less congestion on the road but still a worry because of the pandemic.
Since I’m traveling most of the time, podcasts have become my primary source of listening and learning. Especially long form podcasts. Why? Because like conversations, they seem more natural and much easier to digest information.
An episode can be anywhere between 30 minutes to a couple of hours, which might seem daunting at first. But, trust me when I tell you, it is just like binging your favorite TV show. Not a fair comparison? Hear me out.
I have listed my five most-listened-to podcasts, in no particular order. Other than what the show is about, I’m also going to tell you why I listen to them. Maybe you can relate to my why, because I believe the why is more important than the what.
The Coffee Podcasts
Give this a listen if you are starting out in specialty coffee.
This is the place to start with coffee. It is how I did, shortly after I attended the coffee masterclass courtesy of London Dairy Cafe Bistro. The Coffee Podcast launched in 2015, with over 160 episodes covering a variety of topics from brewing at home, opening your own cafe, interviews with coffee professionals – practically covering everything in the specialty coffee industry.
I like the way the podcast is structured because it doesn’t jump straight into expert coffee science. Jesse, the host, probably understands that the majority of the listeners need to process information from the basic level, and gradually proceed to intermediary to expert.
Jesse and Wes, the two hosts that you will listen to from Episode 1, are currently on a break. And rightfully so, because social media and life in general can become overwhelming.
Hopefully, the show will resume soon, because I miss listening to it.
Map It Forward
Give this a listen if you want to further understand the coffee value chain, effectively operating a coffee business, career in coffee and many more.
I found out about this podcast only recently, and I’m hooked. Credit goes to Mark from Nitro Coffee Solutions who shared The Global Coffee Townhall live event by MAP IT FORWARD with me. All parties involved in the coffee value chain discussed a very important question – “What needs to change in the coffee industry in 2021 and beyond?”
Lee Safar, founder of Elixir Specialty Coffee in Australia, created MAP IT FORWARD after she was swamped with messages and emails about making the barista line of work more sustainable, after she was featured on The Coffee Podcast in 2017.
The podcast itself are bite sized episodes about 10 minutes long. Lee regularly features guests and solo episodes where she shares her thoughts and ideas addressing various issues in the coffee industry.
The real reason why I’m hooked is because Lee does not skip around the bush, challenging the biased narrative within this industry. With the rise of the “cancel culture”, she is not afraid to speak her mind. What’s wrong is wrong and to preach anything but the truth is twisted on many levels.
The Global Coffee Townhall was impactful, it was unadulterated and all stakeholders in the coffee value chain spoke their minds. She has now setup a Global Coffee Thinktank Community on Patreon to discuss those issues and actively work towards solving them without being cancelled.
Likewise, there is a MAP IT FORWARD Middle East Podcast for the Arabic listeners. It is hosted by Sara Alali, based in Saudi Arabia. I would highly recommend listening to an eight-episode series SWAPCAST between the two. The discussion was largely around understanding the challenges behind opening a cafe and successfully running it. In this case, it is Sara’s new cafe called THAT Cafe.
Making Coffee with Lucia Solis
Give this a listen if you want to learn the more about what goes into making coffee.
Lucia has been working in the wine industry for many years, and she found her way into the world of coffee through a supplier with a focus on fermentation. This is a concept that has taken specialty coffee by storm in the UAE. Many roasters and cafes are clamoring to serve the ever-demanding consumers with unique experimental and tasting coffee.
Like Lee, Lucia also points out that there is a power dynamic at play in this industry, for eg. the buyers have an advantage over the producers. Roasters have always represented the producers, telling their clients and customers what high quality coffee is and should be.
Although a few roasters, I’d call them outliers, are giving true credit to the farmers for their hard work, the crux of the matter is direct representation from the producer side is missing largely.
My understanding of fermentation was very different until I listened to the first few episodes. She breaks it down and explains it very simply that why the term “anaerobic fermentation” is problematic, while fermentation by definition is anaerobic in nature. That is just an example of what she discusses in the podcast, along with more scientific information that quite frankly I have to do more research work to understand. Her approach to creating a sustainable coffee supply chain is evident, she is transparent about sharing information and her experience with the producers.
You can also consider joining her Patreon, which gives you access to a behind-the-scenes podcast, a private discord server, scientific papers, and direct contact with Lucia.
The Coffee Man Podcast
Give this a listen if you want to explore the world of coffee, business, leadership and what it takes to drive success.
Before I introduce you to the hosts of this show, I want to take a minute to talk about the first episode of this podcast – Leaders will eat Last. Leadership is often taken for granted, I have seen it and you might have, too. This is why the name of this episode, and the discussion about leadership, the human connection and placing people before profit, resonated with me.
The two hosts are Sasa Sestic, former World Barista Champion and business innovator, and Craig Jones, high performance leadership expert. Folks in the industry will know Sasa from the amazing coffee of ONA Coffee and Project Origin.
In this show, they not only talk about coffee, but the challenges they faced during the pandemic, running a business, innovating and to be an effective leader. They have just released the first episode of season two, and it explores what drives coffee professionals to compete and Sasa’s experience of the World Barista Championship in 2015.
I’m Not A Barista
Give this a listen if you want to take a closer look at baristas in the coffee industry.
I keep stressing on the fact that “coffee is not about coffee, it’s about the people”. Likewise, Micky, the founder of I’M NOT A BARISTA, stresses on, “Humanity runs on coffee”.
Often, our first point of contact as consumers are the baristas. Like me, many of us would like to learn from these professionals, whether it is about brewing or roasting. It is safe to say then, the amount of knowledge they possess and the professionalism they showcase, I often label them as connoisseurs of this industry.
I keep referring to articles from Standart, because the writing is on a level that does not only teach you something, but it also forces you to reflect in certain areas of the coffee industry. One such article written by Brian Ott, in the 26th edition of Standart, refers to the baristas as minimum-wage connoisseurs.
I couldn’t agree more, it’s true that they are underpaid and like the connoisseurs of the cheese and wine industries, it’s not as glamorous as you think it is. Baristas are reliant on social prestige, they are considered as consultant and treated like one by us coffee enthusiasts.
We look to them to educate us about the craft of what they do. It is largely their ability to taste coffee better than us that puts them in a position of authority. Their palates are trained, more experienced and can clearly pick up on the nuances, it’s their toolkit after all.
I went on a small tangent there, but it was needed to highlight the fact how important the baristas of the industry are. This podcasts shines a light on their stories, the struggles they undergo, and it’s ultimate goal is to help the barista community. Even The Coffee Story was inspired by this podcast.
Mickey launched the #tipabarista campaign September last year. Tipping is a common practice is most places, to earn a little extra at the end of the day keeps their passion candle burning bright. Individuals can apply for this funding, their story is shared with the world, and the donors can see the direct impact they have made. This project truly needs more awareness.
There you have it, folks. These are my five most-listened-to podcasts. There are so many more on my list, but I just can’t find the time. Do you have any that you would like to share? If yes, then why? I would love to know your why.