Get to know tea-turned-coffee guy, Bobby Reitman III of Madison, Wisconsin
INTERVIEW BY DIANA MNATSAKANYAN
Bobby Reitman III wasn’t always a coffee guy. Working as a sales rep for Rishi Tea, Bobby spent years traveling across the American South, visiting a multitude of specialty coffee shops and drinking a lot of coffee. It was during these travels that Bobby’s appreciation for and understanding of the specialty-coffee industry began to deepen and grow. Now coffee is both a beloved ritual and a creative outlet for Bobby, who is a cafe and restaurant sales representative for the Madison, Wis.-based roaster, Just Coffee Cooperative.
Diana Mnatsakanyan: What makes you love your job?
Bobby Reitman III: I’ve always been a people person. The idea of working alone and dealing with computers instead of human beings has never appealed to me. With my current job I get to meet people from every walk of life; I get to learn about them and know their stories.
DM: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
BR: Dirty work spaces. If anyone has ever trained with me or worked with me at an event, they know that I like to clean and keep things tidy. If you can’t keep clean, it’s just an exterior manifestation of your interior grime. Quote me on it.
DM: Who inspires you?
BR: My wife and best friend, Anna Carini, is a huge source of support and inspiration. She got me into cooking, which lead to my path in the specialty-beverage industry. Plus she’s super cute and the love of my life. I also draw inspiration from the random, wonderful service experiences that I’ve been witness to: the times when the individual serving you takes a moment to acknowledge that we’re all people and we’re sharing in a journey.
On the coffee end of the spectrum, I’ve gleaned a lot of inspiration from a few Counter Culture folks. Katie Carguilo, who I saw win the [United States Barista Championship] using a Rishi Tea in her sig bev, really blew my mind. Jonathan Bonchak’s highly contagious positive energy and coffee love is a constant source of inspiration for me. And Lemuel Butler really set the bar for what a cool, calm, and collected coffee professional is. Getting to run a coffee-and-tea tasting with Lem last fall was one of my highlight coffee geek-out moments.
DM: Where’s your “happy place”?
BR: Honestly, it’s not too far from my kitchen! I love hanging out in our yard, which used to be a house before it burned down many years ago and the previous owners never built it back. In our more dense urban neighborhood, it’s an oasis for wildlife, catches a lovely breeze, and lets me lounge, walk around, and grill out ”when it isn’t covered in 20 feet of snow, of course.
DM: If you could go back in time, where would you travel to?
BR: I’d probably keep it within the last 100 years, just for the ability to speak the language and to not seem too strange. So I’d have to pick 1960s New York City: the start of counter-culture, Dylan, the nation-wide loss of innocence to come, and the struggle between hippies and ‘Americans’. That’s also the time when my dad was turning 20, and I’ve always thought about what an incredible experience it would have been to be venturing out on your own at that age in that time period.
DM: How would you spend a billion dollars?
BR: Holy cow that’s a lot of dollars! I’d probably use enough to start up a micro-roastery and cafe here in the Riverwest neighborhood (the birthplace of Alterra Coffee, now known as Colectivo). Then I’d use the rest to fund community spaces across Wisconsin and the Midwest.
…Wait, scratch that. I’d enter the presidential race as the Medium Horse candidate (I’m a medium roast kind of guy). My platform would be, œNo taxation without caffeination!
DM: How do you decompress after a long day?
BR: I’m often found pulling a small red wagon with my chattering two year old son, Robert Leon Reitman IV, on our way to or from Kilbourn Park. That park has the best view of the city, a small view of the lake, and is a perfect place to help remind myself where I am and what I love.
DM: What would you like to see happen within the coffee community in the next five years?
BR: I would love for the multi-roaster shop to be more prevalent. This is such a tough model to run sometimes, as working with one dedicated roaster can guarantee direct support, service, and sometimes free equipment, but I truly believe that a multi-roaster model adds to the fabric of the community by giving consumers more options. If we stay too focused on what’s around us we could miss something incredibly important happening in the next state or country over (both in the coffee world and beyond).
DM: OK, I’ve got to ask: coffee or tea?
BR: Tea first, then coffee… didn’t I teach you about L-Theanine?!?!?!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Diana Mnatsakanyan is a cat-lady-turned-barista living in Charlotte, North Carolina. A workaholic and coffee nerd, she is currently in the process of opening her first coffee shop, Undercurrent Coffee. She also dabbles in barista blogging, coffee consulting and Netflix binge-watching (she highly recommends ˜Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ and ’30 Rock’).