One day, Sandra Loofbourow went to visit her friend’s newest cafe in the Sunset District of San Francisco. The next week she was pulling shifts, and now she’s the head roaster and green buyer for Andytown Coffee Roasters.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Sandra Loofbourow
Sandra might not be in coffee if it weren’t for her love of dancing tango. Learning how to tango at the age of 14, Sandra’s obsession with the dance has led her from one coffee opportunity to the next, eventually landing her as the head roaster and green buyer for Andytown Coffee Roasters in San Francisco. We talked to Sandra about her childhood visits to Chile, her love of dance, and how her coffee career has developed over the years.
Ashley Rodriguez: Tell us a little bit about your childhood. Where did you grow up? Sandra Loofbourow: I grew up in Sacramento. I am bicultural—my mom is Chilean and my dad is from the U.S., but he grew up moving all over the world and speaks Spanish fluently. When I was little we would spend several months of every year in Chile. Since we went for the winter months of North America we’d get a bunch of work from my teachers and my dad would homeschool me. After middle school it was too hard for me to miss so much school, so I started spending my summer vacations in the winters of Chile, going to school with my cousins and taking epic snowboarding trips in Chillán. We do a thing called onces in Chile, which comes from the British elevenses and is basically evening tea-time, before dinner and after lunch. Although tea is often preferred, coffee is always an option at onces.
AR: Tango is a huge part of your life. When did you start learning to dance tango? SL: I started dancing tango when I was 14. A friend of my mom’s had started teaching a class and so I went with my parents, week after week. I became obsessed—an obsession which has lasted ’til now and which I am sure will continue throughout my lifetime.
AR: What was your life like before coffee? What did you think you were going to do before you started working in the industry? SL: I went to college at USF (that’s how I came to the Bay Area), where I majored in Latin American Studies. I took a lot of French Literature classes (especially French-African literature) and did an intensive course in Portuguese, so I’m fluent in both. I’m interested in the pervasive impacts of colonialism on the Americas, its effects on culture and religion and literature. Coffee plays a part in this too—it was brought from Africa and imposed upon Latin America. Together with sugarcane and cotton, it became a part of the violent commercialization of the new world. I think this is something we in the coffee industry need to understand and address.
AR: What was your first coffee job? SL: My first coffee job was after freshman year of college when I quit school to become a chef. I had a shift from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. at a restaurant in Los Gatos, but they didn’t pay me so I got an opening shift at the Los Gatos Roasting company from 5 a.m.-11 a.m. This was obviously not a healthy combination, and I didn’t make it more than a couple haggard months. Soon I went back to Sacramento for a semester of culinary school and eventually gave up and went back to college. There I got another barista job at another roastery in the Outer Richmond.
Because of my love of tango and my LAS major, I took the opportunity to study abroad in Buenos Aires. It was absolutely magical and drastically changed my life. It’s also the only period in my life where I regularly drank espresso at 1 a.m. But what else are you gonna do when there are espresso machines everywhere and your bedtime is around 6 a.m.? I danced every day, performed in several street shows, and almost didn’t come back. When I did, it was with the very specific intention of saving enough money to move back to Buenos Aires.
Two years later, I was stuck living with my parents, depressed, and unable to get back to BsAs. It was like swimming upstream—I just couldn’t make it happen. I took an opportunity to move back to San Francisco and got a job at a Sightglass wholesale account. I went to their roasting in SoMa for my first-ever specialty coffee training, and lo and behold, the tatted-up guy training me had a tattoo of a bandoneon (the instrument used in tango) right on his neck. I took it as a sign and dove right in.
AR: How did you end up at Andytown?
SL: After bouncing around a couple different specialty coffee roasters in the Bay, a tango friend recommended me for a job at the Blue Bottle Ferry Building location. She said that she knew I could keep up after watching how quick my feet were on the dance floor. At BBCC I took every opportunity to learn, I went to cuppings every week on my day off, and kept feeling that there was so much more to learn.
Based on my language and people skills, and after much thought, I decided that I ultimately wanted to be a green buyer. However, I wanted to learn to roast before anything else. Just at this time, my friends Lauren and Michael opened a little roastery in the Outer Sunset. I had worked with Lauren at the Ferry Building and went to their opening day. They had opened the shop with the intention of running it themselves, just the two of them. There was a line down the block on the first day. I was ready to move on to something new, so I started pulling shifts there and about two weeks after opening they hired me on. I told them that I wanted to learn to roast and eventually become a green buyer, and they were incredibly supportive and helpful.
AR: You’re going to be the next featured roaster for the Matchbook Coffee Project. Can you tell us a little bit about the coffee you’re using?
SL: I’ve decided to use a coffee from the new Java Mountain Women’s Cooperative. I chose this coffee because supporting women in producing countries is key to improving the quality of the coffee and the quality of life of the producers. This is something that’s very important to me—about 80 percent of the coffees I buy for Andytown are produced by women.
AR: What do you like about your job?
SL: We have an incredible team and are building a growing company. I’ve gotten to travel to origin and make buying decisions that support positive coffee relationships at origin. I am super dedicated to supporting producers and am constantly looking for ways that I can create a positive impact at origin. Remember how I said coffee was part of the colonial history of the Americas? I want to make sure the producer is independent and self-sufficient, growing delicious coffee because they want to.