We get to know Cydni Patterson, a North Carolina coffee professional and recent first-time coffee competitor.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos By The Pour courtesy of Pacific Foods
Like many people working in specialty coffee, Cydni Patterson entered somewhat unexpectedly, applying with a friend to a café job in North Carolina to try something new. She has only become deeper entrenched in the industry since then: Cydni worked as a barista at Caffe Driade in Chapel Hill, N.C., before joining the team at Caravela Coffee. This year she also took part—with the help of the Glitter Cat Barista Bootcamp and North Carolina’s Getchusomegear—in her first Barista competition at the Nashville, Tenn., Qualifier in January. We talked to Cydni about how the Midwest shaped her, what her first competition journey was like, and much more.
Please tell us a bit about yourself! Where did you grow up, and what have you been interested in outside of coffee?
I am originally from Chicago, but it has been a while since I have lived in my hometown! I lived in Philadelphia, in Mississippi for a few years, and Durham, N.C., is home for me right now. I think the time away has allowed me to admit that Chicago deep dish pizza is just pizza casserole, but I will always love it, along with pop and reliable public transportation. Outside of coffee, I have always loved storytelling. When I was in school, I was drawn toward African American Studies and Film. There are so many nameless faces that had to be for me to be. Did we have the same sense of humor? Did they move their hips when they hummed their favorite song like I do? I’ve always loved the little details in our big lives, and I was really interested in learning and sharing those stories.
How did you start working in coffee, and what do you like about it?
Honestly, by accident. I was working at a grocery store, and felt pretty stagnant in my position there. I wanted to try something new. My best friend, Alexis, suggested we both apply to this coffee shop that was opening in South Durham, and accidentally fell in love.
Can you talk about how you got interested in competition, and your experience with Glitter Cat and preparing for the stage?
My second or third year of working as a barista, one of my coffee heroes, Tracy, competed. She’s the first person who trained me, and honestly why I initially felt welcome in this field. Her competing piqued my interest and I fell down the YouTube rabbit hole watching old performances. I had decided that I was not ready for it, but when I was I would go all in. Years had passed. I felt that that I still was not ready, and I had spent the majority of my coffee career working for a company that agreed with my insecurities. I saw the inaugural Glitter Cats do all these amazing things, and I was so excited about their journeys. I was worried that I hadn’t been doing it long enough. I needed to know more. I always seemed to find myself outside of the gate between coffee knowledge and me. Sally—my best friend/sister/ex-manager—tagged me and pushed me to send in my application.
I was accepted into Glitter Cat! I’m still really proud of that. I was so nervous to meet everyone. My first interaction with T. Ben and Eric, I felt the same feeling I feel around my family and my chosen family. I didn’t have to filter out anything. I felt supported. Every aspect of our time at Glitter Cat was so intentionally planned. Our instructors were so amazing! There are very few places in our field that information is just given so freely. Knowledge is power, because knowledge fuels our confidence. That’s where the power is.
My first step in competition prep was to freak out lol. I was supported immediately by Chris and Chelsea from Getchusomegear. They organized this fundraiser throwdown, and really made it possible for me to compete. I finally had the chance to showcase my love for coffee and celebrate the unique experience that I provide. I am so thankful that I had the space to work with a coffee that was produced by women, imported and exported by a black woman, sourced by a Latinx women, and roasted by a nonbinary person. Isn’t that so cool?! I had help dialing in my espresso from my coffee heroes Lem, Kyle, Anthony, Britni, Scott, Thurmand, Michael, Areli, and Mandy. Wow. I’m so grateful to have been a part of something so amazing.
Finally, what do you enjoy doing outside of the coffee world?
You can find me most mornings at Retro Fitness with my mom, lifting heavy things and throwing them down with flair. I really enjoy spending quality time with my family and friends. Good food, lots of laughs, and just the thing that recharges me. I mentioned loving the little things in our big lives, and I really like to savor the moments I have with my people.