10 Minutes With Erica Jackson

We talk to the Getchusomegear educator about using science in everyday life, learning from coffee and tea, and more.

BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE

Cover photo by Sara Frinak; other photos courtesy of Erica Jackson

Erica Jackson has had a lot of educational and personal pursuits, from science to sociology to coffee and tea and beyond. In her professional career, Erica has sought to combine those interests, weaving in her intellectual curiosities to her coffee and tea career. Erica currently works as an educator at Getchusomegear, where she plays a key role in the professional development of coffee professionals with marginalized identities. We talked to Erica about what coffee and tea mean to her, learning from her professional path, and much more. 

Erica behind the bar at her former place of employment, Seeds Coffee Co.

Chris Ryan: Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where did you grow up, and what did you study / plan to pursue professionally before you got interested in coffee? 

Erica Jackson: I was raised by Joy, a single mom to four women, in the South. Most of my childhood was spent exploring and roaming the streets of government housing in Birmingham, Ala. After attending an International Baccalaureate high school, I chose to study science, and specifically the science that is at work in the human body. I have a bachelor’s of science in Exercise Science and a master’s of science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT). I have never had a solid plan for my professional career, but I have always had a desire to work in a field that would enable me to address and solve the social problems that were pressing me and the vulnerable populations of American society. I pursued a career in the tea industry before I was hired as a barista. The origin trip I took to India in 2015 has impacted and informed the totality of my professional work. 

You started in coffee at a nonprofit in 2013—what sorts of jobs did you have in the coffee world before joining Getchusomegear? What have you learned from coffee?

Previous to joining the Getchusomegear team, I was employed by two coffee companies. My primary role at Seeds Coffee Company, the nonprofit coffee shop you mentioned, was production manager. After my foundational work at Seeds, I lived in Charleston, S.C., for one year, where I worked as a barista at a high-volume café that was located in a suburb. 

Working in the coffee industry has taught me to be a more open, aware, soft, outspoken, and attentive person. I’ve learned a skillset that allows me to use science to engage in the daily rituals of humans and enhance their enjoyment of these rituals. I have also learned more about the global, societal issues that women working in the tea and coffee industries face, and of the importance of their locale in their respective industries. Moreover, I’ve learned that coffee is Black and that I am deserving of a space in this industry—my former boss, Jeff Huey, taught me this.

Erica’s image adorning an old label of Iron Fist, Seeds Coffee Co.’s foundational espresso blend. Erica says, “I was chosen to be on the coffee label for a time as a way for Seeds to honor both my individual work and the work of other Black women in the global coffee supply stream.”

When did you join Getchusomegear, what is your role there, and what is meaningful to you about working with them? 

I officially joined the Getchusomegear team as an educator in June. However, I feel that I have been a part of the team since Cydni Patterson’s U.S. Coffee Champs fundraising extravaganza (December 2019)! Working with Getchusomegear is meaningful because I have leadership that I admire and trust, and that is leading me to find ways to directly invest in the professional development of coffee professionals with marginalized identities. 

Erica says working in the coffee world has taught her important lessons about the global, societal issues that women working in the industry face.

You mentioned being interested in specialty tea—what excites you about tea, and how do you satisfy that interest despite not working in that world? 

What’s not exciting about tea?! It fascinates me because humans have been drinking tea long before coffee.  It’s a mysterious, dynamic, healing, and empowering plant. I always feel more emotionally/spiritually aware when I drink tea. 

Luckily, tea is in such demand that most coffee-centric businesses have teas available for purchase. I drink tea most days and take every opportunity I can to enjoy tea with others. I am planning to take a tea educator course taught by Suzette Hammond of Being Tea in the near future to continue my tea education and technical tea preparation skills. 

Erica with her niece Jamyla, who is a big inspiration to her. “She thinks coffee tastes like fire and she loves to sing, act, model, and dance,” Erica says.

Finally, what do you enjoy doing outside the world of coffee? 

I enjoy laughing, problem solving, writing poetry, exercise, sweet treats, science, cartoons, and long/nuanced conversations.

About Chris Ryan 235 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.