We continue our conversation with Madeleine to discuss her business’ transition during the pandemic and her volunteer role with the SCA.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Lauren Thormosdgard
As we learned in part one of our conversation with Madeleine Longoria-Garcia, an interest in travel and discovery eventually brought her to Hawaii, where she now runs the coffee education center Pacific Coffee Research. Madeleine is also a volunteer with the Specialty Coffee Association’s U.S. Chapter, where she aims to bring visibility to Hawaii’s coffee industry at a national level. Today, we continue our conversation with Madeleine to cover PCR’s focus, her SCA role, and more.
How did you decide to start Pacific Coffee Research, and what does the business do?
Pacific Coffee Research was an outgrowth of my two business partners’ work with a different coffee company. Originally, the plan was to add a coffee education center to the company. When that CEO bailed on the plan as the ball was already rolling fast, they decided to continue working on it independently. Up until then, Hawai’i had never had an SCA campus. (Ed note: Madeleine uses the technically correct spelling of the island, with an okina between the last two letters.) We didn’t have a centralized space for coffee education from farm to café. Pacific Coffee Research wanted to address that gap and became the first SCA Premier Training Campus with a certified cupping lab in Hawai’i in 2017.
At the time, I was building my foundation of making Hawai’i home and working a full-time job building the coffee program at our local Four Seasons. I wasn’t directly involved with the initial start-up process, but I was part of the conversations; I hung out on the sidelines and they knew I wanted to be involved as soon as the time was right. That time came in April 2019 when I quit my job at Four Seasons and was ready for whatever opportunity the world would throw at me next. It just so happened that PCR needed help at the same time. One of the founders was moving back to the mainland and my skillset filled the gaps. By September, I was a co-owner of the business.
In addition to teaching SCA CSP Courses, we teach many non-certificate coffee courses, provide local coffee producers with post-harvest services such as facilitating processing experiments, green coffee analysis, and cupping analysis, and we work with local cafés and restaurants in providing wholesale services. We roast local and imported coffees, train staff, procure and install equipment, and perform maintenance & repairs.
You’ve evolved your education offerings to go online during the pandemic—how has that process been, and where is it now?
Yes! We tried to make that shift quickly. It was a good and necessary thing to do. It’s been a bit challenging and causes us to really rethink the way we communicate information in teaching. It’s one thing to sit in a room with people and walk them through everything one by one; it’s a completely different thing to try to describe all those steps via a video call. You have to make sure everyone else has their stuff set up and ready to go, too! It requires flexibility and adapting.
We started off with one Virtual Workshop: A Hawai’i Coffee Tasting. We walk attendees through a tasting of four coffees from different growing regions around the islands. And now we have a total of four Virtual Workshops! The other three cover topics of Sensory Training, Manual Brewing, and How Coffee Is Made. We really enjoy leading these and the Hawai’i Coffee Tasting is, by far, the most popular. We love that one the most because it gives us the opportunity to share Hawai’i-grown coffee with folks all around the nation. Most of the time, these are people who have never been to Hawai’i and who have never tasted Hawai’i-grown coffee; it’s a really unique opportunity for them.
You’re a Community Coordinator for the SCA’s U.S. Chapter; what are your duties there, and what is rewarding to you about that role?
The U.S. Chapter has been doing a lot of learning. This is a totally new concept for the SCA U.S. members, while European members have had national chapters for a few years. As a Community Coordinator, I was able to identify the community I wanted to represent. I chose Hawai’i coffee professionals. What that usually means is I advocate for our local community to have better access to events, education, materials, etc. Pre-COVID that looked like hosting U.S. CoffeeChamps preliminaries in Hawai’i every year and working with businesses to find sponsorship opportunities to send local coffee professionals to competitions or other events on the mainland. Now, that looks like me asking, “Can we push that event/webinar/meeting back to 1 p.m. EDT, instead? It’s just that 11 a.m. EDT is 5 a.m. in Hawai’i and you’d be indirectly excluding our community from that experience.” It also means I remind our national community that we have a producer community in this nation and that community has different needs, wants, concerns, and asks from SCA and the U.S. Chapter than the café/roaster/importer community. I wonder how we can better serve them and work toward that.
I’m just glad to have Hawai’i on people’s radar at SCA. I think we’re often forgotten and overlooked. People don’t think of Hawai’i as a place with a thriving coffee culture, but that seems so backwards. We have a thriving coffee culture, it’s just different from the city life coffee culture and is much more focused on coffee agriculture. We have work to do, of course, and have room for growth and improvements, but we’ve been here and coffee has been a part of the local culture for nearly 200 years.
Finally, what do you enjoy doing outside the world of coffee?
When I’m not working on coffee things, I’m usually doing yoga or with my pets in the garden. I took a pretty deep dive into yoga over the last few years and it’s been so healthy for me. And I don’t mean solely focusing on the physical asana, but also really exploring various meditation techniques, pranayama, and working a lot on my mind. This coincides with working in the garden more and just being around plants. Oh, and I guess I go to the beach, too! (laughs) I forget to say that. It’s pretty awesome to be able to jump in the ocean any time of year.