We chat with the creator of the barista-meme Instagram account about his recent experience getting hacked, and why he started the account.
BY CRAIG BATORY
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Alan Jarrar
Imagine having 50,000+ social media followers and then getting your account hacked. That’s what happened to Alan Jarrar (he/him), creator and sole operator of the coffee-parody-meme account @50percentarabica.
@50percentarabica is known by the Instagram coffee community for posting original, comedic specialty-coffee memes, and is arguably one of the most recognized coffee meme pages amongst coffee professionals. Alan’s account was hacked earlier this year and it took him several months to recover it. Ironically, Facebook and Instagram did nothing to help Alan recover @50percentarabica; he instead had to hire a digital marketing agency in Brno, Czech Republic (where Alan resides), to get in touch with Instagram and recover his hacked account. Thankfully, the @50percentarabica account is back in Alan’s possession. But not without some patience and grief.
Alan has always had a comedic side to him, with a side of genius, even if he doesn’t admit it. Many of his memes are “several layers deep,” meaning you have to be “up to speed” with coffee and pop culture to understand them.
Alan started @50percentarabica in 2019. At the time, he had been a career barista in Brno for more than 10 years. He was close to becoming totally burnt out on the coffee industry when he started making jokes and memes about the industry. One thing led to another, and @50percentarabica came to life.
Alan is the sole operator of @50percentarabica. He draws inspiration from anything on the internet, particularly funny memes that go with coffee. Aside from running the meme account, Alan runs his own coffee company, Jokes Aside Coffee Roasters, a business that he happily admits consumes a good portion of his life: “I hated my 8-5, so I started working 24/7,” he proclaims. In his free time on bar or outside of work, he’s searching for new material or new ideas to make a coffee meme. We had a conversation with Alan to learn more about him, his coffee company, and his infamous Instagram account.
Craig Batory: Approximately when did you start @50percentarabica?
Alan Jarrar: April 18, 2019
Why did you start the account?
For years I was just serving long shifts behind the bar. I was close to a professional burnout. Don’t get me wrong, I love working as a barista, but I need to be creative as well. And that I didn’t have. The job was exhausting and I felt stuck in a loop. And speaking of personal life, it wasn’t the best time for me either. So, one morning I woke up and I felt I’ve had enough. I thought: “Damn, I need to make a joke—right now!” I made a coffee meme in an app and it was a good one. It made me laugh to tears for like 20 minutes, because it was so relatable. “OK, this felt good. Let’s do another one.” So here I am 1,700 memes later. Crazy, huh?
Explain in your own words why you run the @50percentarabica account?
I started it so I can have fun and share it with the specialty-coffee community. Because I often find it being too serious about things and that, in my opinion, can be unhealthy. As it was growing … I realized that humor is important to people and that a lot of folks are sharing incredibly useful insights with me. Stuff about the coffee scene here and there, about origins, farming, roasting, politics in certain regions and about brewing as well. I made some good friends online—on Instagram. That’s just great.
How do you generate content?
I look for a picture or a fitting clip—I generate. My source is in my experience, in my memories and observations. My style can be described as a projectile vomiting of memes. Wordplays, puns, sarcasm, irony, dark humor, dad jokes, sophisticated jokes … I like everything. People send me a lot of funny stuff they find too. On @50percentarabica, we are all coffee clowns. I view it as an online island of stress relief from working in the hospitality industry.
Besides running 50percent, what do you do for work?
Running @50percentarabica is a free time hobby. It doesn’t pay the bills. That would be both amazing and bizarre (the goal is getting there). Anyway, I’ve been working in specialty coffee for 10 years now, mostly as a barista and trainer, with a little bit of roasting experience. In April, I left the company I was working for and started Jokes Aside Coffee Roasters with my partner, Kalliopé. Our friend René from Rusty Nails Coffee Roasters is a fantastic roaster and he’s helping us with profiling and production roasting. The joy of sourcing our own coffees, creating a brand, and doing coffee training is incredibly satisfying. I’m helping in my partner’s coffee shop from time to time, and in May I started working on video production with my friends from European Coffee Trip.
Future plans with @50percentarabica or European Coffee Trip?
Building Jokes Aside Coffee Roasters in such a way so we can buy our own roaster and build a production space of our own. Creating content with European Coffee Trip and serving the barista shifts in our coffee shop. Speaking of leisure time, I have a small project at home. We’re finishing a budget reconstruction of our apartment. As the last year was hectic for me, I’m starting to focus more on my health. Taking care of my spine and back is a number-one priority. More exercise, healthier food, better sleep. The older I am, the more I realize how vital this is.
When did you discover your account was hacked and what was your immediate response?
On February 27, and “Oh, f*ck!”
Explain in your own words the situation on how @50percentarabica got hacked?
Now it’s the time for you [reader] to have a good laugh—I was stupid enough to click on a phishing link in my direct messages. That message was explaining to me that my Blue Instagram Badge was approved (as I applied for it a week before the hack). I also got a very official-looking email that I thought was from Instagram. It was explaining that in order to get the badge, I must click on the link below. And I did. I logged in as the link was telling me to and that was it. I was kicked out, the hacker changed my password and I couldn’t get back. The hacker turned on the two-factor authentication (my bad that I didn’t turn it on before). I couldn’t change my password back. No password recovery method worked. I went through help.instagram.com like 50 times and nothing.
Immediately after the incident, the hacker wrote to me on WhatsApp and demanded $200 in Bitcoin if I wanted the account back. You probably have a good idea of where I told him to go. He started selling the account through the @50percentarabica Instagram stories.
I started communicating to my followers through @jokes_aside_coffee about what happened. Me and people who were trying to help me started bombarding Instagram support. They never replied. It was very frustrating. But the support from the community was outstanding.
You mentioned other accounts were hacked?
Yes, they were. Kultbohne Roastery, Department of Brewology’s account, barista Josh Williams, some bar in Barcelona. Plenty of them wrote to me, trying to help.
What did Instagram/Facebook ultimately do to help you?
Nothing. I managed to start an online chat with FB Business live support, multiple times. They were trying to be helpful, but as soon as they learned that it was an Instagram hack, they told me to write to the Instagram support and just wait. Meanwhile, the hacker just disappeared and left the account dead. He realized that nobody will pay him. Later when I got back, I found out that a lot of people were sending him threats in the form of memes. Absolutely hilarious. Again, the support from the coffee community was amazing.
How did you eventually recover your account?
As Instagram never replied, I got a tip from my friend in Brno. There’s a marketing company in the city that deals with Instagram problems and hacks. They’re partners at Facebook and are able to fix things quickly. It took three months and I needed to answer a lot of questions and provide bills from Instagram advertisements I ran over the years, several times. I spent just a few bucks on IG advertising over the two years, but if I didn’t have those bills, it would be much more complicated. My advice to anyone who has an Instagram account would be: Go to the settings and turn on the two-factor authentication. Seriously, stop reading and do it now.
Explain your Patreon and how/why it helps you?
Patreon might be able to realize my future plans with @50percentarabica. … As it is time-consuming and I still love doing it for a few years now, I started a Patreon account, where people can support the account if they like the content. In exchange, I’m now working on some exclusive videos that I always wanted to do and I’m very looking forward to it. And some coffee giveaways.
Tell me something about yourself others may not know.
Someone told me that it looks like I’m a workaholic. I think it only makes that impression, because I’m doing more things at once. I don’t feel like I don’t have some time off. That I’m spending with my partner and family. We walk our dogs a lot, we exercise, we enjoy the food together, and plan what to do next. But yes, I do get under stress and I’m learning how to manage it.
To support the continuation of @50percentarabica, you can subscribe to the Patreon at multiple donation levels here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Craig Batory (he/him) is a coffee professional and digital marketer based in Detroit. When he’s not brewing coffee or designing websites, he’s on his bike with his dog, Angus.