Barista’s Brew started as a way for one barista to remain connected to his friends amidst COVID-19 lockdowns; it has grown into an international community.
BY EMILY MENESES
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
After living in New York for about three and a half years, Fernando Hernandez felt like his life in the city was just beginning. However, everything came to a halt when COVID-19 broke out in the States, and overnight, the bustling, vibrant streets that he had grown to love went silent. In the coming weeks, New York City would become the epicenter of the global pandemic, with over 200,000 positive cases reported in just a span of three months.
“I was working in coffee over in New York, and it really hurt me to see the baristas that I was really good friends with no longer able to brew coffee. For them, coffee wasn’t just a job … it was a love,” Fernando shares. Prior to the pandemic, he had worked in various coffee shops throughout the city, helping to open two cafés and gaining experience as both a barista and manager. In his free time, he enjoyed visiting coffee shops and starting conversations with other baristas about coffee, politics, and everything under the sun.
With the COVID-19 lockdown in full effect, Fernando began to miss the thriving coffee community that had filled up his everyday life. This inspired him to create Barista’s Brew: an online platform for coffee lovers around the world to connect and share their stories. Currently, Fernando hosts three livestreams a week on Barista’s Brew Instagram page, where he invites both industry professionals and home baristas to brew coffee with him and chat.
Though he started Barista’s Brew as a way to stay connected to friends, the community grew to be international, even leading him to meet people from the Netherlands, Australia, and Rwanda. “It actually started off as a brewing guide page, and eventually, it became a livestream for brewing coffee with people. From there, it evolved from being just my friends and I to being an international community,” Fernando states.
With strict lockdowns still in order throughout the U.S., Barista’s Brew has provided coffee lovers with the camaraderie and connection that they often got in their favorite cafés. The conversations that take place on the platform range from guest to guest; Fernando shares that with his guest speakers, he has delved into addressing brewing techniques, the impacts of COVID-19, racial inequality in the coffee industry, and more.
Overall, his goal has been to both connect people within the coffee world and educate non-coffee professionals on the inner workings of the industry. “A lot of people think of the barista role as an entry-level job, and it can be (an entry-level job)—but it can also be a very beautiful, viable career,” Fernando states. “And, for coffee growers, this is beyond a career—it’s a livelihood. If they don’t make coffee and sell it, they’re gonna drown. … We have to look at the term ‘essential workers,’ because when we look at those in the coffee industry as ‘essential workers,’ we’re now placing them on a higher level and recognizing that they’re essential to the way society runs. And then, it’s easier to mind the gap and really bring it all together—from consumer to the café.”
Since starting Barista’s Brew, Fernando has started a new chapter and moved to Angel Fire, New Mexico, with his wife, Natalie, where the two have opened a brand-new café: Just Joe Coffee. With both Barista’s Brew and his new shop, Fernando’s mission is to eradicate any sense of competition in the industry, and instead show café owners and baristas how important it is to support and uplift one another.
“Opening up a coffee shop here in New Mexico, my goal isn’t to put other coffee shops out of business; my goal is to bring them more business, by helping to build a community. And that’s a big theme with Barista’s Brew. Being a competitive barista doesn’t mean other baristas are your enemies … in fact, they should be your closest friends. Because if one shop wins, we all win,” he shares. “That’s the spirit that Barista’s Brew has taught me; it’s the message that Natalie and I are bringing to our shop. I hope everyone can bring that idea to their life: the idea that it’s not about you, or me. It’s about us, and we can all, collectively, be better.”
And when asked what he hopes for viewers to take away from Barista’s Brew, Fernando continues, “I hope it inspires everyone to do good in their communities, whether globally or locally. I hope that people can learn that even though coffee’s really great, it’s always been about more than coffee. Coffee is literally a crop; it’s an exchangeable good. The thing that matters the most in the industry, on any level—barista, consumer, importer, or farmer—is the relationships, the people … I think that if we all start with people first, and then coffee, then so many of our problems will be solved.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Based in Los Angeles, Emily Joy Meneses is a writer and musician passionate about culture and collective care. You can regularly find her at Echo Park Lake, drinking a cortado and journaling about astrology, art, Animal Crossing, and her dreams. Explore her poetry, short stories, and soundscapes on her website.