The oh-so-spooky new issue of Coffee People Zine is available now—here we get to know its creator, Kat Melheim of Denver.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Michael Kraft
Coffee people are talented; it’s common to know a few artists, musicians, or creators amongst your java-slingin’ group. Kat Melheim noticed this as well, and decided to start Coffee People Zine, a publication dedicated to celebrating the artistic pursuits of coffee professionals. Coffee People has been publishing quarterly issues since the spring, and just released Issue 3 for the autumn, featuring a spooky skeleton on its cover.
“The initial inspiration struck last September (2017) when I went to the art opening of a fellow barista in Denver, Breezy Sanchez,” shares Kat, who is a barista and roaster based in Denver. “I’d gotten to know her through the coffee scene over the years, but when I went to this art show I was blown away by her work. I had two reactions simultaneously: 1. Everyone has to see her work! It’s so awesome!; and 2. What other baristas, roasters, production assistants, café owners/managers, and other coffee professionals have hidden talents and artistic abilities that I don’t know about?”
Kat has always been interested in stories and learning more about coffee folks outside of coffee. “I realized that, while I love going to a throwdown or coffee competition as much as the next barista, I inevitably end up talking about coffee-related things the entire night,” she shares. “I don’t really get to know the individual people who make up the coffee community because I’m never asking questions about who they are outside the café. And coffee pros are so creative! Nearly everyone has a side gig, a passion project, a really interesting hobby, or something that sets them apart. The crossover between creatives and coffee workers is very strong, and I wanted to make a place where the coffee community could display the other parts of themselves that make them unique.”
Kat started publishing the magazine earlier this year, equipped with an Adobe Photoshop subscription and some background in publishing. “I was the editor of my college newspaper’s Opinions section, so I had a bit of exposure to layout and Adobe then … but that was nearly eight years ago now. So basically I just got InDesign, watched a few tutorials, and figured it out as I went! I’m still learning, to be honest, both on the design side and the publication side.”
Along with self-publishing, Kat also uses the platform to pursue her interests, which include exploring sociological questions about the coffee industry. “I was interested to know the gender demographics of barista championship competitors versus the proportion of men/women/non-binary folx who work in cafés. So I started collecting data about the gender breakdown of competitors, and sent out a survey to those competitors to get data on the gender demographics of the people who work at their shops,” she shares. “I’d heard a lot of anecdotal arguments about how more men compete, but I wanted to know if that was proportional to the demographics of who works in specialty coffee at large. Long story short I found that, unsurprisingly, men competed at a higher proportion to their actual representation within the café setting.”
Issue 3, which is available now, is filled with comics, photographs, and short stories and articles. Kat isn’t necessarily looking for coffee content specifically (although there’s plenty in this current issue, including a deep dive into the finer points of nutation), but for content made by coffee people. “One of the best parts about the zine is that it becomes a bit different each time, based on the submissions that come in. I don’t often ask for content, though sometimes I’ll see something I really like on Instagram and I’ll write to the person or tag it with #putitinthezine. But I love all kinds of content! The variety is what make the zine so dynamic and interesting.”
You can purchase Issue 3 here, or find it in coffee shops across Colorado. For Barista Mag Online folks, you can use the code “BMag10off” to get 10 percent off a subscription to the zine—all you have to do is enter your info and you’ll have fresh new zines at your door every season!