Barista Magazine catches up with the founder of BIGFACE Brand about his coffee company and plans for the future.
BY KENNETH R. OLSON
Photos courtesy of BIGFACE Brand
The last time we had a chance to talk with Jimmy Butler about his growing coffee company, BIGFACE, was in Boston at the 2022 Specialty Coffee Expo. He was gracious enough to come by the Barista Magazine booth—he was on the cover of the issue we were giving away at that show, after all—before spending some time wandering the show floor and checking out the U.S. Coffee Championships space.
A couple of days after the show, he scored 45 points at his other job playing against the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA Playoffs. He eventually led his team, the Miami Heat, to the 2022 Eastern Conference Finals. That summer, Jimmy had his first chance to visit a coffee farm, traveling to La Palma y El Tucán in Colombia with some folks from Onyx Coffee Lab. Then last year, he took his basketball team all the way to the NBA Finals, along the way earning Eastern Conference Finals MVP honors. This year, the Heat are once again among the top teams in the Eastern Conference, and Jimmy continues to shine on the court—but he’s also been working hard at building BIGFACE.
Jimmy took some time out in the middle of the NBA schedule to chat with us about the latest happenings at BIGFACE. He’s particularly excited about the recent release of the BIGFACE Dripkit. “It’s another way to have what I call the world’s best coffee,” Jimmy says of the pourover kit. “Blood, sweat, and tears went into this, but it’s easy. All you need is some hot water, a mug, and the Dripkit, and you’ve got coffee on the go anywhere in the world.”
Now it’s true that Jimmy has been known to travel with a coffee setup that’s a little more involved than the Dripkit. He has famously brought his La Marzocco Linea Mini to the team locker room and even on the plane to away games to make sure he could brew espresso wherever he might be. “I travel with everything,” he says, “especially when I’m on long road trips.” But he’s not opposed to using the Dripkit himself. “I really enjoy it,” he says. “It makes me feel like I’m really doing something.”
Famously, Jimmy launched BIGFACE in the NBA Orlando Bubble and sold coffee to his fellow basketball players from his hotel room. He says that while he enjoyed being the go-to coffee pro for his teammates for a while, “They all ask me for coffee now. And it’s hard for me to fork over coffee. I don’t want to give them free coffee. I feel like they’re hustling me. I’d rather give them some nice shoes or a fancy watch. They need to pay for my coffee.”
Speaking of paying Jimmy for coffee, everyone might have that opportunity soon, in person. BIGFACE is planning on opening its first retail location in spring of 2024 in Miami. “I’m super excited about what’s to come,” Jimmy says. “I want everybody to be able to experience BIGFACE the way I want them to.” And if anyone calls out sick, look for Jimmy to pick up a shift. “You damn right, I’ll be in the shop!” he says. “When I’ve got time to pull up and work, I’m going to do the work.” It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy his side job in the NBA, but fundamentally, Jimmy says, “I want to be a barista. I really do want to be a barista.”
One of his favorite coffee experiences of late was visiting the aforementioned La Palma y El Tucán in 2022. “It was great,” he says, noting that seeing firsthand the amount of labor that goes into producing coffee was powerful. “It got me to thinking about how I want to, and BIGFACE wants to, help coffee farmers all over the world. Being up close and seeing how hard they have to work, I really respect it. I have to work hard at my craft. And seeing the process of how many people are working to make one bag of coffee, people are doing this on the daily. It was the most beautiful part of it.“
Jimmy says he hopes to be able to attend the Specialty Coffee Expo this year in Chicago, and the Heat’s schedule may allow it. “I hope (to be there) for more reasons than coffee,” he says. “I absolutely adore the city of Chicago.” And he enjoys the general vibe of Expo, which draws so many coffee professionals from all over the world. “I call myself a coffee nerd,“ he says, “so (to get to be) with all (the) coffee-minded individuals like me, and I get to sit there and talk coffee, It’s great.”
In the meantime, Jimmy invites everyone to visit BIGFACE’s Miami shop as soon as it’s open, and he’s hoping to make you some coffee himself. And though he modestly says his coffee skills are “very mediocre,” Jimmy’s not one to settle for mediocrity, and he’s determined to keep putting in the work to improve his coffee game. “Right now,” he says, he’s focused on “being a dad and a boring basketball player.” But he adds, “As soon as I can lock in on being a barista,” that’s where you’ll find him.