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Coffee with Cathy: Part One

coffee interview
An interview series with Zocalo's Coffee Roaster, Cathy Davies, and Administrative Manager, Alex Aimee Kist. In part one, find out how Cathy got started in the business.

Okay Cathy, let's talk about our mutual obsession: coffee. 

cathy and alex

First of all, can you tell me a bit about your journey to get here? How did you find Zocalo?

Yeah, so the week I graduated from UCSC, I applied for a job at the coffeehouse down the street from my grandmother’s house in San Leandro. While I had never worked in coffee before, I had worked in customer service most of my life. Growing up I helped my folks manage a ski lodge in Tahoe, so it seemed like it could be a good fit.

Within a month, I was enmeshed within an immersive community filled with friendship, art, and support. For going on 11 years, I have been fortunate to build lasting relationships with this amazing Zocalo community.

Oh, so you learned the basics here? That's lovely. What was it that switched you over to roasting?

I fell in love with coffee as a bebe barista working here at Zocalo. Before I started, I preferred my coffee with cream and sugar, thinking coffee on its own was bitter and sour.

How did you get over that?

My manager inspired a love for espresso shots. We were taught we had to pull the perfect espresso shot every time and to learn how to do that we learned to taste the difference between a good shot and a bad one. So I drank a lot of espresso in the early days.

I learned to recognize visually what a perfect shot would be, and how that rich syrupy liquid would translate to a sweet, chocolate malt with acidity that complements, rather than detracts. Finding the balance between the grind, the temperature, humidity, age of coffee beans was immensely gratifying, because it just tastes so good.

Our shifts always started with a ritual. Splitting a shot of espresso and celebrating how well we had dialed in the espresso before we opened the doors.

I love that! Having rituals like that can really bring a team together. But wait, how did you go from pulling shots to roasting?

Working as a barista, I was able to try coffee from all over the world and learn how coffee tastes different between countries, growing and processing practices. Even how the same coffee will taste different depending on how it is brewed or how dark or light it was roasted. I was fascinated with how much diversity could come from the same product.

Ah, you fell in love with the product!

Exactly. Then, 2 years later, I lucked into asking our Roaster Sara, who had just purchased Zocalo Coffee, if she would ever want or need a second roaster. The right place, the right time.

Then the fascination began all over again. Learning to roast brought a whole slew of new variables that could make a seemingly static product translate differently depending on how I manipulated the temperature, air, or blended two coffees together. I love being able to work an artisan trade, it is such a unique role that I fell into by chance.

It is so funny how life happens like that. A small question and the next thing you know you're on a new career path.

Well, Cathy, we will have to catch up again sometime soon!

To all those following along, keep your eyes peeled for more interviews by following us on social media or by signing up for our newsletter at www.zocalocoffee.com


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