MICE2019 Interview with our Coffee Heroine Jessica Hol

We had a blast at MICE this year, trying lots of great coffee and talking to legends in the Aussie coffee industry. It was so amazing to see everyone collaborating. It’s definitely got us pumped for what’s to come in the world of coffee!

Our Q grader and roaster Jessica Hol was interviewed by Specialty Coffee Curators as part of their ‘Heroes and Heroines’ talk. Read the full interview for her journey so far and take on the industry:

What was your first job in coffee?

When I was 14 (slightly under the legal working age) I began working in a popular café at the waterfront in Como. I was the milk shake girl. It was my first glimpse into the world of café’s and from this point onwards coffee was something that really interested me.

Was there a moment that’s stands out in your mind when you realised coffee was going to be more than just a hobby or part time job and could become your career?

When I met Angus (my business partner) he was so passionate about coffee and wanted to start a coffee business.  I took a bit of convincing, but after a few months I thought, what the hell, lets go for it! So I got a ridiculous loan and quit my job before Angus had a chance to change his mind. Coffee has never really felt like a career to me. It was something I wanted to learn more about and improve at so that our business would succeed. In this fashion, the more I learnt, the more I wanted to learn and I gradually became totally obsessed with it.

Is there anything you used to believe or do as a barista or roaster that you look back on as cringe worthy or funny now?

We used to say that if you could dance and speak Spanish you would make a good barista! Haha….I still think this is kinda true 😉  

Honestly the industry has changed so much!  Pretty much everything we used to do was cringeworthy.

We once put instant coffee in the portafilter after we heard that someone went to origin and saw a coffee machine being used like this. We had to try it!

If you could go back and tell your starry eyed younger self from back at the beginning of your coffee journey one thing what would it be?

Drink black coffee. I used to drink a flat white with a sugar before entering the coffee industry on a full-time basis. What was I thinking?!

Was there anyone in particular that you looked up to in coffee be it an industry leader at the time or just a barista or roaster you worked with that inspired you?

When we opened our first café we used Single O .  We loved what they did and the vibe and passion that their crew had.  Back then we were totally fresh when it came to specialty coffee. Their head barista Shoji and their trainer at the time Zac were a big inspiration and source of knowledge to me.

What drove you to roasting your own coffee?

It seemed like a natural progression.  Exploring flavour has always been one of my hobbies.  My brother used to be a chef in some awesome restaurants and I also worked in fine dining a lot while I was studying.  This meant that I was often exposed to fine food and wine.  I think this formed a large part of my interest in taste. Naturally after being in business for two years and operating two cafes I just wanted to get my hands dirty and really start learning about roasting and the different results you can achieve.

Since you began roasting your own coffee what was the main thing you gained from the whole experience?

I’ve realised there is no one correct way to roast coffee.  There are so many different roast styles and paths that you can go down that will each achieve a different result.  I think it’s important as a roaster to know what your trying to achieve. How do you want that coffee to taste and how are you going to extract it?  It’s okay to develop your own techniques and roasts don’t always have to go down in a textbook curve kind of way to taste good.

Is there any words of advice you could give to the next generation who may be contemplating starting their own brand or taking control of their coffee roasting?

Roasting your own coffee can be really rewarding and speaking to your customers about coffee that you have personally roasted is even better.

In the Australian market there are so many good roasters! I would say, know what your point of difference is and what are you trying to achieve.

What do you see as the major challenges facing the coffee industry be it just in Australia or Globally?
  • Climate
  • Consumers paying more for coffee as an ongoing issue, especially in new market. Not being able to increase our prices too much (from a retail perspective)
  • Not enough trained baristas
Is there a lesson or experience that you have had in you journey that stands out as a real game changer for you?

There have been many times when as a business owner you feel threatened. Whether it’s a competitor opening up next door, a landlord being difficult about lease negotiations, or a member of the public lodging a silly complaint to council.  I think these experiences have had the biggest impact on me. They thicken the skin but have also taught me to be creative, resilient and to think outside the box so that at the end of the day you survive!

What is one piece of advice would you give to the next generation of coffee professional’s looking to take that next step in their career or coffee journey?

Just go for it! Put yourself out there in as many ways as you can. It can be hard to figure out which path you need to go down. If you knock on enough doors you’ll get there in the end.  The coffee industry is a really exciting space right now, constantly changing and with so many opportunities.