Loving to tell the story.
This story is from a coffee pro. Honor Forte is the Director of Sales at Olympia Coffee, a well-respected coffee roasting company out of Olympia, Washington - very close to our very own home. Honor has been in the coffee industry for a long time and has been a significant part of it in different ways helping coffee shops develop and build more efficient coffee bars and programs. Honor won 2014 Northwest Brewers Cup Champion.
Enough with the introductions, let's get to it!
How did you start your coffee journey?
In 2009 I got my first coffee job at a stellar cafe in Morgantown, West Virginia called The Grind. It might seem like the middle of nowhere but they had been open since 1996 and were super dialed by the time I showed up. I quickly fell in love with trying to perfect espresso and latte art there. That lead me to Philadelphia where I got to work at Ultimo Coffee and eventually to move to Olympia, Washington to work here with Olympia Coffee.
Where are you on that journey now?
I've worked at Olympia Coffee since 2011, and I've been helping wholesale customers open cafes serving our coffee since 2012. I've been the Director of Sales here since 2015 and, currently, I'm growing our sales staff to help more customers serve Olympia Coffee. I also get to manage our social media for as long as they'll let me, which is so much fun...I love any chance to tell the story of what we do at Olympia Coffee.
Where do you want to go in the future?
I'm looking forward to building our brand even stronger. Olympia Coffee is in the middle of building a lot of efficiency in our systems, and confidence in communicating the things that make us unique in the industry. That helps to attract awesome people, and build a strong team to take us to the next level in helping our customers 'get' what we do. I'm proud to get to have a big part of that process and it feels like there's so much potential, and work, to be done. I feel really energized about it lately.
When did you get your first Baratza?
I bought an Encore, like every young barista making tips for the first time, in 2010.
What's your preferred brew method?
I still love flat bottom pour-overs. Just the best there is. Kalita is my go-to.
What's your favorite coffee right now?
We're really in love with El Salvador this time of year, and our producer Ricardo Ariz probably turns out the most exciting line-up from that country that I've ever seen. We have SL34, SL28, and SL34 Natural separate releases all coming from his farm over the next month that will surely be some of my favorite from the year, but until those are each released my favorite is his Pacamara Natural that takes my favorite citrusy elements from his ultra-high elevation Pacamara varietal and pairs it with clean berry sweetness of a natural. Life is good when you can drink any of Ricardo Ariz's offerings but that's my favorite today.
What's your favorite resource for coffee education/news/etc?
Sprudge, Barista Hustle, Cat and Cloud podcast...does Instagram count?
What else are you into, outside of coffee?
I love hobbies. I'll be happy to deep dive into just about any topic a friend is passionate about if I get to share it with them. I ride bikes as often as I can, road/mountain/gravel, that's usually my number one thing outside of coffee, but since the birth of my son Nori at the beginning of the Summer I've been running more too...I've also recently developed a new hobby around detailing cars and restoring auto paint. I can't explain my fascination with that one yet but it's been relaxing.
Who do you recommend our grinders to?
Everyone who loves coffee. Businesses we work with have at least one Forte in their recommended equipment package, often for decaf espresso. And, any friend or customer who wants to level-up their coffee at home can go the next step up with something from Baratza. I'm using a Preciso at home now from 2014, and always thinking about what's next for myself too.
What's your favorite thing about Baratza Grinders?
There's a lot of good ways to grind coffee out there, but Baratza's real difference in my world is their customer service, and their ability to respond to what the industry is looking for in new products. They always answer clearly when we need something, and go to great lengths to solve problems and get parts and products to us and our customers as quickly as needed. Beyond that though, they are present and involved with conversations in our side of the industry and make their new products based on our needs and interests. They've proven to be a great partner over the years.
Any advice for budding coffee professionals?
Absolutely - volunteer as a judge for SCA's Barista Competitions. This has been one of the best things I've done in my career. Competing can be a lot of fun, but in my experience, you spend the majority of your time anxious and "in your own head". When you judge though, you get to spend four days in a row tasting, and talking critically about coffee with super-star coffee professionals from all over the industry. Then, when you're on stage, you get to taste coffees and products that cafes and roasters are putting out there as their absolute best for the year. You leave with a far better understanding of what others around the industry are looking for, the way they talk about quality, and ultimately, you build relationships that connect you throughout the industry. I've been judging since 2014 and it's helped elevate my understanding of the broader coffee world more than any other single thing. What could be better than empathy and deeper understanding in an industry with so many challenges? I highly recommend it.
There's so much more to this story that we would have to do a part 2 and maybe 3... Olympia Coffee has been a Baratza partner for a long time and you can even find our own Forte's in their coffee bars. We are pleased to share Honor's personal story of his coffee journey.