Eden-Marie Abramowicz is a Los Angeles-based competitive barista who recently started her own coffee consulting company, Bastet – named after the fierce Egyptian goddess. Eden-Marie is an advocate for approachable coffee education. She believes that quality coffee should be enjoyed by everyone, without exclusion and intimidation. Through consultancy and teaching, she is spreading the word of specialty coffee. You may recognize her face from the 2015 film Barista which followed her journey to the National Barista Championship in the US, along with four other competitors.
We caught up with Eden-Marie to talk about coffee education, competitions, and her ideas on making specialty coffee accessible for everyone to enjoy.
Can you tell me how you got started in hospitality and how you’ve ended up where you are now?
I fell into hospitality completely by accident in high school, looking for a cool job. I used to leave high school early (don’t tell my mum) and go sit at a local coffee shop. I was very heavily into music and the arts at the time and a lot of the older employees there were musicians and writers. I found them very inspiring so I started bugging them for a job at a very young age. They kept saying, “No, no, you’re too young.” Eventually they needed someone on the spot and pulled me in and I was very grateful.
So I fell into the coffee world kind of backwards – I wasn’t necessarily doing it for the consumer when I was 17, I started doing it because of the other people in the industry. I very quickly learned that the service industry is all about the consumer!
"What’s missing in a lot of current coffee education is not necessarily the facts, but why those facts matter."
Coffee captivated me completely. I’m a very competitive person and I’ve poured myself into coffee education and learning as much as I can since that young age.
So now I’m just trying to share good coffee with as many people as possible, and just enjoy the humans I get to meet along the way.
You’ve said that you want to become an ambassador for specialty coffee in the industry. What are your aims for bringing specialty coffee to the general public?
It’s kind of a multipronged approach. First, and primarily what I do day to day, is spreading approachable education. So that can be from professional to professional, say if I’m training baristas, or a roaster is teaching a roaster, that sort of thing. Or it can be approachable education from a professional to the consumer, to our folks that are coming into the coffee bars or even enjoying coffee at home.
A lot of times people can be intimidated by some of the vernacular and the facts we have to share, because we’re so excited about our product. And so sometimes it’s taking a step back and starting with a common ground of “this is a tasty product, we’re both pumped on it, now let’s talk about it”.
"Coffee has this unique ability to break down barriers and start conversations."
I think another way to approach it is celebrating coffee as a product, whether that’s brewing science or origin stories or whatever – and at the same time making sure that we’re not isolating people.
And I think my third approach is enjoying the human connection aspect of it. Coffee has this unique ability to break down barriers and start conversations. So just enjoying that and travelling the world and getting to meet people and enjoying the benefits of coffee without having to state all the reasons why it’s great.
It seems that you travel quite often. What are some of the things you’ve achieved through coffee travels?
I do travel as much as possible. The fun thing about consulting and travelling is that I am learning as much as I am teaching. It might be a completely new facet of the industry or a related industry, or it might be changing my mind or learning something new about what I’m doing – it’s a fun adventure in that way.
Then there are the people and the perspectives and how everything from service models can change - the way people are greeted in a coffee bar can change, going to origin and hearing a producer speak about a coffee versus hearing a roaster speak about the coffee versus hearing a barista...you kind of transcend all those different perspectives and bring them all together in one melting pot.
How important do you think barista competitions are for coffee professionals? How do they push the industry forward?
Competitions are about people bringing new ideas to the table. It is a medium for other baristas and folks to tune in and hear new ideas, whether they want to accept them or dismiss them.
Personally, they push me to find what the new thing is. It re-sparks my love for the industry every year when I do it, because I push myself to find a new area to focus and work on my skillset. When I was young, there weren’t many coffee textbooks out there. We learned from going online and reading blogs and watching old videos of barista competitors.
And I think competitions, particularly lately, have been a huge tool as a bridge to the public. Because it’s something interesting and new so they want to hear about it, and it’s also this indicator to a lot of people like “ooh they’re serious, they work hard at this.”
You’ve got a bit of a following on Instagram. Has it put you in touch with interesting people in the industry?
Every single day! And not even just in the industry but related industries, whether it be a mixologist or a chef, or even just meeting a random musician that may be super into coffee and wants to nerd out about it. Within the industry, I try to answer as many questions as possible – if coffee people reach out, I’ll always try to respond as quickly as possible. Because again, I get new ideas, I learn and I want to share anything that I may know. So that’s been fun, and seeing that translate into real life is the coolest thing ever. Being a digital friend with someone then going to a coffee convention somewhere else in the world, having them approach you and getting to enjoy a cup of coffee side by side is amazing.
What are some things that you would say are important in coffee education?
I think a huge emphasis needs to be placed on where the product comes from. What’s missing in a lot of current coffee education is not necessarily the facts, but why those facts matter. Working hard to memorise facts is great but always being able to translate why that matters, why that’s good, why that makes this taste unique or special – that’s what matters to the consumer and ultimately, that’s what should matter to the barista.
"(Competing) re-sparks my love for the industry every year when I do it, because I push myself to find a new area to focus and work on my skillset."
I don’t always like the analogy of comparing us to other industries, but we are chefs that also have to be servers. It’s hard to juggle both and you can’t always be perfect. As a barista, especially at a high-volume location, you’re worried about the quality of the product, you’re worried about speed of service because people generally want coffee quickly, especially in the US, and you’re worried about hospitality – the overall experience, being polite, making this person feel welcome. And those three things all work against each other. So even if you’re the greatest barista in the world, you constantly have to check which one of the three is suffering right now and refocus attention on that.
Can you give me a bit of a rundown on what Bastet does and what kind of new and exciting things you’ve got going on?
Bastet Coffee is my company that will encompass everything but it’s currently focused on coffee education. So I do everything from consulting with companies that have thousands of locations, to opening up stores, to working with private classes one on one in someone’s kitchen, helping them make tasty coffee. So that’s what I do day to day. Overall I would like to see the company and myself progress towards more communication and more media based opportunities as well, becoming a tool for other baristas to share ideas as well - so it’s not just my voice, but the community.
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