Michalina Sujewicz: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #68

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Michalina Sujewicz: Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #68

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what’s your job.

hi! My name is Michalina Sujewicz, I am originally from Poland but have been living in New Zealand for last 9 years. I have been working in hospitality almost my entire life, with strong focus on coffee in the last 5 years. For the most part of my coffee career I have been a barista, however from last year I have stared working more independently: some days a week I am a coffee consultant and a trainer, some days I work for international company called Opal Coffee: green bean importer.

And if I have some time left (usually not much :P) I create a content for my small coffee YouTube channel and Instagram page called Coffee_that_gives_a_puck , where I try to demystify specialty coffee, make it more fun and more accessible for everyone. That way hopefully it will become more approachable for non-coffee geeks.
2- When and why did coffee become important to you?
I don’t remember any particular moment when I saw something coffee related and said:”Yes, this is what I want to do in my life”. I think it was more of a journey very much related to moving to NZ – a result of being surrounded with people passionate about coffee and their work and me wanting to first match their skills and knowledge, to be good at my job.

Being a freshly hired foreigner in a country so far away from home makes you care and work twice as hard to catch up with everyone so I was often doing some research at home too. Once I started to learn more and more I was slowly getting more and more interested in new aspects of coffee and next thing I know I competed in National Barista Champs and have my coffee You Tube channel:D
3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than “just a cup of coffee”?
Yes, I actually do! Over a six years ago my best friend Magdalena got married. We both have been already living overseas at that time, but we both flew to for that occasion. I was her maid of honor  (very good day that was <3). After the wedding she gave me a present, as a thank you: in the box I found a bag of specialty coffee roasted in Wrocław. At this stage I was only getting started with my coffee journey and that was my first specialty coffee roasted in Poland that I had a chance to drink.

The beans were from Brazil, tasted very much like a hazelnut chocolate. I still have this bag and always will. It was definitely NOT just a cup of coffee :)
4- What’s your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?
Thanks to the variety of my tasks I like the fact that every day looks different. At Opal we joke that we make plans in the morning only to throw them through the window the next minute :) I am still pretty new to this part of the coffee chain, but I can already see how much is going on and how unpredictable the day can be.

I also learn a lot about green beans, that is the most exciting part. On the other hand, when I teach people about coffee, I get super excited with their progress. Sharing coffee knowledge was always something I enjoyed doing. Even when I worked as a head barista, I loved having someone new at the team, just so we could explore why the coffee can be so cool together :)
5- What’s your favorite brewing method and why?
I don’t have my favorite method. It really deepens on the beans I have access to at the particular moment and my mood. If I have more time to relax with coffee, I tend to choose some pour over method, slowly watching the coffee dripping into the server and then sipping the brew in peace. If I don’t have the luxury to do so, I go for an espresso shots.
6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?
I say: “This was the best coffee I have ever tried!” pretty often recently :D There are so many options to choose from and each bag of coffee can be unique in their own way that it is hard to choose one now. If I could maybe choose the most recent best brew I had it will be the Chinese coffee roasted by Manta Ray Coffee Roasters from Melbourne. I drunk that coffee at Brisbane’s coffee shop called Seeds & Soul and the whole experience was amazing! The way how the coffee was explained, served, the taste of it – I loved every part of the visit :)
Michalina Sujewicz

7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?
I go through phases :P At the moment I am a big fun of modern Indonesian coffees. For many years Indonesian beans were treated as an average blending coffee at best. What they do with their coffee nowadays is very interesting though. Applying experimental processing methods to the coffees and being more aware on how to increase their product quality took Indonesia to another level in coffee production and I think it’s just a matter of time until it becomes a big competition to the most popular coffee origins.

Taking the challenges that coffee industry faces in terms of climate change, Indonesia may be a good place to search for amazing beans, when in some other areas growing coffee won’t be this easy anymore.
8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).

I will recommend my favorite coffee roasters from New Zealand then – Vanguard Coffee Co. They are based in Dunedin, South Island. I have NEVER had a disappointing coffee from them.I love how progressive they are and yet still are very approachable and care about everybody’s coffee experience – no matter the level of their knowledge.

9- What’s the most important things you’ve learnt while working in the business?
That the coffee is an ever changing product and so its industry, and that it is impossible to learn everything about it. There will be always something new to taste, new research, new approach, new challenge, new discovery. It’s also important to find your role in the industry I think, path you wanna go through. Working in coffee can be challenging at moments so coming back to the question: “why do  I want to keep on doing it?” and finding the answer is crucial for staying motivated.
10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new
challenges for hospitality?
New Zealand hospitality got hit pretty seriously with no tourist coming into the country for 2 years, as many places relies on travelers visiting their businesses. There were many restrictions put in public spaces so it was definitely a rough time, many places still experiences its results. Hopefully now with the boarders being opened again NZ hospitality will thrive again :)
11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
Firstly, Robusta will be concerned as a great substitute for Arabica – seeing today’s trends and a need for Robusta being the coffee that specialty industry is more and more interested in, in 10 years it will be playing equally important role as Arabica today. Secondly, and I more HOPE for this rather than think it will happen by then for sure, there will be much more coffee consumers making aware choices and reaching for a coffee with more traceability than commodity coffees can offer at the moment.
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Haha, everbody’s favorite question ;) I don’t make plans this far into the future. Going back to what I said earlier, coffee is an ever changing subject and I like to keep my eyes open for different opportunities it may give me each and every year. I enjoy where I am with coffee at the moment - life brought me here thanks to bit of luck, coincidences and many small decisions I made in the past: sometime less, sometimes more spontaneous ones. Never has ever been really planned ;) In saying it though, I know for sure that I would like to be able to keep on contribute to the coffee community in some way.

That is the role I’ve chosen in this industry and it brings me so much joy that I doubt that I will ever loose motivation ;) I have recently had a pleasure to judge in NZ Barista Championship and that is something I know I want to again for sure – going somewhere into that direction seems pretty exciting. Although whether I will be also training people, or participating in some research that will help improving farmers’ lives, or I will have my own little coffee shop and make my customers’ day better by serving tasty espressos? We all shall see :)
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to
start this path?
I don’t think I am the right person to give anyone any tips as I feel like the more I work with coffee the more there is for me to learn, but maybe that is actually the best thing I can say: never be afraid of what you don’t know. As long as you are passionate, willing to learn and to accept that this is an on-going process, you will find the right people to help you grow and good places to connect with like minded coffee freaks :)
And never be ashamed of your interest in coffee! Many people won’t share your opinion about beans NOT being JUST a coffee (most likely only until you make them a good one ;)) but specialty coffee NEEDS more geeks to as a whole community, work on changing coffee’s future for better and bringing more regular coffee drinkers into the specialty side of the industry.
Peace and coffee,

 Michalina Sujewicz

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