Trish Rothgeb

Art just isn’t as interesting as coffee is to me.

We have taken the occasion of International Women’s Day to talk to interesting and strong women in the coffee industry. The coffee business is still very much a male dominated industry worldwide. These coffee ladies skilfully prove to us: enjoying coffee is very much a woman’s business. And inspire us with their stories of solidarity and indulgence.

Trish Rothgeb is a passionate coffee roaster and long-time board member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).

What do you do professionally in the coffee industry?
I am many things: a Q-grader (people who professionally taste and describe coffee), a cupper (people doing quality control for coffee), and a coffee roaster.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am the co-founder, co-CEO and director of Wrecking Ball Coffee Roasters.
I have been in the coffee industry for over 30 years: as a coffee roaster, green coffee buyer, and teacher of all things coffee. On top of that, I am an avid traveler in coffee growing regions worldwide, and teach “cupping” to coffee producers and coffee professionals around the world. I have also been credited with coining the term “third wave coffee” and identifying the relevant concepts. This so called “third wave coffee” stands for the sustainable production of high quality coffee.

As far as labels go, I am a licensed Q-Grader and credentialed Q Trainer by the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). Goal of the CQI is to improve coffee quality around the globe. There I have worked on staff as the “Director of Programs: Q and Educational Services” 2013 to 2016 and was responsible for the education of Q-Graders worldwide. I have also served on the Specialty Coffee Association of Amarica’s (SCAA) Roasters Guild Executive Council and have been a charter member of the annual World Barista Championship Board of Directors and a founding member of the Barista Guild of America.

What has changed in your life since you entered the coffee industry?
The quality of coffee has only gotten better and better over the past 30 years. All of the hard work and aspirations are almost all met. At this point we still see a dire situation for coffee producers that we would like to improve.

What would you do differently if you could start your career over?
I would have gotten a degree in business instead of art.

How is the men/women ratio in your field? Have there been changes in that ratio since you started working in the coffee industry? And if so: How would you describe those changes?
The coffee industry is like almost every other industry. It’s male dominated. I see more women in leadership now than I did when I began.

What advice can you give to our readers as to succeeding in a male dominated work environment? Which of your qualities would you consider as your key to success?
What can work for young women today would never have worked for me. I had to fight it out and just try to do what I loved. I didn’t make a lot of friends within the companies themselves, but forged a greater path the helped me find the opportunities.

These days, I think women move through easier than I did, BUT they must assess the culture within a company first. In some companies, it’s not hard to see that the culture will not support women. If that’s the case, work there as long as you’re learning something and are being paid like everyone else. Otherwise, they don’t deserve you.

What is your favorite thing about coffee?
I like being a roaster because I can see the full circle. I see the green product, then I see it transform into something truly special in the food/beverage world. I have a cafe, too, so then I get to see people consume and enjoy the product of my work. It’s so satisfying.

When and where did you drink your first coffee? Was it love at first sip?
I honestly can’t remember, but I drank coffee and tea as a small child.

What defines great coffee for you?
Sweetness and balance.

How do you prefer your coffee? Which coffee specialty is currently your favorite? Can you recommend a certain speciality that our readers should try?
I truly can’t predict which coffees will emerge as great in the coming seasons. I can count on Ethiopia, Guatemala, and Colombia always being good and true to their profiles. But in specialty, any coffee producing land can make something really great.

How important is coffee for your culture and for your family?
My husband is my business partner. For us, coffee is our livelihood and our legacy. As Americans, we have the luxury of embracing all kinds of coffee culture. We get to decide how important it is to us.

Tell us an something about you and coffee.
I used to be an artist (painter) and worked in the coffee business to support myself for more than a decade before I made the decision to leave the art world behind.

What can you tell our readers in order for them to make better coffee at home?
Buy it freshly roasted and measure! If you don’t have a recipe that you can repeat, you’ll always be chasing a moving target.

What do you enjoy best with your coffee?
A butter croissant.

How should one proceed if they want to become a great professional cupper?
Cup coffee every single day at work. If you are a taster, you must keep your skills fresh.

Where do you see cupping in 5 to 10 years?
Still very busy!

Dear Trish, thank you for sharing valuable insights with us!

If you want to know more about Trish Rothgeb, follow her as @trishrothgeb on Instagram or twitter.