Reflections on Specialty Coffee

by Saleem, Sis, and Olivia

The COVID19 pandemic has shifted the way the world works. It has disrupted industries, rearranged governments, and changed daily life in ways that may stick with us for a long time. The specialty coffee industry was not immune to the effects of the pandemic. Like the hospitality industry at large, many in coffee were furloughed or made redundant. Coffee shops either pivoted to becoming takeaway only, changed their products to become  local grocery stores, or closed completely. 

As the lockdown lifts, it is clear that the industry will have to continue adapting as a new normal begins to take shape. Three Well Grounded Graduates reflect on the different levels of  specialty coffee, from the industry to the shop to the cup of coffee itself, and how it has changed their lives for the better. 

The Coffee Industry by Saleem

I first got involved with coffee about a year ago. I was looking for a career change and enjoyed my coffee so I thought “why not look at coffee as a career?”. By chance I ended up at Well Grounded and didn’t expect it in any way to have such the positive impact it ended up having on my life, I remember initially thinking let me just see what comes of it as I wasn’t sure what to expect and the thought of cancelling before the course started definitely crossed my mind. Well Grounded has helped me immensely to help pave a new career path and help to strengthen and support my own personal development, taking a holistic approach which has helped me to get a fresh start and move my life forward in a positive direction. 

My experience in the industry from the get go has been nothing but positive. Everyone you meet in the specialty coffee industry, from baristas to café owners to roasters, have been open and welcoming. People have been especially helpful when asking for career advice and which direction to take, explaining how they themselves got involved in the coffee industry, and what steps they took to get where they are. Whether you’re at a networking event or checking out a local cupping, you’ll notice that everyone is friendly and open to share what they know, no matter if it’s your very first or your 100th cupping. 

As a general rule of thumb people love to talk about themselves and I think that’s especially true with the coffee industry! Everyone you meet is always open to share their knowledge, tell their story and share their work. The coffee industry may not be the most financially rewarding one at times but at the end of the day it is an industry filled with people who care deeply about the work they do. The majority of people just don’t realise how much effort and care goes into coffee. Coffee is a science as much as it is a form of art and personal expression of oneself.

The Coffee Shop by Sis 

Before the lockdown, I found it interesting the power and relatability of the coffee shop space. I would people watch the different tribes of people that would come through the door. 

The older gentlemen that came in every week for a sausage sandwich and a coffee. 

The young families that would come through for a weekend treat and catch up. 

Tourists that would grab a quick coffee before they get the train to their next destination. 

The locals that always pass through for a gossip about local news and characters. 

Even my youngest son would pop in after football.

We are living in very challenging times with a lot of uncertainties. I really enjoyed my part time role as a Barista and I did not realize how much I would miss it. One thing for certain I will not take for granted the power of coffee again. 

The Cup of Coffee by Olivia 

For many, coffee is a bitter commodity used simply to provide a quick fix for tiredness. But brewing coffee at home during lockdown has helped me remedy daily stress and find an opportunity for mindfulness. 

I weigh out my coffee beans, tare the scale, and get a dose of cardio exercise by grinding my beans by hand, I boil my water, wet my filter paper: I’m ready to brew. These steps require concentration and care, but I have found solace in that space to simply focus solely on brewing a well-balanced cup of coffee.

During the sunniest month on record in the UK, I’ve found great relief from the heat indoors from an iced filter coffee. Drinking cups of a beautifully fragrant, refreshingly crisp and fruity coffee has been a slice of heaven recently. I find that the usual chatter of my restless mind is hushed as my focus lingers more attentively on my senses. What do I smell from the coffee beans? How does that smell change once I grind them and then once I brew them?

Following a few virtual training sessions on sensory skills hosted by Well Grounded, I’ve found myself focusing more on being aware of my senses. Now that I’ve brewed my cup of coffee, I’m lost in a cacophony of memories, trying to capture the memory that my senses have recognised from the smell or taste of my coffee. 

The acidity of one coffee reminds me of fizzy sweets from Pick ‘n’ Mix bags that I would occasionally indulge in after primary school at the nearby Woolworths. The zesty, citrus flavor of another coffee reminds me of how, as a child, I would stuff segments of orange in my mouth to drain the juice from it and make a silly smile at my family. 

The nostalgia I’ve experienced from my tastebuds is often so sweet and always a therapeutic escape from a busy mind. Instead of being lost in overthinking and worrying, I’ve been able to ease my stress and productively work through my emotions by brewing and tasting coffee. I would urge anyone who usually gulps down their morning caffeine kick to invest in a bag of specialty coffee from the many small coffee houses and roasters. Brew carefully and you might just find yourself transported back to memory lane.


This blog is the third in a series of pieces titled #MoreThanThe234. As part of our #SupportThe234 Crowdfunder Campaign, we have asked several of our partners to write blogs focusing on themes within speciality coffee, the hospitality industry, and the third sector to bring attention to issues of social change. If you’d like to learn more about our Crowdfunder campaign click here.

Stay tuned for our next blog, an in-depth look at how unemployment shapes our society, written by our CEO, Eve Wagg, and the Managing Director of Street League, Lindsey MacDonald.