Brodie Vissers’ love story with coffee goes beyond the aesthetic and palate-pleasing aspects of this intoxicating beverage. It was establishing a ritual around enjoying coffee during his travels in Yunnan, China that hooked him in, and the vast, world-wide community coffee has connected him to that has kept the relationship strong. We talked with him about how these community connections came to be, the various coffee-centric projects he has worked on and continues to build, and how he (and anyone who reveres the connections coffee helps create) adapt, grow, and change in the face of challenges -- not least of which is the current pandemic we are all living in. We’re excited to introduce you to Brodie here, to build this web of connection even bigger, and help make all of us feel like we’re always enjoying a cup together.
What does coffee mean to you, and how did you first get connected to the world of coffee?
Haha, what does coffee mean to me, what a great question! Coffee means discovery and ingenuity, to gather together and to share moments, to create, and to host. It is a medium for storytelling in itself while inspiring humans to connect more deeply with what they consume, on a day-to-day basis.
This is what really took me on a deep dive into coffee. I first started drinking this magical beverage while living in Yunnan, China for a year, but while I was there, I learned more about the backstory since that’s where the coffee I was drinking was also coming from. When I finally made my way back to Canada, I began to meet other coffee people who shared my sentiment, and my eyes opened to this incredible world. It was the marriage of art and science that I loved, as well as the connections coffee created among so many of my other passions.
Can you tell us what your project, The Nomad Barista, encompasses, and how it came to be?
I was just finishing off my last term of university at the time. It was a very snowy winter of early 2016, and I had been planning a graduation trip of sorts that would take me back to Asia around Japan, China, India, Indonesia and Myanmar. Up until that point, I had been formulating this concept in my mind of what would become The Nomad Barista – a character that traveled the world, picking up barista work, helping new cafés get on track, and creating content along the way.
The problem was, I still had zero barista experience, but I knew that I wanted to bring a little more focus and theme to my travels, so I came up with this project as something to bring along with me anywhere I went. It began as a way to gather research about the coffee world, but I later started sharing it through a storytelling lens. I’ve since slowed down on the writing side to focus more on video and Youtube, but I’m really excited for what’s coming next!
You have traveled the world in search of stories behind how coffee connects all of us. What have some of the most memorable places, and connecting moments, been in your travels?
Oh, honestly every single moment has its charm, so hard to choose, but of course there are a handful that will always stand out to me and have helped shift my paradigms.
I’ll have to say my first time on a coffee farm in Oaxaca, Mexico was huge, especially since I had only found out about this place from reading another coffee blog and following the breadcrumbs – both the farmer at Finca Las Nieves and the blogger of The Coffeevine are now really good friends of mine, and that means a lot.
When I first moved to Barcelona, a few months after graduation, I was struggling to find barista work (given my lack of experience), but I saw a job post from a coffee magazine for a writer based in Barcelona. Through those journalism projects, I not only found my dream job as a barista/photographer, but was fast-tracked into the local coffee community. That was extremely helpful as a new kid in town.
I could share amazing memories all day, but the point is the openness and helpful attitudes of those in this community have kept me going and excited to be doing what I’m doing.
How are you finding ways to connect over coffee during this time of social distancing?
I think one major thing that the current situation has taught us is to value and go deeper with what we have. I find myself focusing on fewer, but more meaningful, relationships with people. Since many places here in Barcelona have constrained hours right now, and by default we’re meeting with fewer people at once, it’s inspired me to focus on finally building out a proper coffee station at home. I’m finally able to properly host people and we can always meet on our own schedules.
As a side note, I also launched a new project called The Coffeepreneur Mastermind, which brought coffee professionals from around the world together on Zoom to take part in a few 8-week programs of brainstorming and support for each other’s businesses.
What does a “day in the life” look like for you in your current location of Barcelona? We’d love to get a sneak peek into your coffee routine!
It’s funny because with the nature of my work, and way I’ve designed my life, I don’t think I’ve ever had two days quite the same, but the events of the last 12 months have definitely given me room to incorporate a few helpful routines, so I’ll share a hypothetical day from that lens.
08:30 (-ish) - I prefer to wake up without an alarm if I can, but I’m working on getting that a bit earlier. It’s less about waking up, and more about getting out of bed, lol.
09:00 - Lately, I’ve been getting into the habit of a morning run along the beach, so on those days, I’ll make a quick pour over coffee and hit the road (15g of coffee to 225ml) before anything else.
On other days, I like to get a bit of food in me first and let my natural morning cortisol get me going, so coffee isn’t always the very first thing I do. Breakfast is often muesli with some sort of spices on top, and I’ve been loving toast with Manchego cheese and sun dried tomatoes lately!
Then coffee! It’s like my morning meditation, hand grinding the beans, watching the coffee drip down, and taking in the steamy aromas! My recipe is usually a simple V60 pour over of 20g of coffee to 320 ml of water at 96 Celsius in about 3 minutes, but sometimes I adjust depending on the coffee and different brewers I want to try. If I do have a few more people over, or for weekends on the rooftop, I will do a bigger batch of something on the Ratio 6 which has been really helpful for sharing!
10:00 - I’m lucky if I get to working by this time, but this is where things often change up from day to day. I might respond to a few pending emails, edit for an upcoming Youtube video, write an interview like this one, or continue working on an online platform I’m currently building to release very soon. It’s really day-by-day.
13:30 - On some days, I might take advantage of the limited hospitality opening hours to go check on a local café or meet a friend on a patio for lunch. Here in Barcelona, the restrictions only allow for sit-down from 1:30 to 4:30 or so, but it’s always changing. I’ve also been digging into a few podcasts and good audio books lately, which is perfect for walking around the city running any errands.
16:00 - I have a few clients online that I meet with 1-on-1 to work on marketing and communication strategies for their coffee brands, so I usually schedule weekly meetings somewhere in the afternoon to accommodate different time zones.
19:00 - As you might imagine, there’s not much to do out these days, but I might take time in the evening to go for a bike ride around the city, visit friend’s places for dinner, or invite someone over for a glass of wine. I love to cook, so if nothing else, I’ll just be at home with my roommate, inventing something in the kitchen.
22:00 - We currently have a curfew at 10 in Barcelona, but that’s actually helped me to wind down earlier than later which often involves some reading, bottling new drink recipes, doing a meditation, and often just getting lost on Youtube or Netflix, let’s be real.
You say, “Coffee is a Force for Good, especially when we know how to communicate it!” -- What are some of the communication techniques you use in your work with clients to convey this vision?
I think this is something we’ve been really unpacking as a global community since the very advent of specialty coffee. For any café owner or roaster who pioneered good coffee in their town or neighbourhood, it takes time, it takes relationships, and it takes consistency to demonstrate to the average coffee drinker what we’re up to and why it’s better.
It might sound cliché, but authenticity in how you tell your brand’s story as well as the coffee journey is so key. We live in a time where a majority of business owners are on a level playing field in terms of access to product and access to marketing tools, so it’s more about connecting with the people who LOVE what you do and who you are, rather than trying to woo them with “features”.
It’s a force for good because it brings people together, it connects the local community, and also bridges the gap between producing and consuming countries/cultures. What I’m so excited to see now is how coffee producers and those working throughout the supply chain are really starting to tell their own story rather than have it filtered through what an importer or coffee roaster wants to share. It’s decentralized marketing, and any café owner can tap into this while also empowering their coffee partners around the world. It’s awesome!
We’re so interested in the journey of the San Coffee Room you created with Nigel Wang. Can you describe how it transitioned from coffee experiences, to cafe, to its current iteration as a creative studio?
I’m glad you brought that up, so here’s a bit of current context. It’s been quite the journey, and amazing learning experience, but back in November 2020, I actually closed the “doors” on the San Coffee Room concept to make room for my next projects. Nigel still runs the physical café space on Ossington Street in Toronto, but he renamed it to 135 Ossington in November 2019.
The San Coffee Room brand was put through a few iterations since the conceptual stage as you mentioned. It was an awesome way to bring people together in our living room back in Toronto, and later to show how coffee could collaborate so well with other industries and subcultures. It eventually took on a physical café space, but soon became obvious that it was better for Nigel to run with that part, and for me to continue on my path of travel and consulting.
I held onto the brand for a while as a creative agency for coffee projects as you mentioned, but I recognized that everything I set out to do with San, would be better to just do under my own brand and scale from there fresh. It was hard, but important for me to trim that project to make way for new growth. Very happy about it :).
What is fueling your creativity and hope these days, and what is something you are looking forward to in 2021?
Oof, another great question to wrap this up. The short answer: it’s been tough, but it’s all part of the process.
Longer answer: I was very excited for 2021, and I still am, but the first few months have proven to be just as trying as most of 2020, and yet I still see 2020 as a very important year. It taught us many things about the world and about ourselves. It spawned many new businesses, innovations, and resourcefulness that likely would have taken much longer or different paths otherwise.
That being said, though creativity can be a renewable resource, it takes time to recharge. I’ve come to realize that we are our greatest assets, and we need to take care of ourselves more than we would any other asset. For some, the last 12 months have been slower, but for others, we now have infinite excuses to keep hustling, any day, any hour, back-to-back meetings, constant content from home, and that’s not always a good thing.
So, for 2021, I’m excited to focus on fewer but higher impact activities, I’m excited to give myself intentional work-life balance, and I’m excited to see the coffee community continue to come together and make waves in this industry in more creative ways as technology and paradigms continue to shift in new directions.