Coffee Shops: A Hub of Creativity
Picture being inside your favorite coffee shop. Think about the baristas, or your coworkers if the shop you’re picturing is a place you’ve worked. Now think about the conversations you have had with those behind the bar. Did you ever talk about art? Poetry? Music? Did you ever hear the baristas talk about the creations they make, or share your artistic endeavors with them?
Fostering Creativity in Coffee Shops
Coffee shops are centers for creativity – from latte art being poured daily to signature drink creation to chalkboard artwork and illustrations to playlist curation. As an industry, we have places to share our latte artwork (throwdowns and the World Latte Art Championship) and even drink creation (Barista Competitions), but where can we connect over the other creative things we do?
The Birth of Coffee People Zine
In 2018, after almost 5 years working in the coffee industry, I wanted a place to celebrate the creativity I saw all around me in the baristas, roasters, and coffee professionals I worked with. So I created Coffee People Zine – a publication the celebrates the creativity of the coffee community. That first issue was small and local – only 40 pages featuring work by my Denver coffee friends. However, as word spread via the coffee industry grapevine (and over Instagram), the page count grew and the submissions started coming from further and further out. I changed the cover design a few times, adjusted the proportions of submissions versus articles, and have added themes so artists can focus on particular topics as it relates to their artwork.
Empowering Coffee Community Creativity
Most of the content in each issue of Coffee People zine is submitted work by coffee professionals around the world. The two rules for submission are: 1) if you work in the coffee industry, your work doesn’t have to be about coffee (but it can be if you want it to), and 2) if you do not work in the coffee industry, your submission must be about coffee in some way. These rules help to maintain the focus on the “people” in Coffee People. The zine was never meant to be about coffee itself, but rather the people behind it and how we interact with it.
Though word spread and the zine gained recognition around the world, it has not been easy keeping this project going. Print publications are less and less popular as digital media takes over. The cost of paper (thus the cost of production) continues to rise, and margins were already razor thin. Before the pandemic, sales numbers were trending upward but since 2020 sales and subscriptions have significantly flatlined which makes sustaining this project difficult, and growing it nearly impossible. However at each roadblock and challenge, the Coffee People community has come through to provide just enough support – financial and emotional – which has allowed me to keep this passion project alive thus far.
In July of this year, I released Issue 21 with the theme of FIRE, loosely focusing on roasters (the people, not machines). From those initial 40 pages in Issue 01, the most recent zine boasted 112 pages filled with work by over 46 contributors. This project has come a long way, and I hope to take it further.
As I reflect on the past 6 years over 21 issues, I think of my all-time favorite pieces – a short work of fiction imagining the afterlife, a single photo of someone’s kitchen stove, a heartbreaking poem about grief, a silly illustration of a skeleton drinking coffee. I feel grateful to have experienced the work people have entrusted to me. Their emotions, their passions, their lives. And I hope to continue celebrating the creativity of the coffee community for years to come.