Despite the utter insanity of 2020, it’s been a banner year for our coffee program, which has smashed existing records for previous years while simultaneously producing some of the most exceptionally tasty coffee we’ve ever roasted. One of the primary drivers of this wildly successful, caffeinated party-train has been Tessie Warnecke, who we’re thrilled to introduce as the new Program Manager for Modern Times Coffee. Tessie’s wealth of industry experience is matched by her passion for creating great coffees that are not only world class, but ethically sourced from seed to cup. She brings a tremendous skillset, a refreshing lack of pretense, and a focus on fostering both internal and external relationships to MT Coffee. TL;DR--We think she’s rad, and we’re excited about her new position. Let’s get to know her a bit, shall we?
As we just mentioned, Tessie has been in the biz for a minute (over 10 years, actually), with her only absence from the coffee world being a brief stint as bartender for a Northern California brewery. She’s tried her hand at every role, from barista, to QC assistant for importers, to green coffee buying, and came aboard the MT mothership in 2016 as production assistant, bagging beans. Bear in mind, at this point the “coffee program” was roasting our OG house blend, Black House, for our similarly monikered core oatmeal coffee stout, the surplus of which (normally about 6 bags) was displayed on a single shelf behind the bar. From there, she wore an assortment of hats, including making her first forays into roasting and piloting the cold brew program (8 gallons per batch, at that point). Right before her current role, Tessie was instrumental in guiding the future trajectory of the program as Green Coffee Buyer.
You may recall that we mentioned she was a QC assistant for coffee importers—specifically Olam coffee importers, who Modern Times works with regularly. During some very formative years spent cupping 2-3 tables of 30 coffees each during busy-season, Tessie was struck by how vital it is to foster relationships with not just importers & traders, but producers as well. Flash forward to 2019, when Tessie represented MT on an exploration of a pretty traditional operation in Colombia, consisting of farms owned by the Maya family of Acresco Imports. Here, coffee was grown in rows, harvesting was methodical; exactly what you’d picture when you think “farm”. That same year, Tessie also traversed across Mexico from Oaxaca to Veracruz through the La Cañada region, this time seeing producers whose approach to coffee production was decidedly different than Maya farms. You couldn’t tell where the jungle ended and the farms began, many of which were owned by smallholders who contributed to a greater coalition. While there were stark differences in the way these chains operated, a common thread was some kind of cooperative system--whether that was all in the family, or within entire regional communities--and a painstaking care and pride for cultivating a top notch product and sharing it with people who care.
Caring is the name of our game. Whether Tessie is collaboratively curating coffee profiles for a decedent imperial stout, figuring out what barrels to age green beans in, dreaming up kegged lattes, or overseeing cold brewing, she (along with our cadre of highly skilled comrades in caffeination) is cupping, sample roasting, & adjusting until the exact right profile sings. Things may be different now, but they also offer unique opportunities for growth and collaboration; baristas, unable to sling coffee inside the tasting room, have transitioned into production roles, bumping our seasoned vets into management positions. This pattern of growth--fresh pairs of eyes and the ability to specialize within the department--is what Tessie digs, and hopes to perpetuate. Truly great coffee requires more than just excellent ingredients. It requires a chain of passionate and talented people that stretches from the soil to the cup, and we think the vast array of delicious and fearlessly innovative coffees we’ve released this year is a testament to the fact that we’ve got a pretty excellent chain—one in which Tessie continues to be an integral link. We can’t wait to see where she takes us next.