Get to Know Katie Taylor

Get to Know Katie Taylor
Nick Francisco

We wanted our customers and the greater Canadian coffee community to get to know some of the team at Eight Ounce! Here, in the last installation of a three-part series focusing on our Wholesale Relationships team, we chat with Katie Taylor! Based in Kitchener, Katie just celebrated her first anniversary as our Ontario and Manitoba Relationship Manager. Have fun learning about Katie’s coffee journey, and the winding road that has taken her into specialty coffee!

Alright, let's get it. Let's dive in.

<laugh>. Let's dive in. Let's do it.

So Katie, tell me all about your journey in the coffee industry.

Alright. Yeah, it's a bit of a journey for sure. I had never had a sip of coffee until my first coffee job. I had always wanted to be a barista. I don't know why, and I didn't even have any experience going to a coffee shop, really. But I think through movies and TV, they really glamorize it. I was like, I'm gonna meet the love of my life in a coffee shop one day. I was sure of it. 

After high school, I really wanted to be a barista at Starbucks, but I was an introvert through and through (and I still am). 

What? No way!

Yeah, absolutely! It made me nervous, but excited, you know, I wanted to learn how to talk to people, and learn all this stuff about coffee.

My very first job was at Starbucks and I really loved it! Back then they had a coffee master program, which I know they've moved a bit away from, but I was like, I want that black apron, I wanna learn even more about coffee! And I eventually got to that point in Starbucks training. It was a really good base knowledge of coffee that I'm really grateful for still. I ended up working at Starbucks from 2014 until 2018, somewhere around then.

It was while I was still at Starbucks that a new cafe opened in my city, called Show and Tell. They were the first multi-roaster [in the city]. So I popped in because one of my best friends actually hired one of the founders to do a pop-up pour-over bar at her wedding. I was like, “What is this pour-over business?”. We did pour-overs at Starbucks, but only one person every six months would order a pour-over, and it wasn't a technical thing at all. So when I saw his whole setup at her wedding and I was like, “What is this? What's going on?”

Anyways, so Show and Tell opened and I went by on their opening day and I was just amazed. I ordered a mocha because it was December and mochas were my special treat. It was the best mocha I'd ever had in my life. I was like, “oh my God, what is this coffee?” And so I started going into the cafe regularly and started asking questions. I would look on their retail shelves and just started to ask questions.

What is this for? What gadget is this? What do you use a scale for in coffee? And all sorts of things that just took it way beyond my Starbucks coffee knowledge. And so about maybe three or four months into Show and Tell being open, they posted that they were hiring. I thought it was a really cool space <laugh>. I was like, you know, I'm a mom. I work at Starbucks. Like I'm not cool enough to work here, but I'm gonna try anyway.

I walked in with my resume, and the owners, Chris and Andrew were standing at the end of the bar and they were like, “Are you applying?” And I said, “Yyeah, hi.” <nervous laughter> I gave them my resume and the two of them just stood there reading it right in front of me and as a joke, they said, “We're judging you already.”

Wait, seriously? That’s brutal!

They were totally joking and laughing. I was sweating and shaking. They said, “Oh my gosh, you work at Starbucks”. I was really nervous about my Starbucks background, that it wasn't gonna be enough, but they were so kind about it. They said, “That's awesome. We're so excited that you wanna grow more in coffee.” They were just like really nice about it, not that I expected them to be mean, but just some other experiences in other independent coffee shops had been not as ‘friendly.’ I never mention I worked at Starbucks because, you know, the industry was a lot different back then–I think we've come a long way, but it's something I was just self-conscious about.

I ended up having an interview and we chatted for like an hour. I got to know them and got to hear about both of their journeys in coffee, which was really cool. They were just two guys that really inspired me and I wanted to learn from them. I really wanted the job. 

They ended up going with someone else.

Hold up, after all that, they didn’t take you on?

They emailed me and said basically, “We are so busy and we don't have the time to train someone from the ground up.” So they picked someone who already worked in the specialty coffee industry. But they said to me that they were gonna be hiring again in like two months.  I thought they were just saying that to be nice, so I didn't go in for a couple of months because I was so embarrassed. <more nervous laughter> But, a couple of months later, they were opening up a new shop and called me! “We'd love to have you as part of the team.”

There you go! I’m glad they stuck to their word.

Yeah! I started working with them at a shop called BRCH Social. During those first few weeks I learned so much about coffee! I felt so lucky to be able to work and learn from Chris and Andrew and my other coworkers too. My other coworkers had all worked in specialty coffee before, and yeah, it was just a really cool experience and I fell so in love with the industry and the people and the coffee, and yeah it was awesome.

That’s awesome, it's always nice to be in a positive environment. So much easier to learn and have fun that way. I’ve noticed over the past year that there are a lot of people coming into specialty coffee from Starbucks. How was that transition for you?

I'd say a lot of it was mostly in my own head. I got nervous about not knowing enough and I kind of had a bit of “imposter syndrome” when I started. It probably depends on the team you're going into, but everyone was super great and supportive and answered all my questions. I was asking very, very basic questions but everyone was really great at taking their time to explain it to me. 

Honestly, it was kind of nice, because I think coming from Starbucks, I offered a different set of skills to the table. I remember our first day open at BRCH, this woman came in and she was a regular at my Starbucks. She normally ordered a non-fat, no foam latte and we used cream top whole milk and obviously didn't do the ‘no foam’ thing. But what she didn't like about Starbucks foam was getting a latte with an inch of foam on the top.

I knew it wasn't the type of lattes we made. So I said, “Hey, trust me, like you're gonna love this, it's gonna taste great. We don't do the scooping the foam off the top like at Starbucks, but I promise you’re going to like the way we steam our milk here, it's gonna be delicious.” She ended up loving it! I remember Andrew, who had never worked at Starbucks, and he was like, “Had she come in, and it was just me here and she asked for that, I wouldn't have had the background knowledge of what she wanted versus what she didn't want.”

That’s such a cool way to see how your time at Starbucks came in handy!

Right? I feel like I was able to bring something to the table. Chris and Andrew and the rest of the crew definitely made me feel appreciated for what I brought even though it wasn't a specialty coffee background.

How did you first hear about Eight Ounce, and what brought you to this position now?

<giggles> So when I first heard about Eight Ounce, it was probably a couple of weeks into BRCH being open. We got a shipment in from Eight Ounce and I was the only one working. I opened the box and there was an Eight Ounce coffee lip balm. I remember texting Chris and Andrew being like, “Can I have this?” Cause I'd never had a coffee lip balm before. I think there were only two in there and I didn't wanna take it away from anyone else. That was the first time I heard of Eight Ounce.

A couple of months later we hosted an International Women's Day Latte competition and Eight Ounce sponsored all the prizes. I was flabbergasted that this company would sponsor a super small latte art competition in Kitchener and Waterloo! I don't even think anyone from Toronto came. 

I guess I just got really, really lucky with the people that I know. So Chris, who I worked for at Show and Tell, and BRCH, we also opened a shop right before COVID called Okay Great.

He [Chris] was actually approached by Wes and Jen (founders of Eight Ounce) about working for them. This was about a year ago. Chris had just started a new project so he turned them down, but I was dying to get back into the industry. I had been laid off from Show & Tell when the pandemic hit and I had been working a retail job since then.

I was casually looking for something in the industry but only if the right opportunity presented itself. So then I got introduced to Wes, and we chatted about Eight Ounce and the role. He got to know me a bit too. Then I officially applied, had my interview, and here we are! I got very lucky with who I knew and the people I had vouching for me and in my corner.

You, Jon, and I have the same role, but I know we have very different styles of approaching it.

Yeah, absolutely.

That being said, what's one of your favourite parts of this role?

I'm Eight Ounce’s Ontario and Manitoba Wholesale Relationship Manager, and my absolute favourite part of the industry, which then also ends up being my favourite thing about this role, is the people and the community. I love that I get to go into shops and build relationships with baristas, managers, and owners. I remember the feeling, because it wasn't that long ago, when someone in the coffee industry, whether it was a barista at another shop, someone from Toronto, or just someone at a competition would take the time to get to know you.

I still remember I had volunteered at the Barista competition to be a judge in 2019, and Josh Hockin, who is now one of our lovely coworkers, was a head judge! I hadn't been in the industry very long at that point, but he made every single person volunteering their time feel so special and seen. He didn't just take his time with the well-known coffee people, he paid attention to every single “baby barista” there. He just made all the volunteers feel so appreciated. That's something that just stood out to me at the time and was so important to me. As a barista, I'd experienced people coming in and being like, “Oh, is Chris and Andrew here?”, and then not giving any of the rest of us the time of day. 

I try and have that mentality when I'm going into shops, and getting to know people. This industry wouldn't be what it is without people in every single role, whether they're a roaster or barista or sales rep. The industry wouldn't be where it is, or what it is today without everyone. I love the community and I love the people I get to meet and build relationships with. I'm so thankful for everyone in the industry and I love that in my role I get to just focus on the relationships with people.

Nicely put! What are your aspirations in this role? Any future ‘coffee-related’ goals?

Yeah, I guess there are a few things that go into this. I love Eight Ounce. People often ask me what my favourite thing about working for Eight Ounce is. I tell them, they're the exact same way on the inside, as they are outside! Wes, Jen, and everyone here has developed that mentality for their employees, and so I would love a long-term career with Eight Ounce.

You know, I still think one day, maybe when my son Atticus is a bit older and a little more self-sufficient, that I would like to run my own shop. I can see that years from now, not anytime soon at all. When Atticus is a teenager. I’d love to have just a really comfy, cozy cafe where families feel welcome. I definitely miss working behind the bar and it's such a fun part of the industry and yeah, we'll see. We'll see where life takes me. I have no idea.

You competed in Aeropress this year, correct?

I did. Yes!

Are you planning to do other competitions in the future?

Yeah, this was my second time competing at AeroPress and I've done a few local latte art competitions too. There are definitely certain competitions, like latte art, that are obviously a lot harder to practice for when you don't have access to a bar. I would love to compete. There's a certain buzz that happens at competitions where everyone's just there supporting one another. 

I would definitely compete in AeroPress again. My palate has changed a lot since not being behind the bar. I often opened [the cafe] when I was still working at the shop and I was dialling in every day. I got a lot of experience tasting different coffees and I wish I had known then that Cup Tasters existed.

I knew about Barista Comp and I saw Jill (Hoff) compete in like 2018, I think it was. She was such an inspiration. I was like, that's gonna be me one day. But then I learned about everything that goes into doing Barista Comp and I am not good at speaking in front of a crowd. <more nervous laughter> I was like, “Oh definitely not.”

The quintessential question: If you had only one way to make coffee for the rest of your life, what would be your device?

Okay. This is a controversial one because everyone is always so surprised, but I always go back to my Kalita Wave. I adore my Kalita Wave. I don't know if it’s like nostalgia, because when I started at BRCH, we used Kalita Waves and I bought myself a yellow-bottomed one. I just love my Kalita!

I have so many V60s at home, and I use my Morning Machine, which I adore for something a little bit fancier, but I always come back to my Kalita Wave. I love it.

Okay, the fun question now. Living or dead. Who would you say is your hero?

My hero? Usually it's like, “Who'd you wanna get a meal with?” or “Who would you wanna get coffee with?” but hero?

I mean, there's someone that popped into my head immediately, which is a little bit sappy, but I can't think of anyone else. So I'm gonna say it: it would be my mom. Oh, I'm gonna cry. I'm gonna cry talking about it. <through tears> My mom is amazing, she supports me in everything I do, and as a mom myself, I don't know how she's so amazing. I feel like I always fall short as a mom and she's just my role model and my inspiration.

She raised my brother and me, and she's just amazing. There was definitely a time, when I was fresh out of high school, that she was like, “You should go to university.” And, you know, I think she just wanted me to have the opportunities that she didn't get to have. But as soon as she saw how passionate I was about coffee and this industry, she's been nothing but supportive. She literally looks at the Eight Ounce website and gets to know about us. She knows all the Eight Ounce employees by name, and by what they are wearing in their profile photo, from her time browsing on the site. She's just so supportive and <more tears> she's my absolute hero for sure.

Thanks for opening up Katie, I’m sure your mom will enjoy giving this whole interview a read!

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