SARAH DE SOUSA
I’ve always said that the smell of coffee gives me a warm fuzzy feeling because it triggers memories of my childhood, a childhood shaped in many ways by the luck of being born to SCCRC founders Colleen Crosby and Bronson Baker. At our café near the top of the mall (Pacific Ave.) we used to roast our coffee inside the café—I remember the mesmerizing action of the stir-flex sweeping through the beans when they first came out of the roaster, the toasty, comforting aroma that permeated a five block radius around our shop, and the people, employees and customers, some of whom still play a vital role in our business today that have been like an extended family to me as the years pass by.
My first paid position was as a cashier (truffle counter specifically) at our café in Aptos. I was 8 (child labor laws don’t apply when you’re family), so I had to stand on a milk crate to reach the register, but the money was good ($4.25/hr.) and the job involved strict quality control parameters (candy had to be sampled on a regular basis to make sure it was good!), which made me feel like an integral part of the team!
I graduated to Barista when I was 13, working most of my high school years at our Aptos Café, then transferring to our Santa Cruz location where I eventually was promoted to Store Manager. After graduating from Stanford University with a degree in Literature (what better preparation for a career in coffee?), I went to work at our Administrative Office in Watsonville, where in 2006 I took on my current role as SCCRC General Manager.
My first trip to a coffee origin was a 10 day visit to Costa Rica when I was in high school (c. 1995). It was incredible to see how coffee was processed and what a coffee tree or coffee cherry for that matter looked like up close and personal. I had never been outside the US, so that was an eye-opening experience on multiple levels, but on that particular trip we stayed at a nice hotel/resort and the coffee farms we visited were larger estates. Several years later, in 2001, my family and I traveled to Nicaragua during a very difficult time for coffee farmers (now known as the “coffee crisis”). On that trip, we visited areas where there was extreme poverty, small farmers struggling to afford one meal a day, coffee pickers from larger plantations who had lost their jobs and were camped out on the side of the road. At the same time, we were learning about the positive impact Fair Trade had made for some of the cooperatives that were faring better during the crisis. That experience helped shape the person and the business woman that I am today. It made me infinitely more conscious of the impact our decisions as individual consumers or businesses have on the lives of other human beings, their families, their communities, and ultimately the opportunity that exists to enrich our own lives by embracing those connections. Since then, I have been lucky enough to have equally life changing experiences in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Colombia, and Guatemala…to name a few.
My hope is that through the Coffee Learning Center, we are able to open a door for our own customers and staff to connect to the broader world of coffee and experience, much as I have through my travels, the many inspiring stories and exciting learning opportunities to be found in coffee.
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