The business of coffee relies on the shared passion of coffee people all over the world, and this section is dedicated to introducing the members of our diverse, dynamic supply chain. Here we ask a few fun questions of our partners at origin, our employees, and our customers; and we share their answers with you so that you can get to know them like we do—in their own words.
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Kim Elena Ionescu, Coffee Buyer and Sustainability ManagerThough her parents are transplants to the area, Kim grew up just down the road in Chapel Hill, NC, which makes her “at least a little bit southern.” She moved to Boston to attend Tufts University, where she studied literature (in English and Spanish) and Latin American history and politics. She loved New England in the summers, which she spent working on a small organic vegetable farm in New Hampshire, but the eight-month winter got the best of her and she moved back to NC after graduation. She followed the “liberal-arts, post-graduation stereotype” perfectly by finding work at coffee shop while she tried to find direction, but in my case, coffee ended up being the direction: she landed at Counter Culture in the spring of 2004 after spending time living and harvesting coffee with a coffee-farming family in rural Nicaragua. By pure coincidence (and coffee is full of them, she has learned), this farmer, Oscar Zamora, is one of the farmers whose coffee comprises our wonderful Cafe San Ramon! She has been “lucky and thrilled” to visit Oscar and his family twice as a representative of Counter Culture Coffee, and she looks forward to seeing them again during the harvest in January.
Q: What coffee are you currently drinking?
Shakisso, from South Sidama, Ethiopia. Who can resist "the gold coffee of Ethiopia?"
Q: Choose your favorite coffee and brewing method.
My coffee allegiances shift every time we roll out a new coffee or a new crop of an old favorite, but my brewing alliances stay strong with the French Press.
Q: Who at Counter Culture Coffee would you most like to arm-wrestle, and why?
Katie Vanderweide. She's much ber than I am, but we've known one another since middle school, and I think I have a chance if I make her laugh by bring up memories of our adolescent awkwardness.
Q: What is your favorite book?
I have found some great books in the selections of past Coffee People! Since I studied African and Afro-Caribbean fiction in college, I'll throw out a few of my favorites from those years to mix up our list: Bessie Head's When Rain Clouds Gather, The River Between by Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Tsitsi Dangaremba's Nervous Conditions and No Telephone to Heaven by Michelle Cliff.
Q: What keeps you busy outside of work?
Volleyball, tennis, reading, cooking, and farmhouse adventures: living out in the woods with chickens presents a unique set of challenges.
Q: Share an interesting fact you've learned about coffee while working at Counter Culture and name the person from whom you learned it.
During my Counter Culture orientation, I listened to Cindy Chang tell a group of waitstaff at a fine dining restaurant that it takes seven years for a coffee tree to mature. I use that statistic all the time in communicating the patience and dedication required for coffee farming, because anyone who has ever tried to grow a tomato balks at the idea of a seven-year maturation period.
Q: When you were 8 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Q: If you could beam yourself anywhere in the world for your lunch break, where would you go, and what would you eat?
I would have ceviche at an oceanside seafood shack in Lima, Peru. Local standards for freshness dictate that ceviche is uniquely a lunch food: restaurants buy the day's catch from the fishing docks mid-morning and Limenses believe that by evening, the fish is too old to be served as ceviche. That's dedication to freshness!
Q: Which Counter Culture Coffee customer is most likely to see you outside of work (i.e. where do you like to hang out)?
I have loved the Federal in Durham ever since it opened. If you like pork (pretty much everyone does in NC) you will not be disappointed.
Q: Kim, even before you assumed your official leadership role in Counter Culture's move toward an even more sustainable business model, you helped start initiatives—such as our commitment to biodiesel-fueled vehicles—that have reduced the company's ecological footprint. (Thank you!) Can you pinpoint the first inspiration for sustainability-focused work in your life?
In second grade, a PETA representative visited my class and gave us brochures detailing the abuses suffered by animals at the hands of the cosmetics industry, particularly (in this brochure) the Gillette company. I was stricken (wanting to be a veterinarian and all). I went home and investigated all of my family's cosmetic products, at which point I found that my father used (gasp!) Gillette deodorant. I asked him to change brands and he happily complied. His willingness to change surprised and inspired me, and has since proved both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because it taught me that I am responsible for and capable of effecting change, but a curse because sometimes I still forget that breaking habits and shifting people toward a more sustainable path isn't just matter of asking nicely!