In this blog series, we offer you a glimpse of our team members behind the scenes, and the many unique viewpoints and experiences they bring to our company, our coffee, and the Kaldi’s family.
Este came to be a Kaldi’s Coffee roaster after working at our Crescent cafe. Once a weatherman in Brazil who had begun exploring coffee as a personal passion, Este has grown to be one of our key team members, a coffee roaster. He immerses himself every day in the experience of tasting and roasting quality specialty coffee. This is his story.
Este’s pre-Kaldi’s Coffee career is one of our favorites: working in Brazil as an observer for a surface weather station.
“My job was to provide the airport real time information about current weather phenomena that could cause a change in the airport's operation. I walked outside of the office to a specific point on the ground, looked all around to check visibility and clouds (what kind, how many, coming from what direction, how high from ground level). Then back to the office to check the info from the equipment (air temperature, air pressure, wind strength and direction,air humidity), feed all the info to a database and prepare the weather reports.” These reports helped keep pilots safe and minimized delays for the airport.
So how did a Brazilian weatherman wind up roasting coffee in St. Louis?
“It starts with my wife, she’s the whole reason I’m here. Her name is Christine. We met back in 2015, in Chile, we were both backpacking on vacation. It was one of those electric connections.”
After returning to the US and months of Skyping, Christine moved to Brazil to be with Este in 2016. Almost three years later, with a wedding planned, they decided to move to the US, but faced a new problem: Este’s job would require more studies in the US beyond the bachelor’s degree he had earned in Brazil.
Christine had noticed his passion for coffee though, bringing him ground specialty coffee from the states on her first trip back. He loved it. On her second trip, she visited her parents in St. Louis, stopped at her favorite cafe in Chesterfield, and returned with a bag of Kaldi’s Coffee and Este’s first grinder.
THE BIRTH OF A HOBBY
Este didn’t know anything about coffee, but he bought a French press and started learning as much as he could. As his hobby grew, Este researched brew methods, extraction, and roasting, plunging into a deeper understanding of coffee. “So, when I was talking to Christine, for real, it’s getting closer to the wedding, we need to figure out a job for me. We loved together the idea of working with coffee. I had a lot of theory, but no practice. So what I did was I set out a plan.”
Este read every article on Kaldi’s website profiling our producers, scoured blogs and other English language resources, picking up coffee lingo and new ideas; He began to search for resources closer to home in Sao Paulo, discovering Sindicafe Specialty School, as well as the legendary Isabela Raposeiras’s cafe, Coffee Lab. Determined to learn as much as possible before immigrating, he undertook both of the Coffee Lab’s offered barista courses, spending weeks applying coffee theory for the first time.
Brazil produces over 7.8 billion lbs of coffee annually, 30% of the world’s supply, and Este was surrounded by the best of it at Coffee Lab. “I did the two courses, and to go from brewing and researching at home to taking those classes: It was amazing. The first brew method I got after that was the Clever. I never had a cup of coffee that good before. I knew I had made the right choice.”
BACK TO ST. LOUIS
Este and Christine married in Chile, in the same city where they met, then moved to St. Louis in late 2018. He went to a Kaldi’s hiring fair, told us about his courses at the Coffee Lab and his goal to learn to roast, and was told that while the open position was in the kitchen at the Crescent cafe, if a position became available and he was still interested and committed to that goal, he’d be considered. “They were very realistic with me. I had never worked in a kitchen in my life before. So I was like, it’s a challenge, it’s something new, let’s go!”
Because we cross train team members, Este spent some time up front, got positive feedback from customers who loved seeing him, and eventually requested more shifts up front, so he could practice his barista skills. “They came through, because they told me, as soon as we have an opening up front, we’ll hire someone in the kitchen to fill the gap in the kitchen, move you up front, and it happened that way.”
A few months later, a position at the Roastery opened up, and Estevao interviewed and spent a day working at different stations. A couple of months after his first interview, Estevao began working at the roastery in September of 2019 and moved to Roaster position in the beginning of 2020. “I feel like I’m still learning every day. A year in this realm is not a lot of time!”
LET’S GET TO KNOW EVEN MORE ABOUT ESTE IN OUR ESTE Q&A!
What’s your favorite coffee origin now, after all that learning and tasting?
You know, it’s different, because I do love Kenyan coffees, but it’s so rich in flavor, with the fruit bombs, you know? Last year we had the Kenya peaberry that was exploding with strawberries. When people were grinding it, I would smell strawberries.
In Latin America, I would choose Brazil. Most of Brazil’s production is robusta, and even most of their arabica isn’t high quality. There is a law in Brazil, that you cannot import green coffee beans from other countries, so cafes like Coffee Lab and others really search for the best Brazilian coffee they can find. But when you get high quality Brazilian coffee, it is really, really good.
What advice would you give to someone starting in coffee?
Learning the theory before getting into practice was important. If I knew less than I did, it would have taken even longer to learn. And when I had the opportunity to to work on an espresso machine, working in a cafe, I would have practiced much more. I believe that having a goal and vocalizing it was important for me. If I hadn’t said in the first interview that I was interested in roasting, I don’t know, I might not have been considered.
What is your favorite place to vacation?
It requires two answers for me, first places we have been. Chile, there is so much to explore and Brazil is always home. And for places we haven’t been, Greece, the history, islands, and to see the Mediterranean lifestyle. It fascinates me that their diet helps them live longer and healthier. I want to witness that.
What is the worst tasting note you’ve called out while cupping?
It was back in my training, in Brazil. To teach someone something new, the best way to do it is to draw a comparison. So as a blind test, they got the leading supermarket brand beside one of their specialty coffees. Having them side by side, smelling the regular store coffee beside the specialty coffee, I smelled burned rubber. It is terrible. How did I drink that most of my life?
What’s your favorite food?
I love pizza. In Brazil, there’s a joke: “Welcome to Brazil, the rules are, there are no rules.” If you look for it, you can find every single kind of pizza you could imagine. Terrible pizzas, delicious pizzas. The pizza culture is huge. You’re gonna eat one pizza a week at least if you live in Sao Paulo. It goes wild.
What are the most important skills to have in roasting?
Consistency and focus are always cited and it's very true. As I learn the trade, I can taste my consistency growing. And I would throw in curiosity. You can’t have an approach that says “I’ve learned this, I can stop learning.” I thought I would learn the skill and be done learning. But everyday brings a different challenge.
What is your dream job?
It would be a small scale roastery, with enough land to grow mushrooms and microgreens. I started cultivating mushrooms last year as a hobby, the way I began with coffee, and my passion for it has been growing the same way it did for coffee.
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