Luis Enrique (The Gay Barista): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #62

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Luis Enrique (The Gay Barista): Coffee Insurrection Hero Chapter #62

Coffee Insurrection
1- Introduce yourself: who are you, where are you from, where do you work and what's your job.
 
Hi, Luis Enrique here! a.k.a. The Gay Barista in the coffee world. I'm a former finance professional from Mexico City who, after ten years of hiding behind an Excel sheet, decided to take an unexpected turn and pursuit his passion for coffee.
 
In 2021 I quit my 9-to-5 job and started my coffee brand, The Gay Barista, as a way to provide representation for the gay folks who love specialty coffee. The project evolved from the initial conception, and now that the covid restrictions have eased, I've been able to come up with regular meet-ups for LGBTQ+ coffee professionals in Mexico City.
 
I also freelance for coffee and LGBTQ+ brands with content marketing and social media management.
 
2- When and why did coffee become important to you?
 
I've always looked up to my grandfather since I was a child. I always saw him drinking a very, very black coffee on the weekends when we went to have brunch together, and at age ten, I started drinking (bad) coffee. But I loved how it made me feel! I felt older my age and more mature.
 
Some years later, I discovered specialty coffee after my father passed away. Somehow, every new great coffee I drank connected me to him and to those tremendous first sips we shared, even if the coffee beans were roasted in a way I wouldn't dare to drink right now.
 
3- Do you remember the first coffee you had that was more than "just a cup of coffee"?
 
That's a great question! Yes, of course I remembered it. It was actually the first specialty coffee I had in my life. The place was Passmar, a turquoise coffee bar amidst flower bouquets, bare chicken, and towers of colorful fruits inside a market in Mexico City.
 
I still remember that coffee from Veracruz.
 
There were many "first times" during that visit: my first specialty coffee, the first time I perceived acidity in coffee and my first time tasting a manual-drip coffee.
 
4- What's your favorite thing about going to work in the morning?
 
Nowadays that I'm working from home most of the days, I enjoy making that first coffee and knowing that it is actually for myself!  
 
When working as a barista during college, I always took the early-morning shifts and the satisfaction I had of setting everything up before the first customer arrived: still dark, listening to my music espresso in hand, that's something I wish I can experience once again.
 
5- What's your favorite brewing method and why?
 
That's tough. I love Aeropress for its versatility, but I'm a design lover, that's why if I had to pick one brewing method, it would definitely be the Chemex; the pleasure you get from only looking at it and how the different coffee hues are perceived through its shape it's just hypnotizing.
 
6- Which is the best coffee you ever tasted?
 
Perci. A that was a game-changer as the first natural processed Gesha from Panama. I gave it to myself as a birthday gift, and the floral intensity made me cry, literally.

Luis Enrique
 
7- Is there a country of origin that you tend to favor coffee from? Why?
 
I try not to favor coffee from their origin only. I find it limiting. I prefer to lean towards specific cupping profiles that sometimes match a region; for example, blackcurrant, blueberries, and blackberries are my favorites.
 
I've found that it's easier to capture them from Kenyan coffees.
 
8- Suggest us a roastery to check (not the one you working at/you use at work).
 
Café Estelar. A roaster from Guadalajara, Mexico that plays a crucial role in curating the national coffee. They were the first to brand specialty coffee in Mexico as something modern and cool, and not just exclusive.
 
9- What's the most important things you've learnt while working in the business?
 
There's much work to do to get the whole coffee chain in Mexico to benefit from what they do; right now, only the roasters profit from the coffee activity.
 
Baristas in Mexico are forced to see their job as a side-gig; they can't make a living from it, making it harder to professionalize coffee work.
 
Ironically, barista shifts in Mexico are the longest I've seen, coffee shops start at 7, or 8 am and finish at 10 pm.
 
The coffee shop culture and the LGBTQ+ community are closely linked; they offered us a safe space outside the regular nightclub scene where we can gather.
 
Having more spaces like these when we can be ourselves is vital for those who are not party animals.
 
10- How your work and the specialty coffee world are coping with Covid and the new challenges for hospitality?
 
Household coffee consumption increased last year as the new normal restrictions forced coffee shops to reduce schedules, that helped my brand during its launching. Fortunately, things are getting a lot better this year; I see many digital nomads from other countries coming to Mexico City and becoming regular customers at coffee shops working in their laptops with a coffee in hand. It's the only place where I see a waiting line as something favorable.
 
11- How do you see the specialty coffee scene in 10 years?
 
Hopefully, I expect to see a more diverse and inclusive specialty coffee scene. I'll put my hands to work to make an impact and stop relating specialty coffee with luxury and exclusivity. We need to eliminate all the bluff and stop stereotyping people for the way they like or drink coffee, even if it's not specialty.
 
For countries where coffee consumption is still low, we need to foment all types of coffee consumption; as it happened to me, any coffee can led you to specialty coffee!
 
I also hope we see more diversity regarding origins! There are a lot of great coffees to be discovered in places you might not think there were.
 
12- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
 
Owning a coffee shop in Mexico City; an lgbtq+ space that is a mix between a club and a coffee bar, developing my brand, and having finished some formal studies in coffee, probably a Q grading license.
 
13- Any last word? Any tip or suggestion you wanna share with someone that want to start this path?
 
Building a brand will not happen from one day to another, but try to find your niche, your values, and what you can offer that no one else can and stick to it!
 
And remember: Making it in the coffee world requires patience but the connections you make along the way are worth the wait!

                                                     Luis Enrique Delgrado

Luis Enrique Delgado Pardiñas
 
34 years old
Mexico City


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