Whoís happy to be the newest writer on the CoffeeGeek team? This guy! And boy do I have a story to tell. Iíve been in coffee a good part of my life, and have seen many sides of the coffee story. I also have an amazing wife thatís joined me on the journey, and supports me greatly on this journey to discover coffeeís potential in the world. Lots of people know me via the worlds of Facebook and Twitter, but few know how I got to where I am today, and how much work it actually takes to make coffee your career.
Sixteen years ago I would never have guessed I'd still be working in coffee, and I certainly wouldn't have predicted that Iíd be as passionate about it as I am today. It has taken a lot of work, lots of research where it can be found, lots of late night and very early morning barista shifts. Itís involved many sacrifices along the way, but in the end, or at this point, it has been worth all the hard work and sacrifice. I love my career, I love coffee, I love my wife, and I love that I can now share with you what Iíve learned, and what I continue to learn on this journey.
I suppose I should start with the basics. Who am I? Well, Jason Dominy. I was born in Panama City, Florida, moved to the Atlanta area, then to the coast of Georgia. I went to college at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I studied Theology/Christian Education. Growing up in a very challenging home environment, I wanted to work with youth to help give them hope and encouragement as they faced many of the same challenges I faced. I now live in Atlanta with my amazing wife of 10 years, and again, Iíve been in coffee for 16 years now.
I started out with opening two of my own coffee shops, and this is where I really became passionate about building community through the coffee environment. My first shop was in Augusta, Georgia, on the campus of Augusta State University, and was simply named: ďcoffeehouse.Ē My second coffee shop was The Beaníry, in downtown Athens, and was a very special place for a lot of people. As a matter of fact, several of my friends who work with Counter Culture either worked under me, or were customers of The Beaníry. The Beaníry was largely a community outreach shop, and did this by collecting food and clothing donations for the homeless, organizing a Thanksgiving dinner that fed more than 200 of the homeless in the Athens community, and spending a lot of time mobilizing University of Georgia students to become active in their community while in school.
While in Athens, I met my wife, who lived in North Carolina, and ended up moving there to be closer to her. While in NC, I took a Roastmaster Assistant position with Krispy Kreme Coffee, in Winston-Salem, where I learned a great deal about roasting under the guidance of Gregory Kolsto, owner/roaster of Oddly Correct Coffee in Kansas City.
It was during my time at Oddly Correct that I decided that roasting was not my ideal skillset so I decided to move back into the coffee shop environment, taking a position in management with Caribou Coffee. There, I learned a lot about efficiency, and how a larger coffee company is successful.
While at Caribou, I was approached by someone at a regional roaster to come on board for a position yet determined. I created the Director of Training and Knowledge position at Dilworth Coffee, in Charlotte, NC. It was also there that I started getting active in the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and Barista Guild of America (BGA). I had a desire to further my career in coffee, and viewed volunteering with the SCAA as a great way to get to work and learn with some of the best minds in coffee. Working alongside so many great individuals who had made coffee their career really cemented my desire to make coffee my lifelong career.
After getting truly plugged into the SCAAís Training Committee, I worked alongside Heather Ringwood, who would later invite me to become part of the Batdorf & Bronson team. We worked together on lots of espresso labs, and I really looked up to her for her passion for not only coffee, but the education of it. The things about Batdorf & Bronson that drew me to them as a company were that they had this great lack of pretension and a simple love of coffee, which I really respected. Having had their coffee on many occasions, I was always impressed and loved how they operated in terms of sustainability and how they cared for each link of the chain. I joined B&B in February of 2010.
My wife April and me
Since joining B&B, Iíve been responsible for helping strengthen our relationships with our wholesale partners, tackling the wide world of social media, assisting Chandler Rentz with training and education, assisting in opening new shops with folks, helping build community in Atlanta, and as of late, creating a culture out of our Roastery for education and fun and unique things that make folks aware of who we are and what we do.
I also came up with the concept of the Coffee Ambush, whereby I go to an office of a really great local business and hand brew coffee for their office all morning, with the help of local baristas. So far Iíve done ambushes at amazing places like Adult Swim, Coca-Cola, MailChimp, CBS Atlanta, and many more great places. (You can check out the Coffee Ambush Channel on Vimeo if you like).
I have hosted over 700 people at our Roastery for Coffee 101s in the past year. At these events I teach folks about coffee from its origins in the cherry to its processing methods. Folks learn about coffee's main growing regions, how itís roasted, and we end with a hand brewing of each of the three growing regions, allowing them to guess which coffee comes from which region.
These events have been very successful, and have been a great joy, encouraging a great many people around the Atlanta area to think of coffee differently, to know how to buy better coffee, and to know how better to brew it at home. Iíve heard report after report from folks whoíve attended that are now making much better coffee at home using devices like the Clever Dripper, and are now buying fresh roasted coffee from their local roaster, avoiding supermarket coffees.
I also have created several key partnerships for our company that include ice pops, chocolate, beer, and an upcoming item to be announced. Collaboration has been something Iím most proud of, as I work to strengthen the connections like-minded companies have in Atlanta, to more fully support each other. Atlanta is filled with great creative minds, great coffee shops and baristas, and restaurants, and bringing them together as best as possible has been a real desire of mine.
I created the Atlanta Disloyalty Card in August of 2010 as a way to support all the really good independent coffee shops that dot our landscape here in Atlanta. It has been successful is on its second iteration, and weíre preparing to launch version 3. The 3rd version is an iPhone app, which will allow participants to check-in, find out more about the shop, leave notes, thank their barista through We&Co, and other cool features.
I do my best to manage successfully six Facebook pages, three Tumblr accounts, Five Twitter accounts, and one stubborn MySpace account that I canít close for some reason. Iíve learned how social media can be your best friend, and it can be your worst enemy. At a certain point in my life, I made a decision to live a good bit of my life in the public eye via social media, and my personal life and professional life intermingle in a tangled web.
Because we use social media so much in the coffee industry to stay connected to folks that we donít see very often, it really can be a good thing. The downside, Iíve learned, is the more you publish online, even in places like CoffeeGeek, youíre bound to make mistakes. Mistakes in judgement or just simple errors can be made much bigger in social media. Both for myself and for B&B Iíve tried to use social media in a very positive manner and for the purpose of further raising the awareness of B&B. For myself personally, I use it as a way to express my life in a real way that is as transparent as I can be.
Me and a few Coffee Friends A group of us during a big cafe-crawl organized in Los Angeles in October, 2011
Iíve stayed connected with volunteering for the SCAA and BGA, most recently as the retired Chair of the Barista Guild. Iím a Subject Matter Expert in Espresso, a Certified Lead Instructor, as well as a BGA Certified Examiner. Volunteering for the SCAA and BGA is one of the best things Iíve ever done for my professional career. It has taken me places Iíd never thought possible. It has allowed me to work alongside the greatest minds in coffee, to learn from the best. It has allowed me to write and work on labs, and to help in the writing of the current BGA Certification. It has also reminded me of how important it is that we give back and hand down that with which weíve been entrusted in coffee. This is something Iíve seen in action from the people in coffee I most respect. I spend as much of my time making great coffee accessible, teaching average consumers about specialty coffee, and showing them the difference.
My column will be writings based on what Iím doing to further specialty coffee and my thoughts on current trends. It will include lots of fun stuff that I hope will encourage you to go out and change your own world for the cause of specialty coffee. Coffee is still in its infancy and itís a great time to be a part of something so special.
Random Facts about Jason Dominy:
I was once in a Chuck Norris movie called ďInvasion USAĒ and got to meet the man himself.
I am incredibly shy.
I donít watch many sports outside UGA Bulldogs (University of Georgia) football games or games that directly affect UGAís bowl chances. I wish there was a playoff instead of the bowls.
The best coffee Iíve ever had was the Ethiopia Beloya roasted by George Holt on his BBQ grill roaster.
My favorite single thing that can be enjoyed daily is a Coke in a glass bottle.
I was a very good skateboarder as a teenager and had the nickname ďSkateboardĒ in high school.
I once lived in the town of Darien, Georgia, a shrimping town, and have been on several shrimp boats catching, well, shrimp. While in Darien I also used to swim with alligators in the local rivers.
My favorite band of all time is U2.
The album I purchased most recently: MxPx ďPlans Within Plans.Ē
The concert Iíve been to most recently: Radiohead, Atlanta.