Here's another installment of our At the Bar series, where we interview Coffeebar's bold, bad ass baristas, chefs and Hospitalians to learn about their journey and passions, both in front of and away from the espresso machine. We hope these conversations inspire and demystify the people and process behind your cup of coffee. These are the hands, hearts and minds you'll find at the bar.
This week, we're talking to Coffeebar Menlo's Assistant Store Manager Mackenzie Clack. Enjoy!
Can you describe your path into specialty coffee?
My first experience with specialty coffee was when I moved to the Bay Area in 2017. I had just moved down here for my fiancé’s work opportunity and found myself jobless, I began spending my time in cafes looking at job ads. I stumbled upon Devout Coffee in Niles,CA. Super cute cafe that serves single origin espresso and pour overs. I really loved the vibe and the connections people were creating. I found myself at Blue Bottle Coffee exploring a week later and landed myself an interview. I spent 9 months there taking in a lot of knowledge about coffee, people and teamwork. I wanted to grow and share my knowledge that’s when I met Greg. Greg showed me a path that allowed me to continue my love for developing people in coffee. Here I am 6 months after meeting Greg, fresh from a trip to Guatemala as an Assistant Store Manager.
You, along with some of our best baristas and most knowledgeable coffee nerds, headed to Guatemala to work with some of our talented small coffee producer partners. What were some of your favorite moments during your trip to origin with the Coffee Dream Team?
Some of the most memorable moments of our trip to origin were having dinner in the homes of people who produce our coffee, we were welcomed in and introduced to their wives and children. They treated us like family the whole trip. We also were able to teach the game of ultimate frisbee to the children in La Suiza.
How do you see yourself growing as a coffee professional?
Along my journey so far I have learned so much about the industry, I think most recently I was enlightened by the connections that are necessary to source good coffee. It is important to establish connection to filter growth in environments like La Suiza. I think I see myself diving deeper into people and development. I really feel that with my passion for coffee and patience for people I can connect the two. I ultimately would love to run my own cafe one day. within the next 1-3 years I can really learn a lot to help make this dream a reality. Hopefully by year 10 I can open my own cafe in a community where I feel I can make a difference.
What are your interests and hobbies outside of coffee?
There isn’t much outside of coffee:), but I would say exploring the Bay, trying new food, and I love going to the beach. Most of my free time is spent wedding planning! We spend weekends checking out beautiful places to have a ceremony, and soon to look at dresses. Once we're all done with that I'd really love to dive back into traveling, this year is Guatemala and Spain. Next is either Greece, or Germany. So much to see!
Do you have any go-to food spots in the Bay Area? What are they and what do you love about them?
My fiancé and I are brunch people. Our favorite place by far that we’ve found is called Skilletz, its a really cute mom and pop restaurant that serves the best hot chocolates with lots of whip cream and sprinkles. I love the small feel, and the owner has a love for dogs because there are pictures of them everywhere. Another place we recently discovered is El Jardin in San Jose, it’s a restaurant that serves Mexican food and has really great live music and margaritas. the best part about this place is you share tables with other guests to make new friends and it’s all outdoors.
If you could have coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
If I could have coffee with anyone it would probably have to be with Mokhtar Al-Khanshali. His story of importing coffee from Yemen is very inspirational. What sets his story aside from other countries are his roots in Yemen. I would love to here his full story in person and share what it was like to rebuild and inspire the coffee community in Yemen.