Let’s Talk Coffee® Interview: Laila Willbur

Let’s Talk Coffee® Interview: Laila Willbur

ghambari On October 13-16, Let’s Talk Coffee® will hold its 13th gathering, bringing together roasters, producers, financiers, and other stakeholders throughout the specialty-coffee supply chain in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Leading up to the event, we’re profiling some of the people and elements that makes Let’s Talk Coffee® a unique, must-attend event. Head here for more info and to register today! 

Laila Willbur had an exciting year in coffee in 2014: After winning the United States Barista Championship in Seattle, she traveled to Rimini, Italy, to represent her country at the World Barista Championship. (She placed 10th.) In the ensuing months, Laila—who is Director of Coffee at the Cherry Street Coffee House chain of cafes in Seattle—made many trips as a barista ambassador and representative of her title. Among them, she traveled to Panama for Let’s Talk Coffee® 2014. Joined by producer Emilio Lopez Diaz of Cuatro M and roaster Phil Beattie of Dillanos, Laila and the team shared with the audience the story of collaboration that led to her barista victory (watch the session here). We talked to Laila about her experience in Panama and why Let’s Talk Coffee® is an important industry event.ghambari4

Q: What was Let’s Talk Coffee® like for you, and how did it differ from other events?

A: As the Chair of the Barista Guild of America, I attend a lot of coffee events, from small regional events to more global coffee expos. Most of these events, and my involvement in them, are very geared toward engaging and educating baristas. Let’s Talk Coffee® was a completely different type of event for me. Being at an event that was so focused on producers and engaging and educating farmers was a whole new ghambari1 (1)experience. I learned a great deal about things that were beyond me but that I was excited to learn more about. I enjoyed being more of a bystander and just learning and taking it all in. The connections were not with my peers I’m typically around so it was a chance to network outside my usual scope.

Q: Would you recommend Let’s Talk Coffee® to other baristas? Why?

A: Baristas should attend LTC for two reasons: First, to gain new insight. Being around producers and networking/connecting with them is an opportunity to gain a new understanding and appreciation for what you do in your profession. Second, because the producers want to meet you! I was overwhelmed by how excited the farmers were to meet me. In my mind I was like, “What? Do they know they are the real rockstars?” But for them, meeting the people who brew and serve their coffees is a real treat and I loved connecting with them.