Kristina Jackson: The Sprudge Twenty Interview

Kristina Jackson (Photo by Jon Santos)
Nominated by Rose Woodard, Rob Rodriguez, and Kat Melheim 
Kristina Jackson is an exemplary member and leader in the specialty coffee community. Her work is centered first and foremost on the city of Boston, where she is the founder of the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective, but it reverberates worldwide by offering a radical example of inclusion. Her work provides a roadmap towards confronting marginalization for coffee professionals of all backgrounds and identities, and to ensuring that the next generation of coffee pros see a place for themselves in coffee culture.
Sprudge readers are familiar with Jackson’s work through our coverage of the Boston Intersectional Coffee Collective, and from Jackson’s Fall 2018 appearance on Michelle Johnson’s Black Coffee event panel in New York City. She is also an exceptional working barista at Intelligentsia Coffee’s Post Office Square location, a facet of her professional work captured vividly in this nominating essay (one of several Jackson received) from Rob Rodriguez:
“[Behind the bar], she often creates an experience and space where, despite how many people are in the shop, you feel as if you are her singular focus. This is reflected consistently in her exceptional coffee brewing skills. Each cup and shot regularly consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. While I could speak endlessly on her hospitality and coffee service skills, what sets Kristina apart from the rest is that her vision for an inclusive and equitable coffee community in Boston is strictly unmatched.”
What issue in coffee do you care about most?
I care about creating a supportive and positive experience for the traditionally marginalized people in coffee. I care about the ways of serving their needs so they can have fulfilling careers.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
Creating the most positive experience possible for both our guests of color and those who want to pursue a job in coffee. We are the ones growing, serving, and buying the product. We deserve respect, living wages, and opportunity for a successful life of our choosing. It should not be dictated by the traditions set by a white male-driven industry.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
The devastating effects of climate change and pollution on the longevity of the industry.
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
This entire industry has some of the most resourceful and talented people I’ve ever met. It’s a “come as you are” industry. Almost everyone comes in because they enjoy drinking it, but you can go in a million directions all for the sake of the drinking experience. The common purpose is wholesome and pure.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
While I was working at my first shop, I attended a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Boston at the State House. Somehow I ended up in a short tv interview. The next day several of my customers said they saw it and said how proud they were to see their local barista on tv speaking her mind. I think that was the first time I felt like a person in my community and not a nameless face at my shop, and I could possibly make a difference in someone’s life.
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Coming in early in the morning alone with my music in my ears and dialing in. I love the focus, the ritual, the isolation. It’s the most peaceful 45 minutes to hour of my shift.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
I don’t know if this particular job exists… I want someone to pay me to be their coffee life coach. I guess that would be an advocate. But I still want to make coffee as a part of my job. And I want to help connect companies to new talent. But I want that talent to be Black people. But mostly Black women cause we get shit done. Does that job exist?
Who are your coffee heroes?
Lem Butler was the first Black person I remember seeing online and being blown away. I had never even heard of Barista Competition before he won, so it was shocking to see a Black man become the best barista in America. I met him in 2017 in New York at Barista Nation. He didn’t talk much at that event but he did mention the importance of seeing more Black faces in coffee. That was a real turning point for me.
If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I wish I could drink coffee with my dad. He passed away when I was 14. He was very young and very intelligent and loved food. I wish I could’ve known him as an adult and talk about him about everything.
If you didn’t get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
Early on as a teenager I was very interested in studying physics. I went to a high school very strong in math and science so I latched on. But I can’t imagine going thorough life not being involved in something creative but also practical so arts administration is appealing to me.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
Unfortunately no. There are a few people I trust to answer my questions honestly and be open with me. But I think what I’ve been missing in Boston is someone more experienced than me who can help me set realistic goals and grow with me.
What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?
I wish someone had told me not to work for a company just because they have good coffee.
Name three coffee apparatuses you’d take into space with you.
My Yeti, Kalita Brewer, and my electric kettle.
Best song to brew coffee to:
Can it be a whole album?! I often listen to Black Messiah by D’Angelo at home when I brew coffee.
Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Hopefully settled down with a family, helping them create their own coffee rituals!
What’d you eat for breakfast this morning?
A bowl of Farina with strawberries and pecans and a little sugar, a side of bacon, coffee, and water.
When did you last drink coffee?
20 minutes ago
What was it?
I had a shot of Intelligentsia Kurimi. Probably my favorite coffee that we serve. Just a straight up tropical fruit bomb.
The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2019 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.