Brew Master

Madeleine Longoria Garcia ’13 knows coffee: how to harvest it, roast it, brew it, serve it, and score it—and it all started behind the counter in Diversions Cafe.

Intending to go into the nonprofit sector after graduation, working in artist management or development at a performing arts organization, Madeleine took a part-time job as a barista in the campus coffee shop, and everything changed. That job opened the door to a career path she’d never imagined, one that now finds her poised to change the way the world views Hawai`i-grown coffee.

“In the industry, Hawai`i coffee has been labeled a ‘honeymooner’s coffee,’” Madeleine says from her home in Holualoa, on the Big Island. “People love Hawai`i coffee because of the experience they connect with it, not the quality of the coffee. I want to show people the quality of coffee that we are producing here, and that this region is capable of producing.”

Madeleine brewing coffees at Chef Fest 2017 at Four Seasons Hualalai
Madeleine brews coffees at Chef Fest 2017 at Four Seasons Hualalai.

Madeleine first arrived in Hawai`i about five years ago, wanting to learn more about the agricultural side of the coffee industry. She moved to the island to experience harvest season, expecting to stay only four or five months, but fell in love with the local coffee community and stayed longer, only leaving to take advantage of a new opportunity to learn—in Australia. 

“People talk about Australia’s cafe culture being very developed, a step up from everywhere else in the world,” she says. “I didn’t understand why, so I needed to just go there and see it.” Not only did she see it, she became part of it, spending a year in Australia honing her skills in coffee making, service, and latte art. 

From Australia, Madeleine went to Southeast Asia, where she met up with the former buyer from Caffe Vita, with whom she’d worked while a manager at Diversions. They spent a month traveling Indonesia, visiting with coffee producers across the country before she set off on her own, meeting café owners and coffee growers throughout Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia, learning new techniques and gaining experience through connections in an ever-expanding network of friends, colleagues, and coffee enthusiasts.

But Hawai`i was calling. “That entire time, I really missed Hawai`i,” Madeleine says. “I felt that if I were to come back to the United States, this was the only place I really wanted to come back to.”

We're trying to help the coffee producers who want to improve their quality by giving them concrete, qualitative analysis and feedback."

– Madeleine Longoria Garcia ’13

Her return to the Aloha State almost three years ago also served as a return to the cafe space. She landed a position at the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, educating and training the baristas and staff, and performing quality checks on coffee around the resort. Before her work there, Madeleine became a certified Q Grader, licensed by the Coffee Quality Institute, and launched tasting experiences and farm tours to showcase beans and brews from all over the state of Hawai`i—all while helping the Four Seasons gain a reputation for offering some of the world’s best coffee.

Also during this time, she was working with Pacific Coffee Research (PCR), a Specialty Coffee Association training lab and education center focused on Hawai`i-grown coffee. Involved since the company's founding, Madeleine has helped build out PCR’s analysis lab and develop service and training resources. “We’re trying to help the coffee producers who want to improve their quality by giving them concrete, qualitative analysis and feedback, while providing support services for the other end of the supply chain in cafe and retail spaces” she says. 

Madeleine at the Hawai'i coffee cupping during the Specialty Coffee Association's Coffee Expo 2019
Madeleine explains brew methods after a public presentation of her U.S. Brewers Cup routine.

Increasingly, she’s felt pulled to do more hands-on, community-focused work with coffee producers and professionals across Hawai`i—so much so that she recently left the Four Seasons and is now in the process of becoming one of PCR’s co-owners. “I feel like I’m having an impact on my local industry versus working for a luxury-brand hotel catering to the desires of millionaires,” she says. 

Madeleine’s work with the Hawai`i Coffee Association and recent election to the Specialty Coffee Association’s U.S. Chapter Committee as a community coordinator further allow her to focus her energy on raising the profile of regional coffee and the people who make it. 

“It’s about being able to connect with my community, being able to contribute something,” Madeleine says. “Something like putting Hawai`i coffee on the global map.”


By Sarah Stall
Photos courtesy of Madeleine Longoria Garcia ’13, Lauren Thormodsgard, and Alla Kostenko
Published July 10, 2019