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 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.”