An Interview with Matty Bolchi
Matty Bolchi doesn't really require an introduction. A veteran in Latte Art Competition and a friend to many, Matty took some time to reflect with us on the ways that his perspective has changed over the past 10 years of being a barista. He spoke to us on the things that he feels are truly important in the industry but are often missed. Keep reading to see more of his thoughts!
Tell us a little bit about how you got into coffee, how long have you been in the industry? What originally piqued your interest?
Matty: To start, thank you so much for including me in your interviews. I am super excited about it. I use Slow Pour Supply products daily at the café and also made the switch this year for the competition. They're tight.
Anyway, I have been working in specialty coffee now for nearly ten years. My first joint was a couple of Caribou Coffees (remember that Starlight Blend?) in Detroit's suburbs. This is where coffee really fostered into a passion and career for me. Before coffee I was working as a design engineer and wanted to eat knives everyday. In a way, coffee brought me out of a really shitty emotional spot.
While I was in Detroit, I heard about this kid named Nathan Hamood (13 years old at the time) who was roasting coffee and pouring hearts table side in people's drinks. Certainly drew my attention. I went there but unfortunately missed him because he was checking out his first Coffee Fest in Chicago with his Pops. I came back later when I knew they'd be back in town and hit it off pretty well with the whole family. Shout out to Nathan and the Dessert Oasis Coffee Roasters family. Nate and I became like brothers over the years and they've expanded to two roasters and three cafes.
What do you think are the more important aspects of the coffee industry? How do you stay in perspective when reflecting on these bigger issues?
Matty: The most important aspects of the coffee industry...its all about people, right? It's people. Whether on a global, communal, or individual level.
For example, I'm a barista. My job as far as I can read it is to provide a service in improving an individual's day. Whether it’s the product in their cup, a genuine interaction, or maybe even just the general hospitality that is put around that person, ultimately, the effort is to make somebody happy. I see no reason why this effort should stop here. This goes for every level of the "supply chain" or "seed to cup". There are so many people involved in this industry that are struggling. We need to find a way to make this sustainable or, I mean, Christ, even economically viable so that the people involved have a reason to be and can find the same happiness that the end consumer does. Perhaps a general call for accountability is what needs to happen. Having that accountability is a lot more difficult than simply playing a blame game so I understand the hold up...I suppose. Shoot, many cafes that I have been a part of or visited struggle with accountability. Trying to get an entire industry to do this is exhausting but f***ing necessary.
You have cultivated great community within the coffee industry, talk to us about these friendships, how have you been impacted by the people in the coffee world?
Matty: Thank you. It’s been an absolute pleasure. I have met some of my closest friends through coffee and competitions. People that you've looked up to for guidance, advice, pointers, or inspiration soon become peers, then friends, and in some special cases, your family. It's wild. A handful of these people knew about my detailed plan in proposing to my now fiancé. They helped me through the process and what to expect for planning the next phase.
For me, the biggest impact I have received from people in the coffee world is perspective. That willingness to share experiences and failures and come ups and scope have totally changed the way I conduct myself. I feel it’s changed me for the better. For the most part, I feel we learn two ways - through introduction and through new experiences. . People in coffee have introduced me to so many new things which makes me want to do more . This created the opportunity to learn more than I ever knew I could because ya know - if you don't know, you don't know. I am always looking to elevate my skills, try new things, read more and get involved in more. It’s truly remarkable. I just hope I do a fairly good job of giving back in the same way that I have gained.
In the last 10 years of working in the industry, in what ways has your perspective changed?
Matty: This is kinda funny. When I first started, I simply didn't get it. By it, I mean the scope. How much of an impact, a positive one at that, you can make through this industry. I feel that this scope reaches through multiple positions in this industry too. Not just as a barista, but also a green buyer, or owner, or roaster, or whatever. My head was so down and focused on the product that I was missing the connection with what "it" is all about: “People”. I know now that it doesn't have to be a choice. You can do both. Brew and make excellent coffee to drink while providing something for the soul. The service end of the job, and the coolest f***ing thing is, it works both ways. Your guests and yourself get so much out of it!
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us, here's one last question! If there was one thing that you wish everyone entering into the coffee world could know, what would that be?
Matty: I am very happy to be a part of it. Thank you back! This is a tough one for me. I may have to say more than a single one thing...I guess, just know this. Nobody owes you shit. You're not entitled to anything. Work hard, clean as much as you can, get as good as you can at everything pertaining to your job/career/life. Make the most of the time you have and be f***ing happy. I think we're kind of in some transitional phase where the world, in all honesty, is your oyster but it can absolutely crush you too. However, if you're excellent at certain things and deeply care for people you can make anything out of yourself in any career you choose. If it happens to be coffee in any capacity, awesome. If not, awesome. Either way, there are a million plus things to learn in this industry and so so so many beautiful people to build a cluster with. I love you all and wish you the best.
A huge thank you to Matty for taking the time to speak with us! He spoke about the impact that both the people and the industry have had on him, but we know that he too has had an incredible influence on those around him as well.
Article By Amy Smithwick
Photo Credits to Hawkeye Johnson and @_lizamarie