10 Minutes with Roukiat Delrue

Roukiat makes friends wherever she goes.

Roukiat Delrue
@RoukiD
• National Bodies Manager, World Coffee Events
• CQI Q Services Manager, Coffee Quality Institute
• Independent Coffee Consultant
• Big-time volunteer!

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Interpreter for coffee producers
Boot Coffee Consultant
National Promotion Manager – Anacafe, 2005, Guatemala
Volunteer/Consultant: All over the place.

Roukiat—a prankster—is Belgian but lives and works in Guatemala.

Roukiat—a prankster—was born and raised in Belgium but now lives and works in Guatemala.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

I would have to say two things. First, that I realized early on how much of an impact coffee in general, at its different levels, can have on people and their livelihood! From producers and processing methods or auctions, all the way to barista champions whose lives are changed nationally or internationally. I never take an event lightly. There is always much to learn and much to teach.

Second, and maybe more personal, the constant learning, the constant evolution. I need to be challenged and be able to see and learn new things, and I don’t think anyone can say, I know ALL there is to know about coffee!  Each of the stages—agriculture, processing, roasting, brewing—is a world on its own and a world-in-motion, for that matter. That keeps it interesting and fun!

Roukiat horsing around with her friend, 2010 World Barista Champion Michael Phillips.

Roukiat horsing around with her friend, 2010 World Barista Champion Michael Phillips.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

So it’s not that I don’t think of this, but I don’t think 10 years ago I could ever have guessed where I am now. You make plans and then, simply, life gets in the way! I’ve learned, even more recently, that it is really important to be able to improvise in life. It might be a cliché phrase, but it’s why people say, “Life happens while you are busy making other plans.”

Roukiat with her friend Mbula Musau during a judges training for the East African Fine Coffees Association Conference.

Roukiat with her friend Mbula Musau during a judges training for the East African Fine Coffees Association Conference.

Who and what inspires you?

I’m really glad this is not a question that asks me to name one person; I think it’s possible to find inspiration in so many different daily things. At every level, you can find inspiration. Coffee farmers inspire me for sure. It’s so easy on the consumer level to think big theories and say, “Why don’t you try doing this (in processing/agriculture, etc.)?” When it comes to directly feeding your kids, I understand that farmers don’t want to take big risks. Obviously, some might work well and pay off, but still, we shouldn’t lose perspective of that!

Competitors inspire me because it takes a lot of guts and tons of preparation to compete. I have great admiration for them!

And I think if we take the time and talk to people, there might be something in everyone to inspire us! We each have our stories.

Roukiat has traveled to Africa many times to lead judges training sessions and work with competitive baristas.

Roukiat has traveled to Africa many times to lead judges training sessions and work with competitive baristas.

What are you drinking right now? 

Well, right this second, tea that I brought back from Taiwan. But coffee-wise, I’ve been drinking mostly Acatenango, “La Soledad” and basically looking forward to trying new harvest from Guatemala and Central America [in general]!

Rouki, in Lucha Libre mask at the Mexican Barista Championship, jokes around with her friend and fellow judge, Sonja Grant.

Rouki, in Lucha Libre mask at the Mexican Barista Championship, jokes around with her friend and fellow judge, Sonja Grant.

Crazy coffee experience you’d like to share?

This is kind of like the “who you admire” question—so hard to go for just one!

From funny immigration experiences where the questions after “I work in coffee” are either: a) do you work for Starbucks, or b) Oh! If you work in coffee, do you recommend Folgers or Maxwell House?

To visiting foreign hospitals..

To funny misunderstandings not just in competitions but like this one time in Africa when I ordered a “Coke Zero” and the waiter stared blankly at me saying he was all out of “Godzilla.”

To training a group of judges in Ethiopia and, come the barista competition day, they [all told me] they couldn’t drink milk that day because it was fasting day.

To admirable stories happening at barista competitions where either parents or children of competitors come tell us these amazing stories of how much [the barista] has struggled and the difference winning will make. I once just announced a winner at a national competition, and two tiny kids ran up to hug my legs. Since I didn’t know them, I looked over to the competitor, a 21-year-old single mom ,who told me, “I’ve really messed up in life, and you have given me the first reason to make my kids proud of me.” Little did she know this was not about me at all.

About the Author

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.