10 Minutes With Zaida Mikayla Dedolph

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Zaida Mikayla Dedolph
Retail Manager, Old Town
Intelligentsia Coffee
Chicago, Illinois

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Director of Operations at Time Bandits LLC (the parent company for Halfwit Coffee Roasters, the Wormhole Coffee, and Fritz Pastry), Chicago, Illinois
Coffee Bar Manager at Frank Restaurant, Austin, Texas
Barista at Caffe Streets, Chicago, Illinois
Barista Trainer at the Brothers K / Other Brother Coffee, Evanston, Illinois
Barista at the Willow House Coffee, Phoenix, Arizona (RIP)

In addition, I’ve bussed tables, washed dishes, served, expedited in kitchens, and dabbled in bartending. Working in restaurants has been pivotal in shaping my understanding of what customer service can and should mean. I think we as coffee professionals can glean a lot from a full-service mentality. It takes talent to prepare food and to make great drinks, but it’s a skill on a whole other level to create an amazing experience with a meal or a beverage.

She looks awfully serious here, but anyone who knows Zaida knows she's loves coffee as much as she loves having fun.

She looks awfully serious here, but anyone who knows Zaida knows she’s loves coffee as much as she loves having fun.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

The world can be a big, bad place, but coffee makes it sweeter and smaller. I love being part of a global community of farmers, producers, processors, buyers, roasters, agronomists, cuppers, retailers, and the occasional casual caffeine addict.

Zaida inspires because she's humble and gracious. She's crazy talented as a coffee professional, too—that means she's got killer barista skills as well as a head for business and management. But she'd never brag about that to you. She'd rather guzzle coffee from a Chemex.

Zaida inspires because she’s humble and gracious. She’s crazy talented as a coffee professional, too—that means she’s got killer barista skills as well as a head for business and management. But she’d never brag about that to you. She’d rather guzzle coffee from a Chemex.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally? I’d like to be living in a world where service-industry professionals, farmers, and producers can learn a decent, living wage. In this world, everybody has access to affordable health care and nutritious food and clean water, and we’ve stopped polluting the planet because we all fly to work on the backs of our pegacorns.

Realistically, I’ll be working to save the world with math and science and eternal optimism. And drinking great coffee.

Zaida's a dreamer and an optimist, but she's also a total brainiac, and that means she has a tall order for what she expects from the world. She's willing to go the extra mile to make the planet a better place, and she thinks you should be, too.

Zaida’s a dreamer and an optimist, but she’s also a total brainiac, and that means she has a tall order for what she expects from the world. She’s willing to go the extra mile to make the planet a better place, and she thinks you should be, too.

Who and what inspires you?

In no particular order:
• Nancy Scheper-Hughes
• Paul Farmer
• My mom. Duh.
• Breakfast tacos
• Lunch and dinner tacos
• This uncompromising belief I have that we can and should repair the gaping gender imbalance and subsequent discrepancy in earnings between farm workers and farm owners in producing regions
• This other uncompromising belief I have that we can and should repair the gaping gender imbalance and subsequent discrepancy in earnings between retail workers and cafe owners/coffee roasters/buyers in the U.S.
• My cats, Squash and Ruby

What are you drinking right now?

Honey Orchid Dan Cong from Kilogram Tea—it’s phe-nom-nom-nom-enal! Delectably aromatic, floral, nectar-like. It’s the kind of tea that makes you blush, it just tickles every little bit of you.

Zaida made a new friend on a recent visit to the local dairy.

Zaida made a new friend on a recent visit to the local dairy.

Crazy coffee experiences you’d like to share?

I’m not sure if this counts but…

During my first Big Central Regional Barista Competition, I spilled a shot of espresso all over a judge (it was Mallory Roth from Askinosie; she was an absolute doll about it). When I worked at Caffe Streets, a coworker and I were lifting a huge cambro full of sipping chocolate into the refrigerator and somehow I wound up covered from head to toe in chocolate.  That sounds a lot more fun that it actually was in real life. Spilling things is kind of my legacy.

About the Author

Sarah

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.