10 Minutes With Ryan Willbur

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Ryan Willbur
Marketing, Education, & Coffee Coordinator
La Marzocco USA
Seattle, Washington

What other coffee jobs have you had?

My first job in coffee was as a barista for Lava Java in Ridgefield, Wash., and it’s kind of crazy how many life-long coffee professionals have come from that little cafe in a tiny town. I spent some time in Minneapolis, Minn., as a barista for Kopplin’s Coffee, and as a roaster for Paradise Coffee Roasters. I would say my actual career in coffee started when Intelligentsia Coffee gave me an incredible opportunity in Los Angeles. I spent three years as a barista at the coffee bar in Silver Lake. In 2010, I moved back to the Northwest and spent some time as an account manager and trainer for Stumptown Coffee Roasters in Portland, Oregon.

Ryan answers questions at La Marzocco's Pressure & Flow event in San Francisco in 2013.

Ryan answers questions at La Marzocco’s Pressure & Flow event in San Francisco in 2013.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

It’s the simple fact that coffee means something to just about everyone. Sometimes that’s the nostalgia of how your grandmother brews really weak tasting Folger’s (at least mine does). Other times, it’s the passion with which a barista or roaster talks about the relationship they’ve formed with a coffee producer. I travel a decent amount, and anytime I’m in a cab, I somehow end up listening to the driver telling me some story that they have about coffee. I’d imagine it wouldn’t quite be the same if I were an accountant.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

When I picture myself 10 years from now, I don’t see the surroundings being too different. I work with amazing people at La Marzocco, and it’s a company I hope to continue to grow with for a long time. That kind of job satisfaction is so incredibly rare, I’d be foolish to take it for granted. I do hope to have many more stories from great experiences under my belt. I love to travel and have a continually growing list of places I want to see and visit. I’m lucky to have a fantastic girlfriend, and I’m sure that family will continue to play a more significant role over time… anyway… Next question!

With help from Jim Karr of Steamvolt in Chicago, Ryan packs up a La Marzocco at the end of Barista Camp in Wisconsin, June 2013.

With help from Jim Karr of Steamvolt in Chicago, Ryan packs up a La Marzocco at the end of Barista Camp in Wisconsin, June 2013.

Who and what inspires you?

I’m a big fan of Chef Grant Achatz. He’s a smart guy, who uses forward-thinking techniques to create complex food. At the same time, he has an incredible sense of humor that can be found in all of his dining experiences. It’s incredibly inspiring to me when someone so talented is striving for excellence while still being able to revel in the love and joy of their craft.

What are you drinking right now? 

Right now, I’ve got a cup of Intelligentsia Bolivia Anjilanaka, and it’s pretty bangin’. That’s one of the best parts of my job. I get to enjoy coffee from all over the world, and from hundreds of roasting companies.

Ryan (middle) with friends Sarah Allen of Barista Magazine and Jacob Ellul-Blake of Pantechnicon Design, in Florence, Italy, in the fall of 2013.

Ryan (middle) with friends Sarah Allen of Barista Magazine and Jacob Ellul-Blake of Pantechnicon Design, in Florence, Italy, in the fall of 2013.

Crazy coffee experience you’d like to share?

It’s not too crazy, nor is it directly about the coffee, but back in October, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Paris on vacation. While there I went to Holy Belly. If you are ever in Paris, you must visit this cafe. The coffee was fantastic. The space is both well designed and comfortable. Best of all, their breakfast dishes are delicious. I had poached eggs on toast with seared blood sausage, and it was amazing… but the crazy part is that wherever their eggs were coming from at the time, every single egg had two yokes. Bonkers.

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.