10 Minutes With Dan Griffin

David and Dan: Third Rail Coffee

Dan Griffin
U.S. Relationship Manager
TG LAB
Los Angeles, California/Guatemala City, Guatemala

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Bar back, Cash-ista, Barista, Barista Trainer, Consultant, Cafe Manager
Seattle: Barnes & Noble Cafe; Perkengruven (out of business); Irwins Bakery; Cafe Fiore
Portland: Random Order, Albina Press
New York City: Cafe Collage, Everyman Espresso, El Beit, Variety, Third Rail Coffee, Toby’s Estate
Los Angeles:  Sqirl, TG LAB

Dan visits his former co-worker, Rita Kaminsky, at her job in San Francisco as manager of Andrew Barnett's Linea Caffe.

Dan visits his former co-worker, Rita Kaminsky, at her job in San Francisco as manager of Andrew Barnett’s Linea Caffe.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

The people!  So many wonderful people work in our industry and I feel very fortunate to have many of them as close friends. I can think of no other industry where a person could have so many great friends all over the world. Also, the coffee ain’t bad.

Dan (right) with his friend, Mike Jones, at Battle on the Bowery.

Dan (right) with his friend, Mike Jones, at Battle on the Bowery.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

This is a great question and one that we have been asking ourselves at TG.  Over the next 10 years there are going to be a lot of changes in the industry, especially at the farm level. There is a new generation of farmers ready to come into their own. They understand the specialty market and they are passionate about coffee quality. We are going to see some really amazing and new coffees come from these farmers! For me, I hope to be right in the middle of it all trying to bring these coffees to the best roasters in the world in more and more transparent ways. I would also like to own a small percentage of the Portland Trailblazers and be a ranked semi professional ping pong player.

Dan is a devoted (and driven) ping pong player.

Dan is a devoted (and driven) ping pong player.

Who and what inspires you?

Coffee inspires me for sure, which might sound weird but it is a really amazing plant. It has traveled all around the world and it works hard to bring us together. Our desire for coffee has led us down some dark roads, it is no secret that coffee production has been and, in many cases, can still unfortunately be exploitive of the people that work the land. This will totally sound cheesy but as our love of coffee grows and the better and more specialized it gets, the more we find ourselves thinking about the people that produce it. To me, this is very inspiring and hopefully helps foster equal partnerships between roasters and farmers.

I am greatly inspired by my dear friend Christopher Scheirer who passed away this summer. Christopher helped steer my career path towards working with TG Lab in Guatemala, and he is a constant voice in my head (he talked a lot!) that pushes me to work harder and to be conscious of the effect of coffee on all people.

And then there is Andrew Barnett. He has the purest true love of coffee of anyone I have ever met. Always very inspiring!

Most importantly, Ruby, my wife and partner, is the best person alive! She inspires me everyday!

Third Rail Gothic: Dan and friend, Laura.

Third Rail Gothic: Dan and friend, Laura.

What are you drinking right now?

Mayaland’s (a roaster in Guatemala) reserve roast of Finca Marillano’s caturra lot. Very sweet and clean coffee with a distinct cinnamon note floating on the surface of the profile. In many ways, it is a  simple coffee but I have never had one quite like it.

Crazy coffee experience you’d like to share?

Well, most of those are not fit to print! Probably the craziest thing is that 15 years ago, while making Frappaccinos at Barnes & Noble cafe, I never would have dreamed that coffee would be my career. It’s crazy to think that I started there and am now working for a a coffee laboratory in Guatemala.

What do you do when you’re not doing coffee?

Ping pong, video games, basketball, cooking, eating, sleeping.

Dan and staffers at Third Rail supporting marriage equality.

Dan, Mike Jones, and Third Rail owner, Humberto Ricardo, supporting marriage equality.

 

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.