10 Minutes With Noah Namowicz

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Noah Namowicz
Director of International Sales
Café Imports
Minneapolis, Minnesota

What other coffee jobs have you had?

I was actually hired by Café Imports directly out of school at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul where I studied entrepreneurship. Before UST, I had a brief stint at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Originally I am from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My mom’s side of the family in Wisconsin actually got their start in owning a dairy creamery, then an egg production facility, so it is no big surprise that I landed in a job working with an aspect of the food industry.

Noah (black shirt) with the barista champions in Costa Rica in 2012, on the origin trip Café Imports awarded them as a prize.

Noah (black shirt) with the barista champions in Costa Rica in 2012, on the origin trip Café Imports awarded them as a prize.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

I really enjoy the reality that most of us are people that normally would not mix. Coffee brings together so many different personality types, backgrounds, and beliefs, and puts us all together in the big latte art throwdown of life. I appreciate gaining perspectives and seeing different ways of life whether that is on a rural farm in Huila or Melbourne, Australia. It helps me to become a more well-rounded person, father, husband, and coffee professional. In addition, I love how selfless our industry is. Most of the professional development events put on are fueled by volunteers, and some of my best friends I’ve met through volunteering alongside them at different coffee gatherings. We are all in this together, and that is comforting and inspiring to me.

Noah playing soccer with green coffee buyers and producers in Colombia.

Noah playing soccer with green coffee buyers and producers in Colombia.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

I love the Midwest, and would be happy to stay in Minnesota or Wisconsin. I sort of see myself like Robin Yount or Kirby Puckett, staying loyal to the team that brought me up, so I can see Café Imports being my home for a long long time until I move to Arizona to retire…OK, maybe that took the baseball analogy too far… let’s be serious—I definitely will be retiring in the Bahamas.

In December, Noah and his wife, Megan, welcomed Archie. Big sister Bryn is delighted with her new little brother.

In December, Noah and his wife, Megan, welcomed Archie. Big sister Bryn is delighted with her new little brother.

Who and what inspires you?

Having always been drawn to marketing, I really get inspired by businesses that have incredibly strong and interesting brand identities. It fascinates me really. I love the idea of creating a physical representation of the culture of a business, especially when that culture is worth talking about.

That being said, Kevin (Callahan) from Colectivo Coffee Roasters (formerly Alterra) and the Colby/Ryan duo at Verve Coffee Roasters inspire me by their brand decisions.  All of those guys seem to have the uncanny ability to nail what those companies embody and what they stand for in such a beautiful and accurate way through their marketing I am constantly blown away.

Having grown up in Milwaukee, I can absolutely say that Alterra’s branding has always just been true to not only what they stand for, but also a larger representation of the blue collar city of Milwaukee, and in many ways Alterra became a huge part of the social fabric that is Milwaukee.  It is so awesome to me to have contributed to that.

Similarly, if you said, “OK, Noah, close your eyes and think about the dudes from Verve, their genuine character, and hanging out with them in Santa Cruz,” then their marketing and intent design choices instantly come to mind. I don’t know Santa Cruz as well as I know Milwaukee, but I do know that their branding is true to my experience with them and their town.

So in a way, I also look at their impressive work as contributing to the larger awareness of good coffee and some of the social aspects that we all hold close to our hearts. The design work attracts large crowds of people to their brands, helps to solidify loyalty, makes specialty coffee a priority for their consumers, and ultimately helps to push the craft of specialty coffee on a macro level.  I just think those guys deserve a big thank you for what they’ve done for our larger industry through their design.

Noah took to riding a city bike in Nice, France, last summer when he attended the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe's World of Coffee event.

Noah took to riding a city bike in Nice, France, last summer when he attended the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe’s World of Coffee event.

What are you drinking right now? 

Matt and Adrienne just got back from the Big Eastern Barista competition with a bunch of goodies, and I currently have a cup of Square One Sulawesi Tana Toraja. Such a beautiful coffee! A fully washed Indonesian is such a rarity, so I always appreciate when I get the opportunity to drink one of this caliber from a seriously talented roaster. Rich and creamy with sage, chocolate, lime, plum, and super clean. “Bath Robe” coffee as my colleague Tim Chapdelaine would say.

As the Director of International Sales for Café Imports, Noah travels the world meeting with coffee farmers as well as specialty roasters. Café Imports has an outstanding track record: it sourced coffee used by Pete Licata to win the World Barista Championship.

As the Director of International Sales for Café Imports, Noah travels the world meeting with coffee farmers as well as specialty roasters. Café Imports has an outstanding track record: it sourced coffee used by Pete Licata to win the World Barista Championship.

Crazy/memorable coffee experience you’d like to share?

I am really fortunate to go on the barista origin trips that Café Imports sponsors. I missed Kenya because we just had our second child, a baby boy Archie, but I did go with the crew to Costa Rica. A few of us planned a personal day at the end of the trip to go rafting in the Pacuare river. One of our two rafts ended up getting stuck in the rapids, and they had to jump out into the water and swim to safety. Jared Truby and I threw up the Hunger Games hand symbol and whistle to let them know we were with them. Everyone made it out safely, and thankfully we did get some pretty good footage of the whole ordeal. We all looked back and laughed, but it was pretty hairy for a few seconds. We threw some of it up on our vimeo page.

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

Well, it’s no secret I really love Crossfit.  I am actually a level 1 certified instructor and teach a few classes a week at my gym, Timberwolf Crossfit, in Saint Paul. My wife, Megan, drank the Kool-aid, too, and she teaches yoga there one day a week in addition to her training. It is a family affair. There actually is a coffee/crossfit crew that gets together at national coffee events and tries to hit a few classes. I have to say, at this point I may have as many crossfit gym shirts from coffee travel as I do coffee shirts, which is a feat in itself. Our daughter, Bryn, is almost 3 so we are pretty well occupied with always something to do. I also really enjoy cooking. I wear the chef hat in our house. Joe Marrocco, my colleague at Café Imports, is a really talented cook, so I enjoy picking his brain and trying to execute at home  I recently started smoking meat, which is so fun, we could talk about that forever. Joe and I will be making sausage this winter—keep an eye out for it.

The infamous river rafting trip in Costa Rica.

The infamous river rafting trip in Costa Rica.

 

 

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.