10 Minutes With Colin Whitcomb

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Colin Whitcomb
Head of Training and Quality Control
Madcap Coffee Co.
Washington, D.C.

 

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Barista. Key Holder. Barista-comma-Trainer. At the company-formerly-known-as Alterra Coffee Roasters, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

People, first and last. Then comes truth. Hemingway said that he could start a story when he had written one thing that he knew was true. There are many moments of truth in coffee. When someone loves a cup of coffee, that’s a very true and human thing. When you make a connection with people—even for an instant—while serving them, that lights me up. Cora Lambert recently told me that I glowed behind the counter. It surprises me how much can be obscured in the world of coffee. Drinking delicious coffee is an amazing thing, and ensuring that coffee is delicious is my job. But to me, coffee’s most amazing capacity is as a facilitator to allow people to feel human.

After living in Milwaukee for a long stretch, Colin moved to Washington, D.C., to work with Madcap Coffee.

After living in Milwaukee for a long stretch, Colin moved to Washington, D.C., to work with Madcap Coffee.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

I couldn’t even guess. Perhaps I should say I wouldn’t like to. I’m where I am because of following my heart, and I intend to do the same for the next 10 years. I hope I’m in coffee. I’d love to be with Madcap, to have made a home in DC. So, we’ll see. I’ll be out there taking it one day at a time.

Introspective and academic, Colin loves the way coffee moves people.

Introspective and academic, Colin loves the way coffee moves people.

Who and what inspires you?

All the baristas out there just starting in coffee. All the owners who live coffee day in and day out. Those who have compelling beliefs. My wife Emily’s courage and belief bowls me over. All the people struggling. Life isn’t easy, those who face adversity, and, coping, find a way to carry on give me hope and strength. All those who find something that speaks to their soul inspire me to continue on my journey.

What are you drinking right now? 

Madcap’s Kanzu, Rwanda. Lush, fruity, super delicious. I’ve been enjoying some killer teas from Rishi as well.

Colin is a veteran barista competition and brewers cup competitor. Look for him in Seattle at the SCAA competitions!

Colin is a veteran barista competition and brewers cup competitor. Look for him in Seattle at the SCAA competitions!

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

2009. WBC. Atlanta. There were 3 espresso bars set up by the competition. I somehow got Michael Elvin to let me jump on and make coffee. Overwhelmed. My first time working on the Mahlkönig K30 twin grinder. At that time the adjustment to the timing of the grinder was a bit more complicated than it is now, and I was only just starting to work on doserless grinders. Suddenly, I was making coffee next to a lanky Norwegian, and Scott Lucey rushed up to me and, in a hushed voice, queried:

“Do you know who that is?”

“No,” I said.

Tim Wendelboe,” he said.

“Who’s that?”

“2004 WBC Champion.”

I immediately began sweating and frantically attempted to dial in Daterra Brazil as perfectly as possible while having no success at doing this whatsoever. At the same time, Tim stood there swirling milk in a pitcher, staring at me and saying, “Just pull the shots, man!”

At that moment, many things crystalized in my brain that I only realized later, and that I will leave up to the reader to intuit.

Colin loves to be at home in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Emily.

Colin loves to be at home in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Emily.

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

Read and write poetry. Care for my orchids. Putter around the house. Go on dates with Emily. Eat brunch. Attempt to make cocktails. Sometimes I like to just sit and think and exist. When it’s in a pool of sun, I think I might be truly happy.

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.