One of the most exciting aspects of Ken’s and my jobs as owners/editors/writers/lightbulb-changers/garbage-taker-outers/and-everything-in-between at Barista Magazine is discussing candidates for the cover of future issues. It’s also one of the most time consuming, as well as frustrating, because we publish six issues per year, and one of them automatically goes to the year’s World Barista Championship winner. So we have five.
We seek to represent different countries, different regions, different genders. That’s another challenge—there are so many, many people we would like to celebrate with a Barista Magazine cover, and just too few covers to do it.
We look for leaders—people who inspire within the industry. We want people who are humble, who will stop whatever they’re doing for five minutes to answer a question from a budding barista. We want someone who is transparent to the point of being near invisible: people who share and discuss everything, and with everyone.
We talk about who we’re putting on the cover months in advance, and we have an ongoing list of people we would like to feature. We consider it an honor for us, for Barista Magazine, to have this kind of person on the cover of our little magazine, and we tell them that. We thank them profusely.
So a while ago, discussing future covers, Ken said, “Marcus!” and I said, “Oh my god—Marcus!” And for the first time ever, there was no more discussion—it was an immediate yes, of course, duh!, moment.
Marcus Boni has inspired literally thousands of baristas. He started in coffee with Intelligentsia in Chicago as a barista. He moved into a management role and thrived—people love to follow his lead. He is gentle and kind; he has time to talk to every single one of you. He did that while overseeing the organization of several Great Lakes Regional Barista Competitions. He did that as a judge for both U.S. competitions and the World Barista Championship, where he was regarded as such an honest, even handed, exceptional judge that he sat at the table during finals rounds.
He moved into work for the SCAA seamlessly, at a time when I wondered who could ever do as good a job, who could possibly care for and sacrifice themselves for the good of the barista community as much as Michelle Campbell had in that job. Marcus could, and did. Makes sense considering how close he and Michelle were, and continue to be today.
Marcus managed the U.S. regional competitions, as well as the United States Barista Championship, as well as the World Barista Championship, during his tenure at the SCAA. And he did it fabulously. He listened to the Barista Guild of America’s plea for a retreat of its own, and worked night and day until Camp Pull-A-Shot was realized. Camp was a success right from the start, and now takes place two times a year.
I’m not being dramatic when I say that when Marcus announced he was leaving the SCAA, the international barista community took a breath and held it—what would happen? Who could take Marcus’ place? But knowing Marcus, he wouldn’t leave without knowing it would all be OK. And now he’s on the board for the World Barista Championship—he’s not going anywhere, folks.
But he is where he really wants to be. He’s working for Kaldi’s Coffee, a terrific specialty outfit based in St. Louis. He and his husband, Tony, have a house with a yard for their beloved pugs, have more time together. Marcus’ travel schedule isn’t insane any more. And he gets to work bar a few times a week, something he loves.
Anyone who cares passionately about this industry of ours has moments of frustration, and I’m sure as hell one of them. I throw up my hands because things aren’t changing fast enough, or something’s not perfect. And if Ken’s not around to calm me down, I often think of Marcus. I think of his grace under pressure, his ability to juggle 106 balls in the air at one time, his knack for making people happy, letting them known they’ve been heard.
So that’s why, if anyone’s asking. Why Marcus? Of course Marcus. What took us so long?