Remembering Emelyne Smith


My heart broke clear in half when I learned that bright, sweet Emelyne Smith had taken her own life last Wednesday in New York City. She was only 31 years old.

I got to know Emelyne—or Emmy as her friends called her—through email and over the phone. An aspiring journalist, Emmy was fascinated by the coffee world and community within which she lived and worked as a barista at Joe New York for the last four years. She pitched story ideas to me about her network, and what she learned while studying the industry through travels to Seattle to work with David Schomer, and Rhode Island to attend the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Coffee Conference (MANE) as a writer for Joe’s blog.

Raised in Ithaca, N.Y., Emmy studied journalism in college in New Jersey. Like many who have gone on, as she did, to become stand-outs in the coffee industry, Emmy fell in love with coffee while trying to make some extra cash as a student when she took a job at the cafe, Small World, in Princeton. What began as a part-time gig lasted five years, and though she went on to excel in her work at Joe, she still considered the Small World staff part of her family. She laughed when she told me she had been drinking coffee daily since age 11, and, being quite petite, mused at whether she would be any taller if she’d stuck to orange juice.

Emmy was effervescent. She was a whirlwind of energy and laughter and kindness and color. She told me her mom would flip out when she learned Emmy had a story in Barista Magazine, even though she had already been published in such journals as BUST. That’s how intent she was on sticking with coffee, as a barista as well as a writer.

She loved horror movies and her rescue dog, Panda. And she was a darling of the Joe Coffee staff. “She embodied everything good about coffee and community—she was an amazing person, with us for four years, and acted as our coffee educator at Grand Central as well as our HR manager for the whole company,” says Joe owner Jonathan Rubinstein. “She was adored, revered even, by the staff and customers who set up a makeshift memorial for her at the Grand Central shop.

Though she wore a cheery face to most of those she encountered every day, Emmy struggled desperately with depression, which led to her tragic decision to end her own life last week. Emmy’s mother would like to raise awareness of depression and suicide issues, and asks that any donation gifts Emmy’s friends would like to make be directed to The Samaritans, a non-religious, community-based organization in the NYC-Metropolitan area solely devoted to preventing suicide and helping people in crisis.

For those of you in New York, there will be a memorial for Emmy at Joe’s Headquarters, 131 West 21st Street, on Wednesday evening.

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.