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Meet Nancy Alvarez and Shannon Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nancy Alvarez (Right) and Shannon Smith (Left).

Nancy and Shannon, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Both Shannon and I had corporate jobs and often worked long hours, coffee was the magic fuel that kept us going. Funny enough, we used to not like drinking it. Coffee was something we needed but did not enjoy. In our defense, we were drinking the stale and burnt coffee at the office. On the weekends, we started experimenting at home with different brewing methods, roasts, and coffee from different regions. Soon we began to recognize the distinctive notes and which brewing method was best to highlight the flavors in the coffee. We were learning one cup at a time and tasting the world without leaving our home. Our palate evolved as well as our knowledge. That is what inspired us to create Scary Good Coffee. We wanted to elevate our coffee experience from the comfort of our own home and share what we have learned with other people.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall, and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Early in our research, we realized the coffee industry was very underrepresented by minorities and women. The majority of coffee growers worldwide are people of color and women play a huge part in the harvesting and sorting; however, they are often excluded from decision-making positions or from becoming business owners. This was eye-opening for us and one of the reasons that motivated us to create our own company. We wanted to be part of changing the representation of women, especially women of color in the coffee industry.

We are an LGBTQ+ Black and Latina women-owned company and the coffee industry is a very male-dominated field. We feel we are not only trying to break into a very expensive industry but also fighting for visibility and representation.

Please tell us about Scary Good Coffee.
We are a cold brew specialty coffee shop. We are based in Long Beach and focus on flavors that incorporate our cultural backgrounds, non-Eurocentric coffee-making methods, and freshly roasted coffee beans. We serve anyone who enjoys coffee, but we put a special emphasis on creating a safe space for people with historically marginalized identities. We offer roasted coffee beans that are exceptional and sourced with high ethical standards as well as house-crafted drinks that have been meticulously created. We want to bring coffee to our customers that is exciting and memorable such as our Zombie Breakfast Blend, a beautiful Central and South America blend that is medium roasted, perfect for those mornings when you need to feel alive. We feel we understand most coffee drinkers and want to help them stay caffeinated. Our name was inspired by looking around the office and realizing that most of our co-workers were half-asleep before having their cup of coffee. We all have met someone who acts like a zombie in the morning and can be a bit of a monster without coffee. That is our inspiration, all those poorly caffeinated people that need to wake up. Because mornings can be scary without coffee.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
As a child, I (Nancy) was raised in El Salvador. On the weekends, my family and I would often go to fincas de cafe (coffee farms). Most of them are near volcanoes and sometimes have small cafes or restaurants. You see the whole cycle of coffee, from the cherries being on trees to the processing and drying, to later drinking it. Most people never get to experience coffee like that. Those experiences made me appreciate the labor of love that coffee truly is. The flavors I grew up with were so different from what we were drinking here. I wanted to bring those flavors from my childhood to our everyday cup.

Where do you see your industry going over the next 5-10 years? Any big shifts, changes, trends, etc?
We think the U.S. palate has relied for years on artificial flavors, flavored syrups, and frozen drinks when it comes to coffee. The influence of the espresso machine around the world has disconnected us from other brewing methods. Espresso coffee is great if you enjoy strong coffee in small doses, but most people do not. As a response, they add tons of sugar and cream that take away from the flavor of coffee. What we are noticing is more people breaking away from those flavors. Consumers want to learn more about where their coffee comes from and learn ways to enjoy it without additives. We have seen that with the popularity of cold brew and pour over methods, people are going back to black coffee. Another big change is people becoming more sustainable and realizing global warming can affect the future of coffee. The coffee plant is a very delicate plant; it requires very specific conditions to grow. Extreme temperatures, droughts and sea levels rising are threats to an already vulnerable plant. Our hope is that the industry becomes more sustainable and helps fight climate change. We would like to also see more diversity and representation that includes the valuable contributions of women and people of color to the coffee industry.

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Image Credit:

Javier Santos-Garcia, Alex Moon, Oleksandr Nechyporenko

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