The Sprudge Twenty interview series continues today in conversation with Jiyoon Han, a coffee professional who splits her time between the Harvard Business School and her work as one-half of a mother/daughter team at Bean & Bean Coffee in New York City. Jiyoon Han is also a Sprudge contributor, and her work has been featured by Huffington Post, Harvard Business School Newsroom, Hello Alice, Boss Barista and more.
“Jiyoon Han is a classmate of mine at Harvard Business School and we co-founded the Coffee and Tea Club shortly after meeting for the first time. We wanted to create a platform to elevate specialty coffee in the business school community and create an alternative social platform that did not involve alcohol for networking and relationship-building. Jiyoon has also been such a great asset to her community in NYC where her cafe is by providing free coffee and sandwiches to first responders and frontline workers. Such an admirable feat. I have learned so much from her, not just on coffee, but also in the gender equity-focused work that she is so passionate about. I have seen her efforts translated throughout the coffee value chain from sourcing to roasting and brewing and it has been such a pleasure working with her.”
Nominated by Luqzan Mustafa Kamal.
How have the challenges of this last year informed your work?
External limitations placed on us can be freeing and let us see things in a new way.
What cause or element in coffee drives you?
The element that drives me most is the collaborative nature of coffee. At least 30-40 people are involved in making possible a cup of coffee. How incredible is that? And I would like everyone in this process to improve their quality of life through coffee.
On a more personal level, I love that I have the power to deliver simple pleasures to people, through the coffees I source, curate, and serve. I do what I do because I want to create lasting positive and tangible impact through coffee in the community and world I’m living in.
What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?
Gender equity in coffee. There is more dialogue around this now than before, which is great. Despite comprising half of the coffee workforce, women earn significantly less than their male counterparts and lack access to proper training and resources. At my family-owned coffee business in NY, Bean & Bean, I work with my mom to bridge the gender gap in coffee throughout the value chain. We strive for women to get their fair share from origin to cup. Currently, more than half of all of our coffee is sourced from farms that are owned or led by women. Coffee to me is about the mothers, families, and communities behind it.
On a product level, I think decaf coffee often gets overlooked. Super tasty decaf is hard to find. I’m on a mission to make tasty decaf available to coffee drinkers. There are many people who struggle with anxiety and just cannot handle caffeine; pregnant women, too, often avoid caffeine. And we can only drink so much caffeine in a day. So I’m always looking out for tasty decaf coffee—my mom and I do decaf-only cuppings, and also do blind cuppings with regular coffee and decaf coffee at the same table. I love the decaf coffees we source and roast!
What is the quality you like best about coffee?
Coffee keeps me on my toes! There’s always more to be curious about in coffee—it never gets boring. I’m naturally a curious person and wanting to learn new things. There’s more to learn, more to uncover and discover, more to experiment with, more to do.
Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?
Well, sometimes I still look at coffee and think, this drink that most people in the world drink every day comes from the seed of a coffee cherry. How did humans decide to start making drinks out of fruit seeds? It’s remarkable!
What is your idea of coffee happiness?
Sharing my coffees with the people I love.
If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
What I’m doing together with my mom is already my dream job in coffee. Sourcing, cupping, curating, roasting delicious coffees from farms we like and want to support—using coffee as a vehicle to further causes we believe in.
Who are your coffee heroes?
My mom and my dad. My family immigrated to New York from South Korea when I was 10. Coffee is how we built our new life in the US.
Do you have any coffee mentors?
I really think coffee mentorship needs to be more of a thing. Outside of coffee, just in life, I am grateful to have some key mentor figures in my life who have challenged me and opened up doors for me. I strive to do the same for others too—especially for people of color and those who look like me and have immigrant parents.
You’re the first barista on Mars. What’s on your brew bar?
All the ingredients for the best espresso martini.
Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.