Valorie Clark: The Sprudge Twenty Interview


Welcome to The Sprudge Twenty Interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2022 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.

Valorie is an angel in the City of Angels (…Los Angeles). I had the idea for Go Fund Bean but without encouragement from people like Valorie, it never would have happened. Since we began GFB in March of 2020, Valorie has sat on the Executive Board and acted as our secretary. She also runs most of our programs, especially our financial aid grants, Bean Development, and our monthly Calibration Notes publication, has done most of our communications with donors and recipients and handled all of our social media pretty much single-handedly. She calls herself the cat herder of GFB who makes sure things actually happen on time. Without her, GFB would be a different and much less effective organization. She also cares too much about the people we help? She reads every single application for grants and when she has to she sends personalized rejections with other suggestions for resources to help people. (I bet she also cries but she’d never admit it.) She deserves recognition for the hard work she does to make sure GFB reaches the people who need us.

Nominated by Adam JacksonBey

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

I love that coffee can be enjoyed on so many levels by people all over the world. If you want to really dive deep and learn all the science behind growing, roasting, and brewing, that’s available. But it can also be just a drink you have at a diner with friends and that’s great too. There are so many paths into enjoying coffee and I think that’s kind of beautiful.

Best song to brew coffee to at the moment.

Crush” by Tessa Violet. Though, to be fair, I just listen to that song all the time now.

Do you have a favorite item of clothing to make coffee in?

I almost always make coffee wearing baggy sweatpants and a baggier sweatshirt.

What cause or element in coffee drives you?

The people. I tried to leave the coffee industry, but I came back and I stick around because coffee people are unlike anyone else. I’m here for the people that are here.

What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?

I can’t stop thinking about how coffee is underpriced at every level. I’m frustrated that I paid almost the exact same amount for a latte today that I paid in 2011. Inflation has gone up 28.5% since then, why haven’t coffee retail prices? Why is coffee effectively the same price now as in 1950 when the quality has drastically improved, labor has gotten more expensive, and the product itself risks disappearing? I can’t name another product on earth that has that story. Everything else in the world has gotten more expensive, why hasn’t a latte?

Coffee has a marketing problem. Our customers think this product is so expensive and the reality is that it’s so underpriced. Until we can shift that mindset, I don’t know how this industry survives let alone becomes sustainable. Until we can get customers across the board to understand that coffee should probably cost about the same amount as craft beer, we can’t charge more for a cup, meaning we can’t pay baristas more, we can’t pay roasters more, we can’t pay farmers more, and the ongoing financial instability of so many people along the supply chain continues.

Please charge me 28.5% more, minimum.

If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?

I love my job right now, but at Go Fund Bean we talk a lot about working ourselves out of work. We wouldn’t have to exist if such chronic financial instability didn’t exist for hourly coffee workers. If coffee workers had a safety net, if they were paid a living wage, we would go chase other dreams.

I’ve always dreamed of working on a coffee farm in El Salvador–where my mother is from–for a year or two. Beyond that, maybe something in green buying to build relationships between coffee farmers and coffee retail.

Who are your coffee heroes?

I have so many, including the whole board of Go Fund Bean, but on the top of my mind are a few: Bronwen Serna, who has been so generous with her time and advice with me and welcomed me to LA when I moved here; Jonathan Riethmaier, who welcomed me into the larger coffee community when we were both living in DC and now runs Mammoth Espresso in such an ethical and fun way that I can’t help but be impressed by him and his wife/business partner Darlene; Ashley Rodriguez, whose badass work with Boss Barista is only surpassed by how truly funny and kind and thoughtful she is.

If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d say Anthony Bourdain, but honestly I’d probably just end up crying the whole time so I’ll spare him that. I studied history and have a podcast about historical rule-breakers–I’d love to have coffee with any of them.

What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?

To be suspicious of a boss who says, “we’re all family here.” Unless you’re literally related to your boss by blood, no, you’re not family. A boss who insists you are family is also a boss who is going to text you at 3:00am asking if you can open, who is going to scream at you and not apologize, who is going to belittle you and then mock you for being annoyed about it. Your boss is not your family.

The Sprudge Twenty Interviews are presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2022 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.




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