Photos c/o Tracy Gill.
Tracy Gill is someone who knows what goes into coffee competition and what it takes to perfect the game. Over the last 7 years, she has coached competitors and performed at competitions herself. It was through this experience, combined with her background as a coffee educator, that helped shaped her perspective on the coffee industry.
"My dream as a coffee educator was always to make coffee feel accessible to all who want to be a part of the experience, so I love to see others shine on the competition stage." — Tracy Gill
We're excited to spend some time with Gill, to learn about her view of competition, some of the biggest lessons she learned, and the one change she would make about the coffee industry.
Brewista: Tell us about your most memorable moments in your coffee journey, and what ignited your love of specialty coffee.
Tracy Gill: I started working in coffee at Starbucks when I was 19. Back then (I’m old) they had a La Marzocco semi-automatic espresso machine with doser grinders. They had a separate training center where I went at night and learned to cup coffee and taste the different flavor attributes found in coffee. From that moment, I was so interested in coffee and that really started my 15 year coffee journey.
As a coffee educator, competitor, and coach, how has your view of the competition stage changed over the years?
I love watching the competitions. The biggest change I have seen over the years is more representation of other coffee professionals outside of our bearded white male counterparts. My dream as a coffee educator was always to make coffee feel accessible to all who want to be a part of the experience, so I love to see others shine on the competition stage.
What are some of the biggest lessons you learned, personally or professionally, while competing?
One of the biggest lessons is that it should really be fun. I mean, let’s be real for a minute…when you win, sure you might get some sponsorships, but it really should be more for the love of competition and wanting to grow. I took competition too seriously when I competed, and I ended up not even doing great (haha) so I wish I would have just not taken myself so seriously.
If you had a magic wand and could make one change about the coffee industry, what would it be and why?
That all of our producing partners were paid more for their coffee than we currently are paying. That way coffee could be even more sustainable.
On days when you are tired to wake up, what are things (besides coffee ;-) ) that get you out of bed?
I have 3 kids, so they make sure I’m awake early every morning to make them breakfast :)
What does your morning coffee ritual look like?
It has changed a lot since the pandemic. I used to make pour overs every morning and drink one cup before I went to the office to have more there, but now that I work from home, I have an 8-cup Oxo Brewer that I love. Most mornings I spice up my coffee and add some oat milk creamer. Yum!
Our readers are really serious about coffee. For aspiring coffee pros, what is one advice you would like to give them as they navigate the coffee industry?
Get to know where your coffee that you buy comes from. Does the roaster offer any information on the [breakdown] cost of coffee prices?
Where can we find you and follow your coffee journey?
I am old, private, and not as cool these days — so I don’t have IG or Twitter. However, sometimes I pop up with Chris McAuley (Brewista's Director of Helpfulness) so look out for those!