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Coffee Stories

Nadia Park

By 2nd August 2023August 7th, 2023No Comments11 min read

“I just didn’t want to make educational content. I never won (or participated in) a Brewer’s or Barista’s Championship, so I had no visible credibility. And as much as I would like to explain things, I think those are for others. For me, it was more about how I can emit positive energy through coffee and bring people to a place where they feel a little bit better and calmer about themselves.”

Nadia Park summarizes her coffee journey in the quote above. She has an earnest desire to radiate positive energy and vibes outward, which she does through her unique hand drip process and Instagram videos.

Nadia Park

Nadia Park

This California-born and raised Korean-American coffee connoisseur started her coffee journey with one goal in mind-to make people see coffee as an avenue for relaxation. She wants people to drink coffee because they know it will afford them respite from their usually busy schedules. To achieve this, Nadia had to take a path that would make some wonder, “What could really keep you in Korea?”

 

Before she became an alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania, Nadia’s family moved back to Korea. This meant her new home was Korea, as she would have to return there after graduation. Regardless of the excitement of this new change, Nadia had to embrace it and start her tour of where most of her life would soon be by going along with her aunt and mother to a one-day class (A one-time workshop that could run for a few hours and could include ceramic making, flowers, coffee brewing, baking, and playing instruments). This was a coffee brewing class that specialized in the hand-drip method.

 

“This separation hand drip process is where I’m able to separate the tenants in bad tastes, bad aftertaste, and caffeine, even from coffee, from green beans, from roasted beans that already have caffeine in them.”

 

Even while in the class, she got tips from the barista trainer that showed her how a little tweak in her preparation could make a big change in the taste of the coffee. The mindless process of creating concentric circles was the mindless action a person such as she needed-a person who was always head down in books, now having control over her coffee and being able to go through that healing process.

 

This prompted her to join coffee clubs in school, and she had moments when students would visit the coffee stands during their breaks for free coffee, and over time, they would have meaningful conversations about life and interesting concepts, not just school-related topics, making Nadia see coffee as a relaxing drink and not necessarily an energy booster.

 

“We were talking about things that were outside of school, outside of the normal stress, things that happen all the time, and I was like, wait. I can provide this drink as a medium for communication between two people where we can relax and actually have conversations that we normally wouldn’t have elsewhere.”

 

With the knowledge of the hand drip method, Nadia had the ability to reduce the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, making the drink vary depending on the specific needs of the person drinking it, all while having conversations that created a safe space and friendly environment.

 

After graduating from the university and moving back to Korea, Nadia worked at an I.T. company for two years as a Marketing and Business strategist before going back full-time into the coffee world. She decided to combine her love for coffee with her expertise in Marketing and leverage her Instagram account to create coffee-related content. She started small, by separating her personal account from her brand, and after reaching one thousand followers, some of her videos blew up and started reaching tens of thousands of views, making her and her popular pose recognizable to people who followed her.

 

In her opinion, she shares what she feels she too needs to hear, conversations she may have had, books she may have read, or excerpts from podcasts she may have listened to.

 

“The messages I relay on Instagram are basically just messages that I needed to tell myself that day that I listened to and appreciated, or that I learned recently that I thought maybe other people might want to hear.”

Nadia Park's Instagram

Nadia Park’s Instagram

Nadia’s friendly and relatable content has been instrumental in the lives of other people, as she once pointed out when she reached out to a follower who told her, “I was really in the dumps, and I was basically giving up on myself. But after seeing your content, it reminded me of what I need to do and how I need to think.” She could relate to this because she understands the feeling of having therapy due to low self-esteem and people telling her to feel better as though she didn’t want to. She ensures that her messages highlight ways to heal yourself and boost confidence, along with other philosophical topics in which she is vastly knowledgeable because she is well-read and is interested in a lot of topics like languages, tennis, poetry, anime, and more, all while she consciously takes mental notes of what she is brewing on camera, ensuring she keeps all of her audience engaged, whether they are Korean or English speakers.

 

With the slow rise of coffee interests in Korea, English-speaking countries may have surpassed Korea by setting trends and curating specific recipes, but Nadia believes that not everyone has to follow the same train. Coming from a multicultural background and noticing the huge differences in culture, Nadia believes the coffee space is very vast, and although English-speaking countries usually set trends, they don’t define them. Coffee shops can choose to be mindful of it but not take it all in. It is easier to be sure of what you represent as a coffee shop, so it doesn’t seem like you always follow trends.

 

Korea is very different in its coffee tradition as it is a country with multiple healthy drinks, with tea being the most prominent, meaning that traditional flavors would be grain-based. Some of the differences in coffee culture between Korea and the US are in the knowledge of coffee. People with a lot of knowledge and expertise show that knowledge and expertise, meaning if you want very good coffee, you will find it, but it might be expensive. In Korea, the coffee business tries to be more capital focused, with a lesser number of shops brewing specialty coffee.

 

“There isn’t that much diversity in the culture itself. So, Everyone is doing specialty coffee, so everyone needs to do specialty coffee. Everyone is doing pretty Instagram cafes, we all have to do that as well. So everyone has a base standard of what they need to have.”

 

Nadia does her utmost to stand out. She is currently the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at her coffee shop, and her day-to-day activities involve managing the YouTube and social media channels of the coffee shop, outsourcing content, and sending beans out to customers. She doesn’t have to serve coffee to customers, allowing her to roast the coffee beans she uses in her videos herself, and also taste test new and potentially new batches, leaving her with the whole cafe as her workspace.

Some regular customers-turned-family come in and she has a nice sit-down chat with them, along with other customers who may step in specifically for her hand-drip coffee or geisha coffee via Dutch coffee. She has also had customers from other countries who visited for the first time, and because of the unique taste of the coffee she brewed, it started a special friendship, and the customers sent coffee gifts for her to try and experiment with.

 

“Gifts I was able to receive from that little hand drip taste because I was able to provide them these kinds of touching experiences that I don’t even realize. These moments of heart-to-heart that I get to have with people, and I don’t even realize it’s that much of a big deal.”

 

She tells people how Korean coffee is what keeps her from traveling back to the US and just how good it is. This intrigues them, and this is one of the things she enjoys – the people who come in and also the taste testing—because she has trained herself to visualize tastes and connect them to vivid images and stories. For example, this is how Nadia describes the taste of Kenyan AA Coffee.

 

“So in my Kenya AA, one of the biggest things is that I like to describe the coffee as if you’re a little kid at a campfire. Your entire family is there with you, but you’ve already finished your entire meal. You’re just sitting by the fire because you know you have your sweet potato waiting for you—the last grilling sweet potato—and you’re the only one staring at the fire waiting for that to be cooked. And the entire family is in the back, and you can hear their voices and whatnot. But just sitting there with a blanket wrapped around you, waiting for that sweet potato, because you know how good it’s going to taste, and when it’s finally done, you are the one that has to take it out of the charcoal. You take it out, and you wait for it to cool down. You’re super excited. You can’t wait for it, so you peel it open, and as you’re eating one, you wait for the others. And as you peel the other ones after you’ve munched on the current one that you’re already eating, you see this kind of layer of honey. So sweet potatoes, after you grill them, have little bits of honey that come out of the surface of the skin. And it’s that honey that you’re so curious about. Like, what is this? Is this water? Is this honey? And you don’t know. So you taste it, and it’s super sweet. That Honey is the taste that you get from the sweetness of this coffee.”

 

Yeah, our minds were blown too.

 

This taste test method is very unique to Nadia, as she believes that coffee can taste differently to some people based on multiple factors. It could be what you last ate, a taste you just don’t like, or you may be used to something completely different. People have different tastes, and sometimes getting feedback is necessary for the barista to know what changes will make it more preferable. As for Nadia, she knows what she may need to change to make a cup of coffee more preferable. From more water to make it lighter to more coffee to make it darker.

 

In her brewing, there is no specific recipe. She takes cognizance of measurements and temperatures, but she does not follow any recipe judiciously. Her coffee is always 80 to 100 grams, but she doesn’t always weigh it, she just knows. She could also make slight changes depending on the temperature of the water, how the beans are roasted, and more.

 

In the future, she plans to be more involved in the coffee supply chain and invest in coffee farms, as she wants farmers to also get to taste what the coffee cherries they harvest can be turned into. Although one person cannot define the coffee culture, Nadia still believes that a relaxing coffee culture can be created and curated.

Oluwatobifunmi Olaniran

Take a bow! You got to this section! I'm a Creative Writer and Electrical Engineering Student from Nigeria. "I laugh in the face of danger." -Simba