We would have called her the “Traveling Barista,” but she isn’t a barista in her travels, and while she is a barista, she doesn’t travel. From America to Costa Rica, to Spain, we follow Sarah Silvia’s coffee journey and discover how coffee, which she considered disgusting at first, became the one thing that surrounds her life.
Sarah Silvia was a Marketing Intern with I’M NOT A BARISTA.
“When I started working at the coffee shop, I actually hated coffee. I thought it tasted disgusting, and then slowly over time, I just learned to love the taste.”
From a very young age, after school, Sarah would go to the coffee shop on the same street as her dad’s office, and while he was busy, she would use her computer, have a coffee, and do her homework. She became good friends with the staff and everyone that worked there, and when she was legally allowed to work at fifteen, they welcomed her with open arms. Starting at a very young age was difficult. She had asked so many times before getting the job, but once she started, she knew that was the place for her.
“I went to school Monday through Friday, and then Friday nights I would work at the coffee shop until midnight, and then I would work from morning until five in the afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays. So I would never have a day off between school and work. But being a barista’s fun, so I didn’t have an issue with it, but it was very tiring, for sure.”
Sarah attended Suffolk University and worked at two coffee shops while in Boston, Massachusetts. They were specialty coffee shops, where they roasted their beans, and her knowledge of coffee increased. Her appreciation for coffee grew even larger when she visited Costa Rica for a school-mandated trip to get her TESOL certificate. In the two weeks they spent there, they would do their required hours in the classroom and spend their weekends exploring the beautiful country, and this was when she got to visit a coffee plantation and learned how coffee was processed.
When she arrives back home, she brings all her knowledge and experience gained back to her hometown coffee shop, as she believes being a barista is simple, as long as you’re willing to study what needs to be studied and do what needs to be done. She loves interacting with people and training new workers, which makes her job easier every day.
Sarah has been a barista at Main Street Coffee in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, for eight years now. She has seen people leave for school and other jobs, just as they have seen her bag a degree in Psychology, and embark on her numerous trips. Depending on her shifts, Sarah may start between four and seven in the morning, and close at noon or one in the afternoon. She doesn’t live too far away, so the drive is worth it. Not just the drive though, as Sarah loves the company, its owner, and her coworkers. It may be tough some days, but overall, working as a barista is worth it.
Just like most baristas, Sarah would love to take part in competitions, but she doesn’t feel she has the right skillset yet. She knows that she needs more exposure and will be willing to learn wherever she gets the chance. For now, she is sticking with her coffee shop and brewing her coffee—a cold brew, or one of her recent favorites—an iced latte with oat milk and lots of espresso for that strong coffee taste. This is a daring drink for someone as daring as her.
Sarah’s dares do not stop at her coffee drinks, because she also loves traveling outside of her country. It may be unusual for some Americans, but Sarah believes,
“There’s way too much to be learned elsewhere in the world, whether that’s about coffee or cultures or anything else. So, a lot of people in America do tend to stay here for their whole lives, but I don’t want to be one of those people.”
Sarah has made visits to Brazil, Costa Rica, Spain, and Ireland, and is currently backpacking around Europe. Her travel plans were cut short during COVID, but slowly, she has got them back on track, and now she believes it will be fantastic to live in a different country every year, but currently, she travels to experience the other parts of coffee that she may never experience back at home.
“I would love to go live in a different country for a while, and whether it be roasting, harvesting, growing, or helping with marketing for someone, I’d like to find a different professional career within coffee to just see another side of it, because I’ve seen little.”
In her quest to find some of this experience, Sarah made a Google search for “Coffee Internships,” and came across I’M NOT A BARISTA. She didn’t know that coffee media existed in this form, but she wanted any experience, like internships or farmwork, and applied after reading through I’M NOT A BARISTA’s website. She didn’t have any prior experience in marketing or writing. Still, she applied, and Micky Wang, I’M NOT A BARISTA’s founder, must have noticed her enthusiastic nature because he met with her and asked her when she could join the team.
Working with the I’M NOT A BARISTA team was new for Sarah. Her only experience working was at the coffee shop, teaching in Costa Rica, and as an au pair in Spain. This was different because she had to work with an international team and get used to having discussions based on different time zones. When she joined the team, the team was working on its coffee book, 101 Coffee Stories; she took part in running some marketing campaigns and got to learn even more about the coffee community. She also played a role in the Coffee Wristbands program and loved how all profits were given to people in need in a very transparent way for all to see.
Sarah was inspired by Elysia Tan’s coffee story, which she wrote. She loved how Elysia rose from nothing and zero coffee knowledge to becoming a coffee champion and building her brand. Now that Sarah has left, she has gained more experience and exposure that she can share with people on her travels.
“I learned new things, I met some awesome people, and I got to work for an organization that does amazing things within the coffee industry that I never would’ve even thought of before I’M NOT A BARISTA.”
She is now more aware of everything that goes into the coffee beans before it gets to her. The farmers, the roasters, and the local businesses in between. Working with I’M NOT A BARISTA really encouraged her to get the word out there and tell others about I’M NOT A BARISTA’s mission and how they could be a part of it, her hometown coffee shop being the first place.
When not traveling, Sarah spends most of her time at Main Street Coffee, but outside of that, she loves photography, learning new languages, visiting the beach, watching sunsets and sunrises, and generally, activities where she is around people. If she could give one piece of advice from all her experience, it would be
“Appreciate what goes in your coffee every day, and take time to learn about the coffee industry and different cultures, and why the simple thing that coffee is is so important to many cultures all around the world.”
We are excited about what Sarah will come up with soon and cannot wait to see her on the big stage.