Peddling through winding streets, Brodie Vissers sports jeans, a ball-cap, a ruffled button-down and yellow socks. He’s not a young professional but he’s also not a student. And, is that a mug of coffee in his hand?
Vissers’ current mission is exploring the art of coffee and blending it with his passion for cycling. This is the Nomad Barista.
Although, there’s truthfully two stories here – one of the coffee culture, and one of Brodie’s adventure itself. It’s a little tricky to define what a Nomad Barista does.
“How do you define me? This is an important personal branding question!” Vissers asked me, jokingly serious.
Vissers’ purpose for travel is hard to describe in one line. There’s the moniker on his website that proclaims:
“The craft of specialty coffee is growing like crazy, both locally and globally. With a background in urban design, my passion is exploring how specialty coffee, and everything surrounding it, is being used as a facilitator for community collaborations and enhancing interactions in urban spaces around the world.”
But this description, while factually true, is fuzzy. It doesn’t capture what he does. And that is through no fault of his own.
1 : a member of a people who have no fixed residence but move from place to place usually seasonally and within a well-defined territory
2 : an individual who roams about
“I want to explore coffee around the world and tell their [growers, roasters, store owners, baristas] story,” Vissers said.
Vissers’ coffee story starts with a group of friends and an Ethiopian roast. He had coffee before and really thought nothing of it. But this coffee was different. There was a ritual to the way it was made, with precise measurements and the use of specific equipment.
“I just remember drinking it and being like –wow– this is a lot different than anything else.”
His budding love for coffee grew into a full-blown passion during his years in Barcelona. He drank specialty coffee consistently for about two years, lived and worked in Barcelona, and won first place in the Catalonia regionals for the Spanish AreoPress Championship. (His secret? He found a good brand of water to make his coffee with.)
Somewhere along the way, he developed the idea for “Nomad Barista”– a project that tells stories about coffee. He scoured the world for coffee stories from 2016-2017. Vissers crisscrossed the globe, taking his trusty AreoPress coffee maker with him. He visited places as disparate as Vancouver and Tokyo, Iceland and Myanmar.
Vissers was in Palenque, Mexico when I spoke to him. Ask him where he calls home and he’ll laugh. He’s a modern-day nomad, looking for fresh pasture in the form of new coffee stories. He hails from Toronto and he feels at home in Barcelona (his dual citizenship is for Canada and Spain.)
Home is also where his laptop, camera and AeroPress is, or as he calls it, “The 3 C’s: Coffee, Camera, Computer.”
2a : an account of incidents or events
“The deep-rooted plan was coffee consulting,” Vissers said.
Vissers also wants to tie in his knowledge of urban design. He aims to explore how cafés bring together communities in an urban context. And he didn’t just want to research that academically. Turning towards his nomadic nature, Vissers up and left to find the cafés that are bringing communities together around good coffee.
He also wanted to explore coffee systems around the world. Where are cafés getting their coffee? How are budding markets making specialty coffee (especially in Asia)?
“It was a very multilayered vision,” Vissers said.
What ties these goals together under “Nomad Barista” is one common thread: Story.
Telling stories ties together travel, urban design, coffee consulting, photography and specialty coffee.
The connection isn’t immediately apparent. There are many floating pieces, many potential titles and descriptions. But Vissers doesn’t just travel and drink coffee. He’s not a barista in the traditional sense and he’s also not quite a blogger. He does tell stories about his travel through the blog “Nomad Barista,” but that’s only one component of the Nomad Barista.
“I almost feel like what is more important to me is the connection and the story and everything behind it [the coffee],” Brodie said.
: of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting a city
1: to conceive or execute a plan
A big part of the story of coffee is the place where you drink it.
Brodie has written about well-known cafés in Seattle, tiny street vendors in Japan, cozy haunts and large bustling cafés.
Small and intimate places are his favorite.
In Brodie’s experience, some of the factors that make up a great café are being able to strike up a conversation with the barista and places that “create more action on the street itself.”
He likes places that encourage a sense of community and also provide some sort of visual on the street.
But, he also recognizes that people want to grow and make money from their coffee, and for that, sometimes bigger is better.
1 : one who consults another
2 : one who gives professional advice or services : expert
“The reality is it’s hard for me to describe what I do,” Vissers said. “The whole point of this project is to show people what’s going on in the world of coffee in different areas.”
Vissers doesn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one profession.
“I want to be able to be more than just a professional barista or consultant or photographer, I want to be a facilitator, I want to facilitate other people’s dreams, whether they’re coffee producers or they’re baristas or they have something that they’re passionate about. To be able to use coffee as a facilitator to make things better and teach or show people what’s going into their drink [is what I want to do].”
Nomad Barista boils (or brews) down to seeking out the important things in life: community, connection and coffee. Yes, Vissers is a writer and photographer who specializes on the topic of coffee but, like all of us, his job titles don’t capture his motivations. What we do to put bread on the table (or coffee in our mugs) isn’t the entire story. What’s more interesting is why. And Vissers has a clear idea of why he runs the Nomad Barista project.
“That’s the whole goal of Nomad Barista, too sustainably facilitate people’s passions and share what’s going on in the world of coffee.”