Hi, Friends—Welcome to Boss Barista!
Boss Barista is a newsletter about coffee. But it’s also not about coffee.
Here you’ll find interviews and articles about big ideas regarding service work, collective action, and empowerment and equity at work.
Here’s what you get when you subscribe:
I interview leading experts and thinkers for my podcast, with new episodes released every other Tuesday.
I also publish articles that explore the larger themes surrounding coffee culture every Thursday.
After water and tea, coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world—but so much about its production and traditions remains mysterious. That’s why I wanted to start Boss Barista: As ubiquitous as coffee is, we don’t often think about how it gets to us. But we really should, considering the stories surrounding coffee—especially right fucking now—inform and reflect our society as a whole. My greatest wish is that this newsletter and podcast will make you look down at your mug and think, “Huh. That’s something I want to learn more about.”
What Your Subscriptions Help Support
Paid subscriptions don’t just support my work, but the entire Boss Barista operation.
You can become a supporter of the newsletter and podcast in a few ways:
Make a monthly contribution of $6 per month, or $50 for the entire year
Subscribers will get access to extra audio content and subscriber-only threads, but my goal is to keep as much of Boss Barista open to all as possible. Think of your contribution as supporting everyone else’s access to the platform
You can also become a founding member! A founding member contribution can be made in any amount of your choosing above $200/year.
Founding members will have direct access to me (I’ll answer any questions you have or give recommendations freely) and will help shape the direction of this platform.
Boss Barista is entirely independent, although I have worked with occasional partners like Urnex and Chobani to sponsor select episodes and projects. However, I retain complete editorial control, so everything you’ll read comes from my silly brain. I work hard to share critical ideas and evidence- and research-driven insights that aren't written about anywhere else on the internet.
About Me + Boss Barista
My name is Ashley Rodriguez, and I’ve been a barista for over a decade. I started writing about coffee in 2013, and I was the online editor of Barista Magazine from 2016-2019, where I wrote close to 500 articles during my tenure.
Currently, I write about coffee for publications like TASTE, Salon, Serious Eats, and The Kitchn. I am also the managing editor for Fresh Cup, an industry publication.
The reason I write about stuff like bad bosses and weird workplaces is that I’ve been in those situations, and those topics feel immediate to me. I’ve been the bad boss, and I’ve been the worker in a difficult position, unsure of what to do next. The last thing I want to do is claim any moral high ground: I have fucked up, I will fuck up, and I hope those reading feel encouraged to examine their own experiences in the working world instead of feeling hampered and held back by shame.
Boss Barista was born out of that tension, that frustration.
Years ago, I emailed two bros about some shitty stuff they said on a podcast about hiring workers—as they were opening their new cafe, they shared that there weren’t any women applying for jobs, and then said something like, “Don’t worry, we’re super married and won’t hit on you.” I confronted them, they blew me off, and then I started interviewing people who were much more interesting than those two clowns. And that’s how the podcast began in 2017, hosted by myself and my friend and former co-host Jasper Wilde.
Since 2019, I’ve hosted the show solo, and have combined my writing work and my podcasting all on one platform. In 2021, I decided to take that platform a little more seriously, creating a regular publishing schedule (you can find the archive here). In 2022, I was selected for Substack’s Food Writers Intensive Program, and decided to put my foot on the gas and provide readers with a paid option to support my work.
In the last five years, I’ve published over 150 episodes and written around 100 articles. Since 2021, I’ve also transcribed every episode of the show, and am currently working on republishing old episodes and creating transcripts for those, too.
What Should You Read Next?
I’ve made a primer detailing some of the most popular articles and episodes published on Boss Barista. Go check it out!
Nice Things People Have Said About Boss Barista
“I’ve always enjoyed Ashley’s work for not just being thought-provoking, but for provoking thoughts worth thinking about.” — James Hoffmann, author, 2007 World Barista Champion, and maker of coffee videos
“In a time where coffee media largely serves as a promotion for big players, the Boss Barista newsletter is a rare space that challenges the power structures that inhibit the industry’s growth while giving an optimistic view of a better coffee world. It is essential reading for those who seek a fuller view of coffee and a wide range of expertise and observations.” — Eric J. Grimm, Ghost Town Oats and Glitter Cat Barista
“Ashley Rodriguez of Boss Barista rules and looks at the coffee world with unblinking eyes. She writes essays and puts out an essential podcast, where she interviews people like Vera Espíndola Rafael on under-discussed topics, like how little coffee actually stays in coffee-growing regions.” — Alicia Kennedy, from her article, “On Other Newsletters”
“Boss Barista is a thoughtful, caring, yet punchy examination of coffee and [the] service industry. Ashley perfectly balances the tenderness and humanity within the industry with the often harsh reality of working in it. Boss Barista is certified Very Good Stuff in my book.” — Morgan Eckroth, The Internet’s Friendliest Barista and 2022 United States Barista Champion
Where My Money Goes
I pay an editor to read and edit my work, I sometimes hire an audio engineer for particularly tricky podcast sessions (although I manually edit about 90% of the episodes). I also make recurring donations to the following organizations:
Brave Space Alliance “is the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ+ individuals on the South and West sides of the city.”
Assata’s Daughters “first formed in 2015 as a volunteer-based collective of Black women, femmes, and gender non-conforming people, to address a shortage of programming and community for women-identified, femme, and gender non-conforming young Black people in Chicago.”
Grocery Run Club is “a community driven initiative that partners with organizations to supply fresh produce and everyday necessities to underserved neighborhoods in Chicago.”
The Loveland Foundation “is committed to showing up for communities of color in unique and powerful ways, with a particular focus on Black women and girls.”
The Chicago Community Bond Fund (CCBF) “pays bonds for people charged with crimes in Cook County, Illinois. Through a revolving fund, CCBF supports individuals whose communities cannot afford to pay the bonds themselves and who have been impacted by structural violence.”
Native American Rights Fund “is the oldest, largest nonprofit legal organization defending the rights of Native American tribes, organizations, and people.”
As of May 18, 2022, I have 30 supporters of the newsletter, and make about $1,000 a year from my paid subscribers. I have a few patrons from my old Patreon and make $350 a month from that fund. I spend about two full work days every week making Boss Barista happen. My goal is to get to 500 subscribers so this newsletter will represent about half my workload.
Get In Touch:
If you made it all the way down here, here’s a picture of me, the FIRST time I had braces, taken in a Sears Portrait Studio: