29 Sep 2021

A Tas-tea Team: Q&A with the Coffee and Tea Club


by Hensley Carrasco

The eponymously named Coffee and Tea Club brings together a community of students to share their love for all things hot and roasted. The club was created in 2020 by three then Required Curriculum students—Luqzan Mustafa Kama (MBA 2021), Ethan Hirsch (HBS 2021), and Jiyoon Han (MBA 2022). Coffee has been a part of Han’s life well before she arrived at HBS, as she deferred from her studies for a year to work with her family’s coffee business. She has since returned and is leading the club along with Yoshi Yamaji (MBA 2022) and Matt Blank (MBA 2022).

We spoke to the trio to learn more about what they’ve got brewing:

What are your backgrounds and passions with coffee and tea?

Yoshi Yamaji: I used to work at Starbucks as a part-time barista in college. Since then, I’ve always just loved coffee! My dream is to open my own cafe in the future.

Matt Blank: My favorite part of my job in consulting was visiting new coffee shops in the cities I worked in (as you can tell, I also loved consulting). Then, when I stopped consulting, I wanted to learn to make coffee at home, and, as I typically do with a new passion, I dove all the way in. I took a coffee-making class, then started a service-making pour overs (the pour over method involves pouring hot water through coffee grounds in a filter) for WeWork tenants. I then worked for Compass Coffee—a coffee chain in Washington, D.C.—before school.

Jiyoon Han: Coffee has always been part of my life. My immigrant parents from South Korea built their new life in the U.S. by starting a coffee business in New York. Through the family business, my personal interest in coffee organically developed over time. Before HBS, I passed 21 different coffee exams and became a Certified Q Grader—which is like being a coffee sommelier—with my mom! Together we cup, source, and curate the coffees we serve at our coffee company Bean & Bean.

What are your goals for the club?

YY: Our goal is to build community and promote awareness and understanding around specialty coffee and tea through group brewing events, sensory appreciation sessions, and industry education.

What kind of events and activities do you take part in?

MB: Cafe tours around Boston. We’re hoping to plan a club trip at some point to Broadsheet, which is my favorite cafe in Boston!

YY: We’ll be doing monthly brewing sessions where we bring in interesting beans from all over the world and taste them together. It’ll be fun to compare different origins, varietal, processing methods, and brewing styles. We’ll do palate tastings to develop our ability to pick up flavors and notes inherent in coffee and tea. And then we have some interesting guests lined up from the coffee and tea space. Stay tuned!

What is your favorite type of coffee and flavor?

YY: Hot latte. Simple is the best.

JH: Right now, I’m drinking Gesha coffees from Guatemala and Panama that I sourced this year. I like florals and juicy fruit bombs in my coffee.

MB: One surprising thing I learned about my coffee taste is that I love fruity coffee! To get really nerdy, I typically buy bags of naturally processed African coffees, which tend to be super fruity and funky.

Favorite place to make or buy coffee?

MB: Broadsheet—about 10 minutes north of the undergrad campus—is my favorite cafe in Boston!

JH: I have my own coffee station at 1 Western Avenue. I make a pour over every morning of coffees my mom and I buy together from farms owned and operated by women.

YY: I brew my own coffee and bring it to class every morning.

Do you have any coffee rituals?

MB: I don’t really have a ritual, but I do find making pour overs incredibly meditative since it’s a manual process and gets me away from a computer screen for a few minutes. I do drink a lot of coffee though—typically 3 cups per day—because, when I told my mom I only had 1 cup per day, she said “Only 1 cup? Did I raise a chump?”

YY: Brewing coffee right after waking up is my ritual. The moment of manual hand grinding beans is just like meditation.

JH: I wake up, turn on my morning podcast and immediately start boiling water and pick which coffee to grind and brew. I usually have one cup of coffee in the morning and then switch over to green tea or citrus ginger tea in the afternoon.

Learn more about the Coffee & Tea Club.

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