Interview with Ciera Young: Mama's Brew Coffee
Roasting coffee is challenging and will test both your patience and your budget.
If you are a determined flow of energy and a badass woman like Ciera Young, that is a challenge you are willing to accept. Originally from New Orleans, Young has embraced Houston and started her own roasting business called Mama’s Brew.
In this interview Ciera tells us about her journey into roasting and carving out her own career in the coffee industry as a black woman.
What’s behind the name “Mama’s Brew”?
My mission is just to make people feel at home. Those feelings you get when you can come home and kick your shoes off and feel comfortable in that space - I want to give everyone that same vibe when it comes to coffee.
During her years at UT San Antonio, Ciera built a reputation for brewing up the best coffee in the dorm rooms. She led wine tastings as her weekend job in college, ushering large groups of people through the sensory evaluation and examinations. Young became increasingly advanced in wine tasting and continued to advance her skills of hospitality. She began roasting in 2017 and grew from there.
I’ve just always been a coffee enthusiast and I never knew how to tap into the market. I’ve always trained my palate and now I’m just gearing it towards my passion. I just never knew I could make a living doing something I loved so much. All this time I have been grooming myself to be a good roaster.
I questioned Ciera on ways she has grown since she first began her journey into roasting and she laughed. Besides burning so many pounds of expensive coffee? I’ve grown a lot because I went into roasting not knowing how scientific it was. I’ve always steered away from mathematics and science and it’s so funny to me that roasting has punched me in the face with numbers and ratios. Having to sit back and take the time to profile every roast has helped me to be patient and helped me to tune in and focus on what I’m doing.
This self-taught home roaster getting her help from resources like the Specialty Coffee Association, YouTube, a vast collection of coffee books, and an array of coffee friends.
One professional that has been helping guide Young towards coffee greatness is Michelle Johnson, a notable advocate and strong voice for people of color and other marginalized groups. Johnson founded and runs a platform called the Chocolate Barista that focuses on the promotion of racial diversity and inclusivity in the specialty coffee industry.
She [Johnson] made me so comfortable with being a woman of color in the coffee industry because sometimes you feel like the only person in the world. It’s an intimidating feeling but I know that we are out there and there is space for us. I feel like I have something to say and to prove to everybody that I belong here.
Through The Chocolate Barista, Ciera has been making connections with other black-owned coffee houses that want to help. She has an intention to create a blueprint for others on how to fund a small minority-owned business to make it less difficult for people following on similar paths. As a woman of color, Ciera says it is hard to not feel like a poster child in the industry. With a coffee community behind her, she feels more supported.
Sometimes when I look up, there’s nobody else who looks like me. Probably the only other black person is the one handing me my drink and it’s disheartening. I want to see more coffee shops that give me the vibe that I belong there.
It’s not even always about diversity and culture, sometimes it’s about creating our own space where our culture and our flair and expression is in a coffee shop. I want to see my aesthetic applied. I want to make everyone feel comfortable in the space that I’m going to create.
Coffee businesses in Houston are blooming and growing rapidly, filling the city with delicious beverages and acute hospitality. Though the coffee community overall is evolving, there are still issues that Ciera feels needs improvement. Overall she would like to see more efforts from employers to offer benefits, free education opportunities, more inclusivity, childcare, and wage increases.
There are more people who want to be full time in the coffee industry but it’s hard. We still have problems in the industry, issues of inclusivity, issues of pay, I see it. I don’t want to be pessimistic, I’m hopeful.
When Ciera spoke of her future plans for growth in her company, she described her objectives as inclusive, creative, and entirely focused on approachability.
Lastly, I simply asked Ciera what her favorite thing about coffee is.
My favorite thing about coffee is how communal it is. If you think about it, it spans so many cultures, genders, and backgrounds. It connects us all and that’s what romances me about it.
Article written by Stacy Wright.