Ray: I’m Ray.
Kandace: I’m Kandace.
Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week…
Kandace: We’re talking to Gabe Boscana of Máquina Coffee Roasters.
Ray: I have a Paul McCartney song in my head, and not a good one.
Kandace: Which is what?
Ray: And I have a cold.
Kandace: Oh, honey.
Ray: Check out the new… We’re really working on our setup back here, though. We’re slowly…
Kandace: Hey, let’s do the reveal.
Kandace: Got a new grinder! Super excited. We’re going maple everything.
Gabe: My name is Gabriel Boscana and I’m the owner and founder of Máquina Coffee Roasters out of Pennsylvania. You can call me Gabe. I usually go by Gabe. I’ve been in coffee maybe 19 years this summer. I realized that Ultimately, I decided that what I wanted to do was purchase the coffee I thought was really good and share it with people. I buy coffee from people that I trust and I care about and that I form relationships with. It’s just small, tiny accounts that really care about coffee.
What Does it Mean to be a Nano Roaster?
Kandace: Máquina is a micro roaster. No shop. You can order straight from Gabe.
Ray: I don’t know is there’s a technical term. Nano roaster?
Gabe: Like nano. Like nano, nano, nano roaster. Anywhere between 150 to 300 lbs a week. We’re three years old, so it’s still very tiny. It’s just me and two of my friends.
Ray: Pico roaster.
Ray: Being small helps him be really thoughtful about the coffees he picks.
Gabe: It allows for you to be able to really be unique in your offerings. You can support producers that are producing very small amounts of coffee. There’s a woman actually that I’m hopefully cupping a sample of in the next couple weeks, she produces I think 4 or 5 bags of coffee. And that is her total production. And, because we are so small, we can do that. We can just say, “I love this coffee. Here’s why.”
Gabe: The people that Máquina has brought on tend to be sort of cultish, in a good way. The know a Máquina coffee when they taste one and, because of that, I think we’re able to buy these small lots.
Ray: Because he’s so small, he’s closer to the beans.
Kandace: Oh my god.
Ray: This DayQuil has not the effect that I expected.
We’re Digging this Branding Big Time
Kandace: One of the ways that Gabe was able to get attention right away for the brand was actually this amazing branding.
Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative). The branding’s great.
Gabe: Máquina, man, that name has been in my back pocket, oh gosh, at least 12 years. Máquina means machine. When you’re a barista, when you’re a roaster, and, I think, when you’re even a coffee picker, there’s a very mechanical aspect to all those things. So, it has a double meaning there; it’s definitely the machine that roast coffee, but also the idea that you have to become a machine if you do things really well over and over again.
Gabe: I found this independent graphic designer names Caleb Heisey. I really wanted something that was not uber masculine. I just wanted something that spoke more to the humanity of people, and also just slightly more feminine. I guess, whatever that means, “feminine”. I wanted it to be more inclusive, softer, more delicate, and not in a way to play towards what femininity means, but I wanted some sort of balance between the mechanical, the little handle, the little crank, and the hand. You can’t have coffee without people actually, physically taking coffee and actually making it and roasting it.
Ray: I thought that the packing was executed at a really high level. It’s really well designed, really even lines. It stands out as being very modern, but the illustration is kind of timeless, and the white packaging looked great on our shelf.
And the mug is really cool. I love the fact that it’s almost impossible to see the logo on it. It’s there, it’s a really, really attractive mug, it’s just not your typical coffee mug. I like it.
Kandace: Yeah, pretty much every piece of branding they’ve changed just a little bit, and it’s all really compelling.
Kandace: Who’s this person that started their own micro, nano, pico roaster?
Gabe: The metaphor is if you were to cut me, I would bleed coffee, because it’s such an incredibly important part of who I am as a person.
A Long History in Coffee
Kandace: Gabe’s worked at so many amazing coffee roasters.
Gabe: I got a job at, actually, Gimme! Coffee in Ithaca, New York. I was a barista and a manager for a while, and I kind of got sucked into the rabbit hole. Specifically, figuring out how the coffee got to us.
Gabe: Moved to the Bay Area. I was the first official employee at Ritual Coffee Roasters, and that really started my specialty coffee career.
Gabe: Moved back to Upstate New York, back to Ithaca, mostly to care of my mom, so I worked for Gimme! again. I had learned to roast at Ritual when Duane [Sorenson] was still part of Stumptown, and it was the first wholesale account outside of the state of Oregon, was Ritual Coffee. He trained us how to roast, we transitioned into roasting, so when I moved back to Upstate New York I did a lot of roast quality control for Gimme! Then, I moved back to California to work for Ecco Caffe. You guys just did an interview with Andrew Barnett of Linea.
Kandace: You’ve worked with everybody.
Gabe: Yeah, I feel like a dinosaur in coffee. And then I became the national roasting manager for Intelligentsia.
Gabe: I wanted to really get into buying coffee specifically, so I moved away from the roasting part of things and did green coffee buying for Sightglass, and that’s when I really realized that my main love was the green coffee. Talking to producers was my favorite thing. It was more about the farmer.
Kandace: Gabe was doing really well in the Bay Area, but something caused him to want to strike out on his own.
Gabe: Ultimately, what I wanted to do was purchase the coffee that I thought was really good and share it with people in a really tiny scale, which is what Máquina is.
Kandace: A couple of years ago, he came out as trans male.
Gabe: When you try to feel joy and there’s something blocking that joy, there’s something that’s like, “I can’t. I’m sort of happy, but I can’t quite feel this intense… “. It had to do all the friendships that I formed in coffee and outside of coffee. There was this element of… that even though it’s not something I ever really talk about because I don’t really have to at this point, there was a… I think, politically, things were… in 2017, some stuff come up and I thought, “I have a daughter… “.
Gabe: I think I had to clarify it to a lot of my long-time friends, is that I was not born male. I think a lot of them thought that I meant that I was going to transition to female, and I was like, “No, been there, done that”. They were like, “Oh, this person has been in my life since forever, and here I know this truth now”, and there wasn’t any room for them to wiggle out of that, of acceptance, because they’d known me for so long. I think a lot of people questioned themselves and their own ideas of what trans meant or what LGBTQ rights were. It was almost like a, “Oh, shit. I have this person in my life for 10-plus years and, oh my god, I had no idea”. So, it was really powerful.
Gabe: I wanted to put myself out there so if anybody thought that they had an issue or they found something within themselves, I thought, “I have to be brave”, because if we’re not brave then nothing changes. For people that have never been exposed to that… it was the fear of, “Oh, they’re not going to work with me, they’re not going to sell me coffee, they’re not going to want to talk to me”. Again, you have to overcome that because you can’t live in fear. It’s not productive for anybody, on either side. People that are on the other side won’t learn anything, and then on my side, you just become a smaller version of yourself every time that you don’t allow yourself to be who you are. The content of your character really matters; that’s what’s most important.
Gabe: So, I feel very released from a lot of those things that I put on myself. I don’t have to watch what I say as much to make sure that it’s congruent with what I’m presenting. I can actually just talk about my life in a way that isn’t edited. I wanted to be a person of contact, or context, or reference for some folks, of like, “Oh, this person’s been in coffee a long time and they’re part of the community”, and it feels much better.
Kandace: We spent some time talking about how the coffee community can be more supportive.
Gabe: Recognizing that people in those communities are people in the grander community, and that they and us, we deserve as much of an opportunity to be managers, to be in leadership roles. To create more spaces, more events in those cafes. However you want to do it, but to just open up and be more inclusive. When you think about it, this the irony of coffee, is that most of it is brown people, and yet on the other side of it, it’s not. It doesn’t make sense to me, so I think creating those opportunities for them and creating spaces, I think that’s the best way to… And tell stories, like you’re doing. Tell stories, have things published about people of color and LGBTQ people and their stories. That’s the best way, is just to keep telling those stories, that they’re real.
Kandace: I felt like I could have talked to Gabe forever. He’s incredibly open, incredibly thoughtful.
Ray: Máquina Coffee Roasters.
Kandace: Okay, you are waking up.