M-A Reida on being present, saying “I love you,” and saying it often is now available, wherever you get your podcasts, including Anchor.
Find past episode transcripts here.
Canary Coffee Bar
US Coffee Championships
World Barista Championships
Coffee and Good Spirits
Glitter Cat bootcamps
Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON
Cup Taster’s DiGiTiTiON
Getchu Some Gear
Black and White Coffee
Q Grader Certification
Arielle: If you’re a coffee person like myself…which many of you are… chances are you’ve seen M-A Reida’s face flash across your timeline at least once or twice. Over the past few years, M-A has competed in a number of local and national coffee competitions and started to make quite a name for themselves. They placed second in the qualifier for Coffee in Good Spirits, a competition where coffee and liquor craft collide, and they placed second by a literal… second… in Glitter Cat Barista’s inaugural Coffee Taster’s DiGiTiTiON.
I know what you’re thinking—”wow, M-A Reida sounds so stinkin’ cool!” But to me, the coolest thing about M-A is their beautiful outlook on the world. “Love yourself. Love your friends. Say I love you, and say it often.” “Be present with people.” “Life is bigger than toasted seeds and water” These are just a few of the warm pretzel nuggets of wisdom that M-A dropped into my… erm, pretzel basket… throughout this episode.
Anyone who’s friends with M-A is better for it, and I think you’ll all be a little bit better for hearing them share.
This episode mentions the COVID pandemic and social isolation.
This is M-A Reida on being present, saying “I love you,” and saying it often
Hi, there! Welcome to the show. Why don’t you introduce yourself and share a little bit about yourself?
M-A: My name is M-A Reida. My pronouns are they/them. I’ve been in coffee for about 6 years now. I am currently based in Seattle, Washington, but I lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for about 10 years, and I consider myself from nowhere in particular.
Arielle: So, you say you work in coffee. Can you just give, like, a brief overview of some of the… some of the highlights of your coffee career?
M-A: Absolutely. So, I started as a barista, like so many of us have. And then I, over the years, I have been involved in retail management, so running a café, doing training, and most recently, I have done product development and retail operations. And product formulation, product development, so far has been my favorite aspect to be involved with.
Arielle: Yeah, that definitely sounds really cool. So, you have a cat, with a name referencing one of my favorite TV shows, Doctor Who [mysterious sound effect plays]. Can you tell us a little bit about Captain Jack Harkness?
M-A: I sure can! He was born October 26th, 2007. We came together on April 1st of 2008. He had already been adopted once, and then returned, and in his time at that… his first… his first housing, he had some really bad experiences, and I was 13, and going through some difficult times myself.
And the first time that we met, he gave me kisses, and we fell in love. And we’ve been together every day ever since. I’m currently visiting my mom, and I took Jack on the plane with me, because I can’t imagine taking time for myself without him. We are really valuable in each others’ lives, and he’s a short-haired tabby with a big attitude.
Arielle: (laughs) Is it…is it “Captain Jack Harkness” big?
M-A: Yes. That’s actually why I chose that name. He’s really affectionate to everyone, except he doesn’t like cis men.
M-A: He really dislikes them.
Arielle: Can relate.
M-A: He will hiss. It’s… I mean, you know, we all have our things. But he’s very affectionate to almost everybody else that he meets. He will throw himself on his back and get kisses, within seconds of meeting somebody—just like Captain Jack Harkness.
Arielle: Is he also an omnisexual time traveler from the 51st century?
M-A: I would say yes… yes.
M-A: He’s definitely not a cat, he is a person.
Arielle: Okay, yeah. I get that. I feel like people are very cat, cat are very people. We like to pretend like, “oh, cats are assholes.” I’m like, “people are also kind of finicky assholes sometimes.”
M-A: That is very true of both cats and people.
Arielle: What is your favorite thing about Jack?
M-A: The way that he’s very compassion toward me. When I am really struggling mentally, I’m going through a mental health crisis, he is aware. And he will interrupt bad behaviors. I really value that about him, is that he cares as much for me as I care for him.
Arielle: That’s really stinkin’ beautiful. I love how pets just kind of know, like especially when you’ve had them for a while, they know when you’re having a tough time, they know if you’re feeling down… they’re just so in touch with emotions like that, in a way that people sometimes are, but not the same way as animals are.
M-A: Yeah. And he’s—just so everyone knows, he’s currently sitting next to me, chewing on the cord to the headphones.
Arielle: (laughs) Of course he is. Cats love cords. I’ve noticed that I cannot keep important cords anywhere near, uhh, Puppy the cat.
M-A: Yeah. He’s never chewed through any cords, which I think is a little odd. Um, but he has an oral fixation with plastic. He will seek out plastic bags just so he can lick them.
M-A: And he’s been like that his whole life, so…
Arielle: That’s really funny. Yeah, my friend has to keep her cat in her room, cause he will just like eat stuff. And she actually listens to this podcast, so if you’re listening to this, your cat eats stuff, you know that.
Umm, anyway, so umm, over the past few years, M-A, you have participated in a number of coffee competitions. I’ve seen your face plastered over my feed more than once. So first off, I’d love to hear about, you know, your coffee career leading up to your decision to make your competition debut, and how you sort of decided that that was the route you wanted to take.
M-A: Oh, jeez. Umm.
Arielle: Big question.
M-A: I… (laughs). It… it was…mmm. It was an unconventional route that led me to go, “oh… oh my gosh, I think I have to compete.” But when I was a barista, one of the shops that I worked at… a place that’s now called Likewise in Milwaukee. It was owned and run by a man named Scott Lucy, and Scott was a very active, kind of local legend in coffee competitions.
And, in my time working there, I learned a lot from him and also another person who came to join our team, named Colin Whitcomb who has a shop in Milwaukee called Canary now. They talked a lot about their experience in competition, and strategies, and things like that.
And over the years, I have just watched coffee competitions, specifically the US Barista Championships, because I just thought that it was really, really interesting… and early on, I watched one of Veronica Grimm’s first routines, and she was working at a shop in Milwaukee at the time. And so, it felt really accessible and relatable to me, because these were people who I knew doing this, and oftentimes these competitions can be larger than life. We… I think, regardless of what the kind of competition is, it’s very easy to put people on pedestals, because it seems really extraordinary and inaccessible what people are doing.
So, I was really fortunate to be in an area, in a community, where that wasn’t foreign to me, and where it… it seemed accessible, but I knew a lot of people who had done it. In 2019, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Kansas City and volunteer at the US Coffee Championships. That was a really special, fantastic experience for me.
And then, I went to Boston a few months later, and volunteered at the World Barista Championships. And I loved it. At the time, I could not imagine ever being one of the people competing. I really see myself as somebody who’s in the shadows. I love supporting people, and helping them succeed. But I have always suffered from really bad stage fright. Like, as a kid doing recitals for piano, or violin, or even having a solo in a band concert was terrifying for me. And I would choke, and I couldn’t play… I would forget the music. So, I could not imagine ever getting on the stage.
So, gosh… the story of how I decided to compete is not a story that I particularly care to share. Uhh… mostly, it was out of spite and to prove people wrong. So yeah, I decided that I wanted to compete in Coffee and Good Spirits, and I applied for the Glitter Cat bootcamps, and I was accepted, and the rest is history.
Arielle: You said earlier that, you know, when you were watching these people compete, they were larger than life, you couldn’t imagine yourself competing. Do you think there was a moment or experience where that changed?
M-A: I mean like, like I said, it… it can seem that way, umm, but it always seemed like it was real people. I understood that everybody who was competing was really stressed, and absolutely, I think everybody, if they have the opportunity… if they want to compete, and they have the opportunity to volunteer, should. Because it’s really invaluable to see how stressed everybody is backstage…
M-A: … how anxious everyone is.
Arielle: Yeah. And for those listeners who aren’t necessarily coffee people, uhh, Veronica Grimm, who M-A mentioned earlier, is the Chief Glitter Officer of Glitter Cat Barista, which is the org that M-A was later in. So, to connect that back a little bit.
M-A: Yes, yes. I guess I have known Veronica for a while.
Arielle: Yeah. Veronica’s one of those people that just seemed, like, so, like… omnipresent in coffee for so long, until I met her… and she still seems omnipresent, but now she’s like, a person in my life as opposed to just this larger than life figure, like you were saying.
M-A: For a while, we worked at the same coffee company, and I was not receiving the training that I was supposed to, and she advocated for me. So, she has been an important figure in my career from the start.
Arielle: Yeah, she’s pretty wonderful. I am not surprised to hear that. What are some of your key takeaways from your first year of competition, and from the Glitter Cat DiGiTiTiON, which we both participated in?
M-A: So, there’s… there’s, like, a handful of things. I’ve done a lot of, like, small competitions outside of, you know, the formal US Coffee Championships, or even DiGiTiTiON. And in those, it is so important to just go in and have fun. Like, what made competition—when I did Coffee and Good Spirits, and the DiGiTiTiON, and then all of the others that I’ve done—what made those an enjoyable experience for me was that I was doing it for myself. And I know that that’s not a situation that everyone is able to be in, so I’m incredibly grateful that was a place that I was able to be. But I was doing it for myself, I wasn’t doing it necessarily to advance my career, but I was doing it because it was something that I wanted to do. And going in, the intention of having fun and learning things was the most important part for me.
The DiGiTiTiON… that’s actually a particularly interesting story. So, in March of last year, I contracted COVID. And I got severe COVID. I lost my sense of taste, I lost my sense of smell, and I now have permanent lung damage, among other things. Uhh, and the DiGiTiTiON that I participated in was Taster’s. And one of the reasons that I applied for that competition was because I had been working really hard to get my sense of taste back. And I did it kind of to validate to myself that I could still taste, or at the same time, if I did really badly, I was fine with it, because, you know, I had had a rough year, rough couple of months, and through that, I learned a lot.
Arielle: From, uh, Atlas?
Arielle: Oh! Oh! Uh, guh, duh, uhh, Chelsea, what is your last name? Umm…
M-A: Oh my gosh.
Arielle: I just see Chelsea on Instagram. Um, Chelsea definitely listens to this podcast.
M-A: Uh, for those of you who are looking, you can find them @chelsea.tastes.things on Instagram, highly recommend that you follow that page. She’s delightful.
Arielle: I don’t think I ever know peoples’ last names unless it’s, like, their Instagram handle.
M-A: Yeah. So, I’m… I’m really sorry Chelsea, but Chelsea and Jen Apodaca did two really incredible peak trainings. Jen did one on the science of smell…
M-A: …which was really, really great, really cool. And Chelsea did one that was on tasting sweet, sour, and salty that was a variation of something that you do for specialty coffee certification, the Q Grader Certification. It is a notoriously difficult exam, uhh, and one of the aspects of it is being able to differentiate sour, salty, and sweet, and I think that there’s another category, and then combinations of those. It’s a very complicated test. So, it was a variation of that that Chelsea had put together for us, and doing those really helped me leap forward in regaining my sense of taste.
Yeah, it was the very, very last thing that I did before I left Milwaukee. Quite literally, I filmed my video, packed everything up from that… like, my entire apartment was packed around me, there were boxes everywhere. I packed everything up, and… and moved the next day. Uh, so it had this sort of finality to it, uhh, for my time in Milwaukee.
So yeah, that’s my big advice, is compete for yourself if you can, and try to have fun. It is… I know that it seems really important, but it’s… it’s a competition for pouring water over toasted seeds…
M-A: …and my life’s bigger than that.
Arielle: Life is bigger than water and toasted seeds. Lesson of the day. No, totally… I… I find it so awesome that, like, this was… I mean, it was a competition, but it was also like, part of your motivation was to recover from COVID, and I think that that’s so fascinating, because I… I first of all had no idea, and you know, like you said, you did really well in this competition, I think you… you… didn’t you tie for first place, and the other person had a faster time? Was that the…?
M-A: Yeah, faster time by I believe one second.
Arielle: Wow! Yeah, so like, what a… what a recovery. And I can imagine that was a lot of hard work put into getting that sense of… sense of smell and taste back. That’s just phenomenal. So, what kinds of opportunities or avenues do you feel like competition has opened up for you?
M-A: That’s a really difficult question to answer, because for me, I competed and no one is as surprised as me that I didn’t do terribly. But I competed, and then the pandemic happened… everything shut down two weeks later (sighs). It’s really difficult quite to say if there were doors or avenues opened.
What I will say is, because I was an independent competitor, I had to reach out to every single sponsor. I reached out to dozens of companies and individuals for support or training, or you know, just to have people sit in on the routine, on my practice runs. So, perhaps my biggest takeaway was: I’ve gotten a lot better at asking for what I need, and I understand better how to navigate those channels, because I’ve already done it now.
Arielle: Are there ways in which you’ve seen yourself be able to apply that in other areas of your life since that?
M-A: Yes, when I started looking for a job last year, I was less afraid to use my network. It is very scary asking people for things. It is so scary, because of two big things: I don’t want people to feel like I’m taking advantage of them, I’m always so afraid of that. But the other big fear that I hold is rejection and failure. So, asking for what I need sets me up to be turned down, or to be told no, and after having repeatedly asked, and made these, and successfully gotten things that I asked for, I felt a lot more comfortable putting myself out there and asking for what I needed when looking for a job.
Arielle: One of the other things that I’ve noticed, specifically about Glitter Cat but just about, like, competition in general, is the way people kind of use it to build community, build support systems, either among fellow Glitter Cats, or just among other folks in coffee. Um, can you talk a little bit about what it’s like to build a supportive community for yourself, both within and outside of coffee and Glitter Cat?
M-A: Absolutely. You mention Glitter Cat, and the way that people build systems and community support systems within the—we call them cohorts, like, you’re part of a cohort, each little group—and absolutely, the… there were so many people whom I spent a really genuinely intense three days with, and we stayed in touch. We’re friends now, and I’m so grateful to have those people in my life. Uh, but it’s… it’s also true that being a Glitter Cat, being in Glitter Cat kind of connects us across cohorts. Someone who has become one of my best friends, Kae Bonaguro, was in the Barista cohort, this last one, and we just clicked, and they’ve been so supportive of me when I… I really needed it. That’s one way in which Glitter Cat I think is really unique, because it provides a unifying thing that connects so many people from so many backgrounds, and across the country, in a really beautiful way, even if we didn’t spend three days locked in a high school, drinking coffee and alcohol.
Arielle: Is that… was it in a high school, is that where the…the bootcamp was?
M-A: Yes. Yeah, it was at a high school and an elementary school.
Arielle: I don’t think I ever realized that.
M-A: Yeah. It was Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the offseason. Wild times.
M-A: Truly, I think that that’s one of the greatest things that I had seen and experienced from Glitter Cat is the way that it helps facilitate community. I’m… I’m also an avid social media user, I’m all over Twitter and Instagram, and I have greatly benefited from utilizing those pathways to build networks and build friendships. Getting to know people across social media is a genuine and fair way to get to know people. Social media played a huge role in helping me find my last job, my most recent job, and once I take some time for myself, I’m going to probably take to social media again and leverage those networks.
So, in those ways, it’s been really helpful. I’m also really fortunate to have parents and friends outside of coffee who I can relate to. This last year and a half has been incredibly difficult for all of us. There were times that I was really struggling. And without getting into too much detail, moving to Seattle, moving to a new city in the middle of a pandemic was very, very difficult for me. And having a deep support network really saved my life. It is something that I always try to do, I try to be a really present friend, to check in on people.
I really believe in telling people that you love them, that you care about them as often as you can, because you never know what the future holds. Like, you don’t wait for the right moment, because every moment’s the right moment. You can never tell somebody that you care about them, or that they matter to you, too much. But you can regret not saying it enough, or not being present enough. And so, I try to be a good friend in the way that people have been good and supportive to me.
Arielle: I think that’s a really beautiful outlook, and I think a lot of people can really benefit from viewing friendships that way. Cause like you’re saying, tomorrow is never a given, you don’t know what’s gonna happen, but you know that the moments you have with people are the moments you have with them, and to cherish those and be really present in those. Like, we live in this digital age where we’re constantly on our phones, and we’re constantly absorbed in a million different things, and just that reminder to… oh my god, I hear Jack in the background…
Arielle: …umm, just that reminder to, umm, to be present with our loved ones when we’re with them, cause there’s nothing like being in person with people. If there’s anything that the pandemic reminded me of—I mean, two things, really—is that, like, tomorrow is not a given, and in person time… nothing compares to it.
And to that point, what… what did it look like for you building community in a new city, in the middle of a global pandemic, cause you moved like—I mean, not that it’s not bad now—but you moved when it was really sort of the height of it.
M-A: November 1st, I left Milwaukee with my mom and Jack in the car, started driving to Seattle. As I had said a little bit earlier, my time in Seattle, coming here—or coming there, I’m not in Seattle right now—was really, really difficult for me. It was incredibly lonely.
What got me through it was the… I’m… I’m not sure if anybody who’s listening to this, but at the beginning of the pandemic, some folks had started doing a morning coffee break, and so I kept up with that for a while, and developed some really beautiful friendships with people I talked to every single morning. And that continuity of friendship really helped me… and having friends who I could text, who had been there for me and who had stayed there, again, that continuity was really important.
I am still kind of struggling to build a community in Seattle, because I went from working remotely for a company based in Wisconsin, to working in a very small office for a startup, and because the… the pandemic’s still very actively happening, I haven’t been able to connect with that many people, people who I have managed to connect with, I’ve met all of them through Instagram (laughs). And every once in a while, I’ve had people over for wine on my rooftop, or you know, gone to a local coffee shop to grab a cup of coffee with them, but it’s still incredibly difficult to build those systems, because I am still really, really removed from the community.
Arielle: What does your ideal community look like? What are you… what are you hoping for, what are your goals for yourself, for others?
M-A: I have no idea.
Arielle: That’s okay. That is valid. So, thank you so much for taking the time to share your stories today. What advice do you have for other folks looking to build solid support systems?
M-A: I think that it’s really important to quite frankly seek those out. Networking is terrifying. I am an introvert, and I do not take glee from going to events and introducing myself to people. But it’s something that I’ve put a lot of effort into, and I work really hard for.
So, it is something that you have to actively engage with, and if you have somebody who you trust, who has a support network like, I’m really fortunate to have friends who are really close to me, whom I can reach out to when I need something, and they will help me, they’ll use their networks, they will, you know, be an intermediary for me.
And then to foster your friendships. But, having friends, whether they’re in coffee or not, taking care of your friendships—relationships are work, and you know, you have to nurture them. Feed them like you do your cats, or your plants, but nurturing those friendships, those relationships should be fulfilling for you, too. And so to keep those support systems is work, but to try to engage in that work in a way that is fulfilling for you is really important, and to take time and space for yourself, and allow yourself to feel feelings is really important. It’s okay to feel scared, it’s okay to feel just over it, it’s okay to want to change everything about your life, and it’s okay to just want to sit in your apartment in the dark for a week. All of those things are valid, and you have to be present for yourself.
Arielle: I think that’s something that people forget pretty often is that relationships are not just about, like, what you put into the other person, it’s also, like, our relationship with ourself is also so, so important, and often we forget to put the same amount into our relationship with ourself as we put into relationships with other people, and it can lead to a lot of, like, really deep struggles with ourselves, when we forget to put that same energy into what we need.
M-A: Absolutely. It’s so cliché, but you cannot give what you do not have.
Arielle: Yeah. Can’t pour from an empty cup.
M-A: I love that. I don’t think that I’ve ever heard that before, I love that. I’m gonna steal it.
Arielle: Steal it, uhh, don’t credit me, I did not come up with it, but you can say… you can totally use it. It is one of my favorite. Cool, awesome, where can people find you online, if they’d like to follow your very active and present social media?
M-A: You can find me on all social media channels, including LinkedIn, @meghanannette. That is “m-e-g-h-a-n-a-n-n-e-t-t-e.” All one word.
Arielle: And if people loved this episode and would like to send some funds this way, which I totally encourage listeners for all of my guests, uhh, where can they find you on payment apps?
M-A: You can find me on Ca$happ, again $meghanannette spelled the same way, cause I like to keep things simple. And my Venmo is @mrsgoodwin. “M-r-s-g-o-o-d-w-i-n.” And, for anybody who cares, that’s a reference to the Nero Wolfe series.
Arielle: I was wondering.
M-A: Because everything in my life is a reference to either a TV show, or a book.
Arielle: Captain Jack Harkness. Awesome, so, M-A, thank you so much for your time today, I’ve really appreciated everything you’ve shared with us. Do you have any words of wisdom for listeners before we part?
M-A: Yeah. Thank you so much, Arielle, for having me on. This is… this has really been a joy, and I’ve enjoyed talking to you so much. Uh, yeah… I guess… I guess parting words for people is to be patient with yourselves. Life is… life seems so urgent, so immediate, but you know, we’re… we all have our limits, and you’ve gotta be patient with yourselves. And I’m saying this not just as advice for other people, but this is something that I’m constantly having to remind myself, especially now as I jump into the job search again. Be patient with yourself, be generous with yourself, show yourself the same kindness that you show others. And you know, it’s okay to sleep in.
Arielle: It’s okay to sleep in, and I do that a lot.