Last week, we were lucky enough to sit down with Jen Green, Phnom Penh’s resident coffee consultant. Over a few cappuccinos and a double espresso, we picked her brain on her very cool life and all things coffee. Hope you enjoy!
Like a lot of people in this part of the world, Jen Green has had an interesting journey to Phnom Penh. Unlike most people here, Jen’s journey involves a little black drink. She’s a coffee consultant and knows more about coffee, coffee trade, coffee flavors, coffee production, and coffee value chains than Cait knows about Tommy Boy. Initially driven by law and an interest in energy trading, Jen started work with a big law firm right out of college, living in New York and then London. A few years down the line, she decided to take a brief sabbatical and travel for a few months.
How long have you been here?
Three and a half years.
After working with a local human rights group in Phnom Penh, Jen took a trip through Mondulkiri, in the northern edges of Cambodia. On the way, she stopped to talk with a coffee farmer and asked where his coffee was sold. He didn’t know.
“It occurred to me that this was a common problem: people don’t have a sense of the whole supply chain or what’s marketable, of course that means that the value adds happen further down the supply chain and away from the farms.”
This began her adventure into the coffee world. Her work has taken her all over, and to all the highest corners of South East Asia. She works as a coffee consultant, which (we now know) means she does everything from working with farmers on how they can improve the quality of the coffee at the farm, to working to develop coffee co-ops, to working with cafes and roasters on sourcing beans, to setting up a barista station work flow and training baristas. Her blog, Little Black Drink, is beautiful, full of coffee flavor profiles and a clear, deep appreciation for a delicious little bean.
If you live in Phnom Penh, you are going to want to read this part. Jen is the mastermind behind the Disappearing Brew Bar . The Brew Bar is a pop up that, um, pops up, every few months. She collaborates with local business owners to use shop or restaurant space to host a brunch with a 3-5 different types of specialty coffees, and options from the SE Asia region. There are always delicious pastries and snacks, but if you hit the Brew Bar on the right day, there are sometimes coffee cocktails. The treats are made by Jen, fresh that day, and though she didn’t mention it in the interview, we know she wakes up at 2am on the day of the Brew Bar so she can make sure the bagel dough rises in the right way, and the chocolate-cayenne dipped bacon is perfectly crispy. (We forgot to mention that her mom is a chef, and we are thrilled those genes are strong.) The food is paired with the coffees and meant to bring out certain flavors in the drink. It’s a wonderful way to wake up on a lazy weekend, and you can find out more about them here!
The next event is this Saturday, at Common Tiger, and you should go and ask her 345429 questions about coffee, because she will know all the answers. In all honesty, she really does know more about coffee than you could believe, but without an ounce of snob in her body. She is able to look at coffee that some might call “garbage meth drink” and simply see it as a different product. She has a deep appreciation for the flavors in different types of coffee, and for the people that grow it. She has more stories than we can fit into a post, but she did tell us one, about an adventure to Chaing Mai. On a trip to a coffee farm, she was able to roast the beans from 20 feet away and make a cup of coffee for the farmer that grew it, which he had never tasted. Go ask her for the details.
Seriously. Go to the Brew Bar this weekend, if we were in country we would be there and would totally be hogging the donuts, so get in there while you can. Thank you Jen, for letting us pile on the questions, and for making something awesome and delicious in Phnom Penh.
All photos by Tiffany Tsang. Please request permission for use.
All noises caused by the photos by Tiffany Tsang are made by Caitlin Decker.
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