Our Director of Coffee, Erika Vonie, wasn't born a coffee expert, but she did get an early start thanks to her dad.
"I’m very lucky to have a wonderful dad. Dave Vonie takes his role as a dad seriously. He was always involved with the sports teams I was on growing up and has been to almost every single barista competition I’ve competed in. He even hand-made a custom wood frame for the giant check I won from Coffee Masters, and it hangs in my childhood bedroom.
There’s always been something comforting in looking out from the stage and seeing my dad, just beaming in silence watching me. I can always hear his voice above anyone else’s in the crowd, yelling 'Go Coots!' — his nickname for me since I was a little girl. Coots is short for Cootie Head, and he even invented a theme song for me and everything.
Dad worked an intense job for over 30 years with long, 12-hour shifts either spanning over the entire night or throughout the entire day. Coffee was always a main ingredient in getting him through those shifts. The smell of coffee was in the house every morning, and I could smell it on his skin when he came home at night.
Being a daddy’s girl, I wanted him to be proud of me at all times. So, to impress my dad one hot, muggy summer day when my age was still in the single digits, I ordered “Colombian Coffee” ice cream from Stewart's, our local upstate New York ice cream spot. It was fantastic. My first taste of coffee was actually in ice cream form, so of course I thought coffee was this magical, delicious and fantastic drink!
It wasn’t until I was 12, when after much pleading, Dad finally let me have a sip. I came with him to Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and to fully submerge myself in the role, I had my first cup of coffee.
I hated it. It was strong, bitter, and made my mouth dry and ashy. Dad laughed at me with an “I told you so” and handed me the sugar. I think I went through an entire carton of creamer and used a half pound of sugar to make it palatable for my pre-teen tastebuds.
I’ve had many cups of coffee over the years, since then and clearly have learned to love it. I always thought we’d share an enthusiasm for coffee, but Dad, set in his ways and loyal to his Folgers and then later Green Mountain, never really opened any of the coffee bags I’d send him.
However, this last Christmas he saw me bust out a Clever Dripper to make myself a pour over at home and he became curious. In the best Christmas present he ever gave me, he finally (after 13 years!) let me teach him how to make a pour over, and together we tasted the cup and learned why it’s so good.
I’m so grateful for a dad who has supported me through every phase of my career, who came out to my competitions, sends me fun coffee news he finds, and is genuinely enthusiastic to hear me talk about coffee as I keep learning more and more about it. I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!"