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Tattoo-Armed Barista: Joel

Author: Joel | Editor: Kelvin & Jack

It’s been three weeks since this column was launched. To my surprise, this column has attracted quite an amount of fans. 


Writing is a tiring job when artwork deadlines are due (my main job). Sometimes I just feel like ignoring this column to just go and take a nap. 

What keeps me writing this column is simply because of humans. Human - Reader, Writer (Coffee Voyagers), and Myself. Human interaction has an unexpected power.

Encouragement & care are basic human communications that can mean so much to others. It empowers us to go further and inspire more people around us. 

Perhaps deeper human connection has been eroded these days, where everyone is skimming through life chasing after fame, money, social status, etc. Communication is at it’s basic level is simply trying to get things done fast, accurately, and to pass on a task.

No one is open to listen much less listening to others stories.  

However, I believe when you notice a problem that you wish to change, we should initiate tiny steps to make a change to the problem. You ain’t gonna change the whole world, but you can start small. Even we are only able to reach an individual it still means a lot to us. 

That is why this column was started. We hope to inspire our readers and create a community that cares and communicates, listens, and encourages each other to keep going in whatever they do. 

Finally, this week we are going to feature someone who is single (not too sure whether he is available or not) So, follow closely and read his story. (If you find it’s inspiring, do share it with your friends and follow us for more stories! 

Ok… spoiler alert, this guy is Joel. He is my housemate. He is a really caring and nice guy. 

I still remember this one time I was drunk and being so emotional, crying non-stop at home. He and Mason (another housemate of ours) were in the living room and he was sort of patting my head and praying for me. (This memory still lays inside my mind and it actually made me sober up a bit after he did that, because it really caught me off guard. Thanks dude if you are reading this!) 

I shall let him tell his story… 

God . Chong Qing Hot Pot . English Teacher


Hey dudes, my name is Joel Smith. I graduated university in 2014 and have bounced around a few times since then trying out different things and trying to learn about the world and the people in it. 

Everything I do comes from what I believe about the universe.I believe every person is created by the most powerful God for a purpose. The purpose God created me for is to help others find their passion. 

At one point in my life I was depressed and didn’t think life had a purpose. As I contemplated suicide, God came and spoke to me. Since then, He just wants me to tell others about this purpose and joy I now have. 

So after I graduated I went to England to work with a non-profit helping youth kids. Then I went back to USA for a few months working at a cafe making sandwiches and coffee and also doing some volunteer work in my spare time.

Where I live out my life purpose isn’t as important as actually living my purpose out, but when presented with an opportunity to teach English in China, I felt God wanted to take the opportunity.  I was curious if what I had learned in America about life would be true elsewhere, so came to China to learn about people and culture.

Before working in the Chinese coffee industry I was an English teacher in ChongQing. Most of the time you could find me on the basketball court, reading a book as I sat in the hammock, or eating hot pot down the street with some friends trying my best to practice Chinese. I like to learn about others and culture so I spent much of my time in ChongQing trying to do this.

Why Coffee?


I love to learn and listen to others. No one lives a perfect life, and I think if we were to all be honest with ourselves we would agree that below the surface layer of our lives we have an underlying theme of chaos and confusion. 

As I venture through life in different countries and cities, I discover that we are all similar and can learn from each other. Coffee gives incredible opportunities to listen to others. 

I can sit down with others, drink a cup of coffee, and listen to what they have been through. 

Or, as a barista, when two friends come into have a cup coffee and talk about life, I feel that if I make an excellent cup of coffee for them, I am adding value to their conversation, their relationship, and their lives.

“Coffee is a catalyst for relationship, and relationships are the capital used for transformation.”


Last November Dylan Siemen’s, the 2017 American Brewer Cup Champion, came to Torch to teach brewing. I had a few opportunities to listen to his story as we shared a meal or a drink. 

He could tell me the optimum temperature sugar molecules dissolve and the percent of extraction on each part of a coffee bed based upon the shape. I asked why he cared to learn so many intricate and meticulous details about coffee and he responded with “coffee is about people, and it is about plants. Working in coffee gives me the chance to change the world in two different ways at the same time. This is why I care.”

That has stuck with me ever since, and I’m sure I have quoted it several times.

One other quote that keeps me going is from my friend Aaron: “Coffee is a catalyst for relationship, and relationships are the capital used for transformation.”

Some days are spent behind a computer screen reading through materials and articles as I prepare for classes. Or on others days I spend the entire day cupping coffee and filing out reports. On these days I go home and think “what the hell am I doing?” But then I have to remind myself that days like these are necessary if I am going to grow as a coffee instructor and professional, which will then lead to relationship, which will hopefully lead to life transformation as I learn more about the world and the people and plants in it.

Pay homage to the previous link


I want to see every link in the chain pay homage to the previous link. I want baristas to thank their roasters, roasters to thank the green been buyers, green bean buyers thanking the farmers, and then I want to see the farmers thanking mother Nature. 

It doesn’t matter how awesome a farmer is, the farmer is still dependent on mother nature to do what mother nature does; without rain or sun, even the best farmers are rendered useless.

 If no one drink coffee anymore, what would you do?


If everyone on Earth decided to stop drinking coffee, I would be an astronaut so I could go to another planet and drink coffee. 

Nah, just kidding. I would like to become a master beer brewer and just make beer. That way I can still sit down and talk with people while drinking something delicious.

What do you do during your free time?


I don’t have a lot of free time, but what I do have is spent playing basketball, skate boarding, biking, reading books, and drinking beer with friends. If I had more time, I would probably do the same thing, except maybe spend more time on the phone calling my American friends.

For those who are still finding your path, It’s not gonna be easy. However, everything will be alright if you keep your passion and be appreciative of your surroundings. 

If you are tired, take a break and recharge yourself. 

Reflect what you have learned. And keep going after that! 

“Learning without reflection is a waste. 

Reflection without learning is dangerous.” 

- Confucius