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A Momentary Thought; A Lifetime of Learning - Summer

Prologue: Kelvin Yap  |  Editor: Amir Alamdari

It’s about time for me to take a break and head to outer space. But before I go, I’d like to share another story with you. 

Once upon a time, there was this fool, who since he young realized that there is no one in this world you can trust. 

Perhaps it is how he was brought up, or simply because he is weird, but socializing was never important for him. 

Any connection that was built, will eventually be broken. Perhaps, that formed his personality. Making friends were never an easy task. This personality also made him feel that he is just an outlier in any social circle. 

Whether he tried or not, he just didn’t belong. Childhood never existed. Maybe, this is something he craved. Being a normal kid, having a normal family. Something so simple, yet it seems so unrealistic for him. 

Stop thinking over every single detail, just zone out and act a fool, Sometimes, this simple pleasure is enough in life. 

Not sure what he wanted in life, (at a very, very young age) he didn’t even know what is the purpose of life. The only thing he knows for certain is that he is not a genius at all, he doesn’t even know his own strengths. Suddenly, the thought sprouted into his mind:

Money! 

Money is the only thing that can make him feel secure. So, he needs to learn how he can master it. 

When he knows that he is not a genius, that he is not good at anything at all, he realized the only way to reach this goal is to put in 300% hard work. The extra effort will allow him to achieve his goal. Hard work does pay off, so he never worried about money for his studies, nor money for his family. 

Eventually, he realized that all this hard work brings security but doesn’t bring him joy or a purpose for living. Suddenly, he felt it’s all such a cruel joke. 

And so, in his quest for “self-recognition” our fool and our hero makes a very impulsive decision… 

(To be continued…) 

Ok, we shall stop here.  The prologue is a bit too heavy for this week. I am headed off for holiday next week, so it’s a time of reflection for me. But the main point of this story is simply to talk about “recognition” for this week’s voyager. 

Everyone seeks recognition from others. You might not express it out, or even don’t show interest at all, but deep down everyone cares about it! It might be recognition from your boss, your colleague, your friends, your family and last but not least, yourself. 

Let us put “self-recognition” aside for this week and focus on “recognition” in the workplace. 

All newbies who just started work seek recognition in their workplace. But what is the secret, how can one get the recognition we are seeking? 

Perhaps this may sound lame, but let me share a secret: 

listen to your leader, your supervisor, your boss.

Maybe, you are thinking, I am simply sharing this advice to please my boss, but I can firmly tell you NO… he is too busy to even read these articles. 

Listen and understand.  This maybe sounds like a very simple instruction but what is the secret behind that? 

Sometimes we may question our leader simply because the comment is irrational, or you might not agree with what he or she said, or maybe you simply think that he or she is not alert and cannot think properly. 

But, every decision maker and leader must have a certain job experience, and perhaps our vision is just one tiny step ahead of us. But they need to anticipate what happens after that tiny step, to envision 100 steps ahead, or even 1000 steps ahead. 

You might not understand what he is thinking, or might even think that he is an idiot, but if such thoughts appear, cast them out!

There is a Chinese idiom that says “true growth never comes easy”. That’s how leaders see the world—they always want you to become better than them. Put your personal growth as your top priority, and hope that one day you can just be like them. 

Perhaps, it’s still hard to understand what I mean. 

Let’s focus our attention to our next inspiring story: 

China’s first female Q-Grader Instructor, Summer Zhang.

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Happenstance with Coffee

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I’m really impressed by the editor…we only met twice, yet he can sense I have a deep connection with Torch, and actually I feel we have a certain… je ne sais quoi…

A lot of people ask me, “Why did you choose coffee? Why did you choose Torch (previously GreenHouse Coffee in Xining)?”

Until now, I couldn’t tell you the exact answer. Before joining this team, I didn’t drink much coffee. I jumped into coffee the same way as anything else—because it seemed interesting.

When I mentioned to a friend of mine from Xining that I was thinking about getting into coffee, she recommended that I visit this company based out of her hometown. I took her advice and that’s where my coffee story began, without much drama or difficulty.

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At Torch, there is a certain company culture where you be thrown in a pool to learn to swim, and once you learn to swim, they will throw you into the ocean!

I was one of the first “test subjects” for this system.  I’ve worked as a waitress, chef, cashier, and barista. This is how everyone is trained to understand every aspect of a coffee shop.

In January 2013, our Xi’an project was confirmed, and my boss at that time Samuel, opened a new cafe and the first training school in the northeast region of China.  Samuel assigned me to the role of salesperson, but I felt I was really terrible at sales.  I never enjoyed doing sales.  I was miserable in my personal life and work life, and felt really terrible.

One day, I just could take it anymore, and I called Samuel to tell him what I feeling.  At that time, our training school hadn’t opened yet, but was still in the midst of preparing.

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To my surprise, he told me that he had actually already made plans to shift me to school. This is because I have working experience in school. He took my complaints to heart and eventually I was transferred to work in the school instead of sales. From then onwards, my learning curve skyrocketed, and never dropped. I never expected a tiny coffee seed have such big impact on me . 

Work at Coffee Orign

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In 2015, I moved to Pu’er with Samuel & Marty. I was really excited to work at this coffee origin. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as I had dreamed. Once I was here in Pu’er, I was working as Lab Manager, managing the training department, course materials and more. 

Eventually I was promoted to Pu’er General Manager, overseeing almost everything in the company. There were so many things I was inexperience. This experience being “thrown into the ocean” was really a difficult time for me. 

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There is one thing I should mention: Samuel, Marty and I have very different personalities, in addition to the cultural and language differences making me feel frustrated. Sometimes I might doubt myself, I might think that maybe I am just not good enough, and I lose so much of my personal life because of work.

Although we might have had some disagreements at work, what made the biggest impression on me was their heart of gratitude. 

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They have always been really generous in sharing their knowledge, work experience, and opportunities for me to keep growing.  Last but not least, they always drove us all to excellence with their encouragement and trust.

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Words cannot describe how grateful I am to have been a part of Torch. This has made my connection to Torch so strong, and it will always be the place where I planted and nurtured my seed of coffee knowledge into blooming. Although I no longer work with Torch, I will always remain friends with the team.

Every time I return to Torch, it feels like a homecoming for me. Things may have changed, but everything is still so familiar.  Even the finger print lock still knows me!

Samuel was also a witness at my wedding. That is the best gift I could ask for: humorous, romantic, simple yet irreplaceable.

Never Stop Learning

Dr. Manuel once told me: 

“One can never stop learning.” 

He tries to improve himself every single day. If someone so senior could have such an attitude to keep learning, who am I to complain that I am tired and should give up? 

I will keep going! My family and friends once told me that I seemed to disappear once I joined the coffee industry. 

I was busy every single day, and even though I was not sure what I am busy doing, I think this is a common experience for everyone in the coffee industry. 

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Last year in July, I moved to America with my husband. Now I am working at Onyx Coffee Lab in the United States. I am very happy here. As the only Chinese employee, I am doing things that everyone thinks and experiences as strange, but everyone is friendly so I integrated into this team quickly. 

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I am doing what I love, which is roasting and quality control of coffee. Although the work is exhausting sometimes, I always bear in mind that I’m a woman, but I move and weigh green beans, operate machines that are several times my size, and even the silver skin collector is at least twice my size. However, I'm happy to be here as I am doing what I love.

Life Before Coffee

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Life before coffee was not as inspiring, but right after my university, my first job was working with animals. I was afraid of animals back then but in the end became a dog lover! I hope to become someone that helps animals. 

What Will You Do if No one Drink Coffee?

I have never thought about this. Besides coffee, I only can think of taking care of animals. I would like to fight for animal rights by stopping the use of ‘kopi luwak” or other coffees that use animals to process. 

What do You do in Your Free Time?

After work, there are a lot of things I like to do, such as watch movies, travel, hike, and challenge myself.

This week we were really fortunate to talk with one of the most influential people in the coffee industry. 

When we define someone that is influential, do we ever think of how they got started? Yes, a newbie! 

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The hunger for knowledge and learning is something which will define who you are today. 

Everyone has that one special moment that launches them on a new trajectory in life. But will that one moment or thing continue to drive you for the rest of your life?  Not at all.

Passion and the law attraction, the balance between these two relies on another two factors: the hunger for knowledge and the persistence to continue learning. 

Summer learned from Manuel that one can never stop learning. This built up her character and drove her passion and hunger for knowledge.

Persistence might simply mean you need to be really tough! The process is never going to be totally comfortable, like the road to building your six pack!

People might laugh at you, at all the work your doing.  Am I fool? Maybe, but what’s wrong with being a fool if your goals are worthwhile?

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So long, you think that is what you love and that is where you find your joy, those unhappy moments and the sacrifices you make can always be justified. 

So, let’s be that fool, let’s stay hungry!

Last but not least, do follow us and read more about coffee voyagers story. See you in July! Bye!