Blue Bottle grad Juliet Han rocks roasting and research at UC Davis Coffee Center
A part-time job in a coffee shop after college crescendos into a coffee career at a college for punk-loving alumna of acclaimed specialty roaster Blue Bottle Coffee.
By Ed Murrieta
DAVIS — Juliet Han first went to college for music. She went back to college for coffee.
Han studied music at the University of California, San Diego. A former bouncer and merch girl at punk music venues, she was interested in a career in music policy and worked at a royalties agency in Washington, D.C., until she burned out and quit over industry corruption.
Han already had a second gig to fall back on, a part-time barista job in a trendy coffee shop, which led to her last job as head roaster at Blue Bottle Coffee, which led to her current job roasting beans, educating undergraduates and conducting university-level research that could rescue coffee from botched beans and climate change.
As head roaster and Probat Roasting Fellow at the three-year-old Coffee Center at the University of California, Davis, Han, hired in August as the center’s first full-time staff member, manages roasting for research and education and oversees “The Design of Coffee,” the center’s flagship course, which outstrips sex and beer in popularity among undergraduate electives.
For a story that’s both a profile of Han, a 38-year-old first-generation Korean-American who holds coffee’s equivalent of sommelier status, and a feature on UC Davis’ Coffee Center, I propose auditing Han’s laboratory and lecture; joining Han in a roasting/research session; and having coffee with Han to discuss the future of coffee and find out how a part-time job supporting her music policy dream crescendoed into a coffee career that’s now going on 15 years, mostly at acclaimed specialty roaster Blue Bottle and now at one of the country’s top ag-sciences universities, where the Coffee Center supports research, education and industry collaboration for coffee the way other UC Davis institutes do for wine and beer.
One question I’ll pose to Han may have an obvious answer: Does Han feel any less homesick in her college life after her former employer, Blue Bottle Coffee, announced last month that it’s moving all of its West Coast roasting operations from Oakland to West Sacramento, 12 miles from Han and her new gig at UC Davis?