‘Barista Talk’ Podcast Offers Audio Expedition Across America

With the 50 Weeks 50 States series the ‘Barista Talk podcast explores coffee-related businesses across the nation.



Cover image by McLain Stalker

In the beginning of 2021 the former journalist and barista Laura Stewart channeled her interests and knowledge to create “Barista Talk,”” podcast that interviews baristas, owners of coffee shops coffee roasters, and customers about what happens behind the scenes in their businesses.

While Laura created monthly episodes in the first year of the podcast but she wanted to move in an entirely different direction in 2022. “I wanted to publish weekly and choose an annual theme,” she says. “I wanted to know if there could be a way to connect small-scale business owners across the U.S., and wanted to find out if there are any commonalities or major differences between the two states when it comes to coffee culture.”

Laura’s brainstorming led to “50 weeks 50 States,” a “Barista Talk” series that she began in January, with an episode about Grounded Coffee in Madison, Ala. Since then, the “Barista Talk” podcast has embarked on an aural journey exploring coffee businesses throughout the United States, which Laura says is the result of her yearning “to see sustainability-focused coffee shops thrive, educate customers (and listeners) on what goes into making their coffee, and the importance of supporting local shops.”

Laura Stewart is a former journalist and barista who is the host of the “Barista Talk” podcast. Photograph from McLain Stalker.

The origins of the coffee are in Love for Coffee

Laura claims she first launched “Barista Talk” after becoming interested in podcasting, and realizing she was missing the interviewing aspect of her journalism experience. When she tried to decide on the topic for her show, she recalled her experience behind the counter at the coffee shop. “My days as a barista were memorable for me, as I gained a lot of knowledge about my customers as well as my neighborhood, and making an amazing cup coffee,” she says. “But I wanted my podcast to be available to everyone who doesn’t need to be a pro in the world of coffee, and to blur the line between baristas and customers. There is no pretentiousness here.”

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When she made the decision to start the “50 Weeks 50 States” series, Laura set the goal of sharing the wisdom of cafe owners with the wider community. “I wanted to know if there could be a way to connect small-scale business owners across the U.S., and wanted to find out if there are similarities or significant differences between states in regards to the culture of coffee,” she says.

Coffee Stories from Across the Country

Now that we’re in the month of August the series has covered over half the states in the union. (Episode 37, which was released in July, which marks the halfway mark of the series features Laura’s thoughts on the initial 26 episodes.) Laura claims she has a number of favorite episodes of “50 Weeks 50 States,” including Episode 27, featuring Haley Kesterson from Tru Coffee & Threads in Iowa City, Iowa. “This was among the most inspiring tales,” says Laura. “She was inspired by her mom to pursue her dream of opening a coffee shop before her passing. Haley opened her shop during the outbreak and went through many other life-altering transitions since launching. … Haley has (demonstrated) real determination and compassion as she is focused on the community and not competition.”

Laura’s ambitious undertaking will be completed in December, having covered one cafe in each U.S. state. Image from Laura Stewart.

Another episode that was a highlight for Laura was her interview with Leticia Hutchins of Alma Coffee in Canton, Ga. in Episode 22. “Leticia is carrying on the family’s tradition as the fifth generation of farmers in coffee,” Laura says. “She was the first one to open a store and roast coffee. … Her aim is to reconnect the coffee with farmers, and (tell) the stories of the farmers to customers.”

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Passing Along Valuable Lessons

Listen to the entire series of “Barista Talk,” including the in-progress “50 States” series here. Laura is eager to finish the series and share what she’s learned from her seasoned subjects.

“Shop proprietors are resilient and those who pivot will continue to grow,” Laura says. “This is something that I’ve observed in these interviews. In addition, the coffee community is very welcoming and generous. The coffee community is willing to to each other this is different from other business-oriented industries.”

This article was first published at Barista Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to baristas and coffee professionals.

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