The History of New Gotham & a Sincere Farewell from the President/ Co-founder

newgothamheader2 By Talya Strader

As my days in Chicago come to a close, I’m less worried about the new apartment or new job that I must find, and am feeling more and more motivated to place more events on the Chicago coffee community calendar. It’s not that I am worried that New Gotham will disband or become stagnant in my absence, rather the opposite. The fear lies within no longer being a part of or needed by a flourishing and exciting group of coffee professionals that want to connect, educate, and socialize over coffee.

New Gotham, from most people’s perspectives, started with a bang at the first TNT on June 7th 2012. Attendance was high and many coffee companies participated in sponsorship of prizes and beer. However, the true inception was amongst two other professional colleagues at the Counter Culture Coffee Lab, in Chicago, a couple of months earlier. Brent Hall had participated in building a coffee community in North Carolina previous to relocating to Chicago, so was a great resource and mentor for my ideas. Josh Dugue was interested in seeing the Chicago coffee community grow, so was ready to help with ideas. After many email exchanges and failed attempts at naming the coffee community, we finally landed on New Gotham. We decided that TNTs were a good start to forming the community and helping the network, but eventually we would need to grow into something else.

On July 25th we had a huge New Gotham meeting that consisted of 10-12 people, and I was assured that we were going to be a fully fueled, go get em’ attitude-ed, most creative and awesome coffee community that there ever was. The reality is that all new ideas are exciting, and most people have allegiance to their companies and work, as those are the hands that feed them. I was blessed at that time to have had a supervisor who truly believed in the idea of New Gotham, and participated in it as much as he could. I was allowed to put in more time and effort than the rest, and was earning a decent salary that would make up for the lack of donations at TNTs.

There were still members of the team that continued to have interest, and two women especially, who were determined to have more educationally focused events. These two women, Shannon Steele-Knuckles and Otter (Andrea Otte) planned a round table discussion with the entire team of roasters who roast in Chicago as well as a discussion panel on “Women in Coffee.” Both of these women were integral in building new coffee roasting companies, and splitting their time for these two events, was huge.

Then there came a time, when I decided that I needed to start saving for my future, and New Gotham was too heavy of a drain on my time and finances. So I consulted the two women that had truly taken New Gotham seriously, as it was meant to be, and told them that I was considering killing it. I expected to hear all about how they understood and that nobody has time for this kind of thing, but it was absolutely the opposite. They had an idea, an idea that I should have had from the beginning… develop a team. Each team member would have a small job, and a lot of back up. I still worried that nobody would be interested in the responsibility, and to be honest, there were a great deal of people who were nominated and declined. However, there was a decent amount of people who were honored and willing to take the plunge with us. We now have a Board of Directors and are putting events on the books!

Now begins the process of finding a new President, and while I couldn’t be more proud of the Chicago coffee community, I’m also terribly pained to be leaving it. Chicago has always had the capacity of an organized coffee community, and didn’t need me to organize it, but I am super proud to have been a part of it. This city keeps producing more and more roasting companies and coffee bars, and has the ability to support all of them.

Dear New Gotham,

I’m so proud of you. You are proof to me that coffee professionals will continue to multiply and improve. Remember that this part of the third wave movement is just as important as the beginning when Trish Rothgeb first coined the phrase. You have the ability to impact our history and progress as much as any other human being. Please be revolutionary in the movement, and make Chicago the most well educated and networked coffee destination in the world.

Make it fun, AND be intentional. Let’s find a certified lab, and start licensing Q graders. Let’s make sure every barista understands the value of BGA education and certifications. Let’s ensure that every coffee event inside of Chicago is a BGA member driven event. Let’s foster great attitudes, hard work, and fantastic coffee.

Being a coffee professional, for most of us, is a dream come true. Whether you stumbled into the job, or have been seeking it out as a career for a while now, we can all agree that it’s one of the most lovely positions we’ll ever be paid for. By participating in the future of this group, you are encouraging and paving the way for more people like you, to discover this privilege.

You are all my friends and family, and I will truly miss you.

Sincerely, Talya Strader

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