Caitlin Cunningham has been with Blanchard's Coffee Roasting Co. since 2013. She came on board working part time bagging coffee and running our booth at the South of the James Farmers Market while earning her undergraduate degree at Virginia Commonwealth University. Over the years, Caitlin worked as many hours as she could fit into her busy class schedule, always proving herself to be diligent, hardworking, reliable, and fun to be around. As she continued into a Masters program at VCU, her time was far more limited with us, but she'd still come to help out when she could. When she finished school, we lobbied hard for her to join the Blanchard's team full time, and this year she took on the role of production manager, guiding the the entire Blanchard's Coffee production team through the complexities of packaging and distributing thousands of pounds of coffee each week, while also being a valuable part of our coffee analysis team, and contributing content for our Handshake Quarterly and website journals.
We took a moment to talk with Caitlin about her work in coffee and some of her favorite coffee moments outside of work. Check out what she had to say and shop her favorite coffees in this collection!
What is your earliest coffee memory?
My mother and my grandmother always started the morning with a cup of coffee. My mom drank hers black and my grandmother drank hers with plenty of cream and sugar. My grandmother started sneaking me the last couple sips of her coffee at a young age. I can remember asking for her cup and tasting mostly sugar, which I loved.
What is your go-to home brewing method? Recipe?
I live with three other coffee drinkers, so most days one of us is brewing a pot first thing in the morning. If not, I’m making a V60 pour over. 24 grams of coffee to 350 grams of water.
Where do you see the specialty coffee industry in Richmond and beyond, and how do you fit into it?
The specialty coffee industry in Richmond is really exciting right now. I love seeing all of the roasters and cafes working together and thinking through what the coffee community in Richmond has to offer. As a whole, the specialty coffee industry plays an interesting role in smaller cities like Richmond. I feel like it’s still a kind of niche industry, but people are into it. We have customers come in all the time who have either never had our coffee, or they’ve only had one of our classic blends. We start talking to them about some of the farmers we have worked with and all the sudden we’re having a conversation about the different processing methods or variations in coffee tree varieties. More often than not, those customers leave with a single origin bag of coffee. Since my job revolves around managing production, I think a lot about how we sort of round out the whole coffee producing process. It’s pretty exciting to get a new coffee, cup it with our staff, and watch the final product get pulled together into a labeled bag with details about the farmer, the coffee and its characteristics. That bag represents a lot of labor and time spent, and I really appreciate that I get to oversee that process.
What is your favorite place to grab a cup of coffee with friends on the weekend?
I love hanging out at Chairlift. Not only are they making great coffee, but I have really appreciated working with the staff there. They take the same care in presenting our coffee as I do packaging our coffee. It means a lot to me.
What does a perfect day in Richmond look like for you?
I love slow mornings at home, so a perfect day in Richmond starts on my porch with a cup of coffee and a book. Around mid-morning I would start working in my garden and by lunch time, I’d be ready to meet up with friends. We might head over to Garnett’s for a sandwich before going to the VMFA and wandering around the galleries. Later in the afternoon, I would head over to Buttermilk Trail for a little hike by the James River. By sunset, I’d be back on the porch with friends. For dinner, we might go get some tacos from Don’t Look Back, and stick around for a game of pool. And what day is complete without dinner and a show? I would finish the day by catching a show of any kind! Music, dance, comedy, you name it.