Barista Magazine

FEB-MAR 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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Ashley Rodriguez: Tell us about the beginning of your career—all I know is that people tell me it's an incredibly interesting story. Ildi Revi: Tell that to my kids! I started in education, then went into coffee, and then blended education in with coffee. I graduated from the University of Texas in Austin with a degree in history, but I really focused on African history. After I graduated, my aunt sent me a fl yer from her church saying there was a remote mission in the Zambezi Valley and they were looking for secondary-school teachers. It was non-denominational. I applied, and six weeks later, I was in Binga, Zimbabwe, teaching math and science, and I loved it. After I fi nished my two-year contract, I did a master's in adult educa- tion, focusing on how people learn at work and job training. While I was doing my master's, I worked for a diversity consultant in the early years of diversity training. I also worked on a project for the Illinois Correc- tional System, helping ex-offenders reintegrate, and worked at a mustard factory, teaching the employees math for statistical process control. I then became the director of an education program in the inner city of Chicago where we taught basic skills to adults who needed to fi nish their high-school degrees. We also opened an alternative high school, as more young people started coming to our adult classes. The entire time I was in Chicago, I missed Africa. I sent one of my teachers to a confer- ence and she came back and said, "The USIS has grants for people to work in post-civil- war Mozambique." Since Mozambique is a Portuguese-speaking country surrounded by English-speaking nations, the job was to increase commerce by training local English teachers to design workplace-specifi c lan- guage programs. I did that the fi rst year, and the second year I helped develop the business curriculum for a new university. AR: How did you get into coffee? IR: When I originally lived in the Zambezi Valley, I met an English author named Doris Lessing. Doris was visiting Zimba- bwe to research her book African Laugh- ter, and we spent five days together at my home, school, and driving to Harare. Her son, John, was a coffee farmer in the Eastern Highlands. Doris connected me with him, and we became friends. Sadly, he passed away, and when I lived in Mozam- bique, I took a trip to visit his old farm. I met his neighbor, Rob, who was also a coffee farmer, and we fell in love. When my contract ended, Rob asked me to marry him and stay on the farm. So I did. A year later, I was eight months pregnant with my fi rst child, and helping train the fi rst Peace Corps volunteers to Mozambique, when the Zimbabwe government farm takeovers started—basically chaos ensued in Zimbabwe from December of 1999 to [late 2017] when Robert Mugabe was ousted. In 2003 when I had my second child, things became more dangerous in Zimbabwe. [Rob] told me to take the kids with me back to the States, buy a roaster, and he would send a container of coffee (I had to buy it, of course!). We fi gured we'd roast coffee, because it was all we had. AR: How did you end up in South Carolina? IR: I did some market research and found that there was only one cof- fee roaster in Greenville, and it was affordable for us. Rob had to stay most of the time with his parents in Zimbabwe, as they were getting older and he had to run the farm. I ran the roasting operation, and at fi rst, we just wanted to give nice cups of brewed coffee. But the neigh- borhood was like, "Yay! Lattes!" I said I didn't have any more money to build a café, but the community said they would help me—and they did. I thought, "Now I have to hire and train people. I have to know how to do this latte stuff!" 99 www.baristamagazine.com

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