We had the good fortune of connecting with Rachel O’Callaghan and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rachel, what principle do you value most?
What matters most to me is staying true to myself. When I graduated college right before the pandemic hit I began applying for jobs in the environmental science field. I didn’t really have a concrete idea of what I wanted to do beyond that I wanted to be involved some way in fighting climate change and environmental sustainability. As I began really envisioning what that would look like I started to think, “Oh I’ll have to buy some pant suits and probably figure out how to cover up my tattoos” and I felt like I would have to change my mannerisms and be more of the professional I thought would score me the good jobs. After a lifetime in the service industry, twelve years as a barista, and five years running coffee shops, it dawned on me that I didn’t want to change who I was. I didn’t want to act a different way or dress the part of someone who I wasn’t. I decided to do what I knew how to do best, make excellent coffee and run a coffee shop, and in so doing I wanted to incorporate all of the knowledge I gained surrounding environmental science and sustainability into my business. In this way I am finally able to live my values while also staying true to myself.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I bring along with me twelve years of experience in third wave coffee, and I’ve learned an awful lot. Not just about being a barista, and managing a shop, but also the socioeconomic importance of having relationships with small independent coffee farms in an industry that so heavily relies on massive factory farms that not only don’t allow for regenerative growing practices, but also remove the ability for small farmers to have any chance at a livelihood. When I used to train new baristas I would always start with the same spiel, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” From the terroir where the coffee plant was cultivated, to the way it was processed and transported, then roasted to perfection, and finally packaged and shipped to your coffee shop, there are so many things that have been handled just right. As baristas, we are the final link in the chain of all that hard work. It is our job to make sure all of those various ways those beans have been loved and cared for aren’t ruined by a bad extraction or burnt milk, or a bad attitude or unfriendly service for that matter. I have so much appreciation for third wave coffee, not just because it’s superior to anything you’d get at a Starbucks, but because it enables me to share my knowledge with new coffee enthusiasts. Being in coffee shops has always felt like my second home (I’ve probably spent more time in coffee shops than I have my apartment). Reaper Caffe is just getting started as a pop up at a gallery called Santa Josephina in East Hollywood, but in a few months I’ll be on the search for my own brick and mortar. When the time comes for me to open the doors to a permanent location it will be like welcoming everyone into my new home (but you can keep your shoes on in the house). There is no place I feel more like I’m “in my element” than behind an espresso machine making delicious coffees. I can’t wait to share my home with everyone and caffeinate the masses!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man! We have a whole week? Okay, I think I would start off by doing a hike up to the observatory, of course stopping at Trails Cafe on the way up for some coffee and their ridiculously tasty and simple egg in a basket or a snake dog. Then I would take them to the Getty Villa to take in the views and amazing art, maybe make a day of it and take them to puma beach or point dume. I’d love to take them for drinks at Harvard and Stone (if bars ever reopen) and get a cocktail from the effortlessly cool and talented Joey Bernardo. Or maybe some delicious Filipino food from Chef Ria in downtown. I might even take them to Konbi for the best Japanese omelet sands I’ve ever had. I would also take them to one of the many awesome record stores in LA like Rockaway Records in Silverlake, or the Record Parlor in Hollywood, or Headline Records on Melrose. They would definitely leave LA with a belly full of food and a bag full of records.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I wouldn’t have been able to begin my journey without the support and guidance from a few close friends and coworkers. Shout out to Elisa Hoyos who inspired me by opening her own coffee shop with her partner Leo in East LA, Picaresca. I’d also like to give props to Diana who is also working on her coffee pop up, Cafe Calle. I also really appreciate all of the guidance and advice from Bobby, the owner of Cafe Demitasse, as well as Sarafina who hired me and got Diana, Elysa, and myself all connected at Demitasse. I would also like to give a shout out to two of my best friends, Hayley Porter, and Siobhan Kelly. Hayley helped me get the money together to pay for my logo, and Siobhan is helping me with my social media. Finally I’d like to thank my folks for helping me with some extra cash to buy the espresso machine (working in coffee shops most of my adult life means barely scraping by). Special thanks to my dad who makes some seriously amazing cookies for the pop up. I’m calling them “Papa Pete’s confectionary treats.”
All images owned by me, Rachel O’Callaghan