Catch Berry brewing and talking more coffee at Second State West Ashley | Photo by Ruta Smith

You may have seen her contribution at places like Harold’s Cabin on the peninsula or Lodi Coffee in North Charleston, but Brianna Berry, also known as Talk Coffee To Me, knows a thing or two about coffee.

Berry specializes in coffee consulting and education with Talk Coffee to Me, a consulting business that helps up-and-coming coffee houses with everything from barista training to operating equipment to menu development. 

Coffee is more than just the cup you drink every morning (or night, for you night owls). There’s a significant chain of events required to get to the final product of your morning jitters. It’s a process Berry fell in love with during a trip to Honduras in 2010 where she studied coffee from its origins — from a plant’s cultivation to its arrival in a cup of espresso. On returning, she “was a lot more interested and motivated to continue with that,” she said. Very simply, the amount of hard work that goes into a product is what drove me.

“With coffee, for instance, just seeing how many hundreds of hands touched the product and how complex it was, and how little appreciation we can have for something that we don’t know about,” she added. “I think that has translated to many products, and just realizing that the more you look into something, the more you find out about making it — that’s what sort of drove me to investigate.”

Since returning from Honduras, Berry spent time studying the craft, equipment and origins on her own, working at then up-and-coming roaster Pure Intentions Coffee in Charlotte, N.C. — which operated out of a garage at the time — and doing some training of her own, including educating baristas and helping coffee shop owners “from the ground up,” she said.

Coffee, she said, wasn’t always the plan, but educating and entrepreneurship always was. “As a kid, I was definitely entrepreneurial,” she said. “I owned my first business when I was 6, selling cookbooks and crafted goods to neighbors, but I didn’t think it was gonna be something like this. I thought I’d go work for someone else, be in the corporate business fields. So I was like going on a whole other route.

“But beverage, hospitality and coffee — all of that just kept drawing me back in and I found a lot of success in it. I definitely had to learn a lot and said to myself, ‘I can teach this to other people.’ I think it’s less of the consulting and more of the educational aspects. If I can share something that I know with someone else, that’s solid.”

In 2016, Harold’s Cabin on 247 Congress St. asked Berry to run its coffee program and around that same time, she came up with the idea for Talk Coffee to Me to help businesses like Harold’s kickstart coffee programs. She had already been training and consulting on her own, so why not give it a name?

But what exactly does coffee consulting entail?

“That’s a great question,” Berry said. “I think there’s a lot of folks that sort of romanticize this — the beauty of coffee and like the vibe of a coffee shop on this side of the counter and want that to be a full-time gig.”

So it’s basically everything, she said, from hiring, sourcing equipment, DHEC requirements, certifications, training and everything in between. 

When Berry wasn’t behind the bar training, consulting or even making a drink herself, she wanted to do more to connect with consumers because “they’re the most excited about anything anyone in the industry might have to offer,” she said.

To that end, she launched a bike tour program through Airbnb Experiences, where, partnering with former bike sharing company Holy Spokes, she took a group of eager and excited coffee lovers across the peninsula to four different coffee shops. “For each stop, it wasn’t about tasting coffee at a shop, it was about learning what’s behind the cup,” she said. “So we might do some education on the plant and how it becomes coffee, what you know and love as coffee and then the next step might be how to taste professionally and evaluate flavor.”

Unfortunately, with the pandemic and the replacement of Holy Spokes with Lime bicycles, the coffee tour is no longer operating. But Berry said she has other educational ventures in the works. 

And to answer the age-old question of “what makes a good cup of coffee?” Berry answers it in two parts:

“One, it’s whatever you like. It’s all about tradition and experience, or maybe a memory that you have. And the second part is balance. It doesn’t matter what the coffee is if it’s balanced. If it’s got equal parts acidity, sweetness and generic coffee bitterness, that’s what I look for.”

Berry doesn’t just do coffee, either. See how she’s consulted on cocktails for some of the hottest places in town in SWIG, City Paper’s annual guide to Charleston’s bar and beverage culture, out June 15. 

For more information on what she offers and other clients, head to talkcoffeetome.com or follow her on Instagram @talkcoffeetome


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