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Community Spotlight · Square One Coffee Roasters, Lancaster, PA

Jess Steffy

Jess Steffy started her journey in coffee in 2004, when she and her husband, Josh, started a coffee stand at a farmers market. In 2007, the pair took over Square One Coffee Roasters; originally founded in 2000 and located in downtown Lancaster, Pa., Square One has a café and a wholesale roasting business.

Jess says she and Josh were originally drawn to coffee largely because of their shared passion for social justice, having traveled extensively to countries where coffee was grown, but they have grown to love the industry for different reasons. “What I love most, and what has kept me in this industry, is definitely the people—the community,” Jess says. “I have coffee friends in every state and nearly every country. There’s a couch for me in nearly every major city. 😉 The global coffee community is something I’ll always feel a part of.”

Jess has accomplished a lot in her nearly two-decade coffee career: She’s a Certified Q Grader, the former chair of the Specialty Coffee Association’s U.S. Competitions Committee, and a longtime barista competition judge. Along the way, she has helped guide Square One through good times and challenging ones—the latter category includes the COVID-19 pandemic, which the company continues to navigate.

In mid-March, as COVID-19 began spreading across the United States, Square One—which was then operating its Lancaster café as well as one in Philadelphia—made the difficult decision to close both of its cafés and furlough most of its staff (29 people), though its roasting arm continued to operate. The company started a staff relief fund and began donating 20% of all online orders to this fund supporting its furloughed staff. The next week, Square One started doing contactless deliveries for all orders, as well as donating coffee to frontline workers fighting COVID-19 via their website. In July, Square One made the difficult decision to close its Philadelphia location permanently.

Now in winter 2020, the coffee company continues to make adjustments due to the pandemic. Jess says they were hoping to open up the front of their flagship shop in Lancaster to move the line inside for winter, but due to the rising COVID-19 numbers in their area, they are continuing to operate as a walk-up window until further notice. “We’re continually trying to optimize the experience for our team and customers,” Jess says. “Now in addition to our ‘foot bell,’ we’ve also added outdoor heaters and a touch-free intercom system so that we can better hear our guests through the masks and plexiglass. If that’s not the most #2020 sentence I’ve ever uttered, I’ll eat my SQ1 beanie. 😉 ”

Like many specialty-coffee business owners, Jess has had to get creative to navigate the challenges from COVID-19, but she’s done it transparently and skillfully. We’re happy to have this dedicated coffee professional on our team of Barista Series Brand Ambassadors!

Jess said she first discovered Barista Series products at a latte art throwdown, where she was surprised at how well they poured for plant-based products. Square One soon started using Barista Series products—they currently use Oat, Almond, Soy, Coconut, and Rice—and Jess says their baristas are happy to work with them. “They excitedly create art in every drink they serve without a second thought,” she says. “Latte art poured using Barista Series products holds up for longer and outlasts all of the other plant-based alternative milks we’ve tried. The milk flavors are also mild and complementary to our coffee, which is a must.”

Follow more of Jess’ work at Square One via @squareonecoffee!

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