‘Coffee is its own language,’ says Jeongyoung, a Coffee Master and store manager in Virginia

Veteran Starbucks partner Jeongyoung wears many hats these days. Store manager in Virginia. District manager-in-training. Mid-Atlantic Pan-Asian Partner Network lead. Twelve-year partner. Coffee Master since 2013. Get to know the rising leader, who says she enjoys a cup of Aged Sumatra the most. 

What do you love most about being a Coffee Master? 

Coffee is its own language. When we learn a new language, not only do we have to know the vocabulary, syntax, and grammar, but learning the culture is just as important for meaningful connection. Coffee is the same. There is a dialog in each shot we pull, and a conversation in every pairing. We need to explore the region, culture, and story of each blend to fully understand everything the coffee is saying. Half of the joy and difficulty comes from the journey of continually learning as much as possible. In the journey to become a Coffee Master, I was able to expand my view to see the world differently. I love the language of coffee! It teaches me to grow my mindset while imparting the humility that comes from learning a new language. Now being a Coffee Master, I am able to support partners who want to take that journey to fall in love with the language of coffee and explore the world! 

How have you brought your own experiences to others through coffee? 

One of my fondest memories of connection through coffee is back in 2009 when I was a barista in Korea. Rachel gave me a Pike Place Reserve coffee from the first store in Pike Place - she was a partner there. This small act had a great impact on me. That partner gave me something unique. She passionately showed me our Starbucks culture of sharing through coffee. It was a culture that I wanted to be a part of – a culture that crossed oceans; a culture of connection over coffee. Moving to the U.S, I wanted to make my store the place that connects the dots between partners, customers, and the community. I impart my knowledge to engage others in coffee by volunteering for and supporting community partners. Working with the community is all about creating a safe space to inspire hope for the future, and it was started by sharing coffee and having conversations about what our community needs. I have had the honor to work towards this goal alongside the Rescue Mission, law enforcement, The Laurel Center, and many more organizations. We already celebrated two different local non-profit organizations as recipients of our Starbucks neighborhood grants. We are growing the community together and spreading kindness to the world. With such a simple act, Rachel set me off on a mission of sharing, community service, and global connections over coffee.  

How do you explore the world of sensory and build your skills? 

Coffee tasting is like a little opera in the way that all of the different elements complement and support each other. The words, music, set design, dance, and costumes all make a unified piece of art like the tastes, aromas, textures, visuals and even sounds contribute to an impactful tasting. For example, to share the experience I had at the opening day of the Chicago Roastery with my team I created a tasting that included a limited-edition Chicago mug, a limited-edition opening day print from the Chicago Roastery, and homemade mug-shaped Guinness stout chocolate macaroons with personalized Chicago and Starbucks art - all paired with the bold & refined Gold Coast coffee rolled out LTO in Chicago. I wanted to use all these sensory inputs to help bring the excitement and Chicago sparkle of that day to my team.  

Tell us about your 'A-ha' moment.

Learning how to describe coffee has definitely brought a lot of ‘a-ha’ moments for me and my fellow partners. I always feel it's not right if I can’t taste or smell what the coffee fact sheet describes. With time my ability to lock into the flavor profile has improved to the point where the written flavor profile almost always matches my perceived experience. This has allowed me to feel more comfortable sharing my honest tasting notes with the team and not feel pressure if I sense something different compared to others. At the coffee academy level 300, when I learned about “The Anatomy of Flavor” everything became so clear. TASTE + AROMA = FLAVOR >>>A-HA! Every day I learn something new, and this makes me appreciate the complex story behind all the different beans - their environment, cultivation, harvest, and preparation! 

What does the future of coffee look like to you at the last ten feet? 

How great would it be if we could help bring people together that both believe they have nothing in common with the other. Over a cup of coffee, they find a way to stand together on common ground. Can something so simple help us realize that we all have more things in common than things that separate us? 


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