Bringing Taste to the World Stage: Meet Chloe King

If you’ve had the chance to be around the World Cup Tasters stage the past two years, you may have noticed Chloe King.

SUSIE KEALY shines a spotlight on some of the many volunteers who make SCA events like World of Coffee possible.

The South Carolina native has now managed both United States and World Cup Tasters competition set ups in earlier seasons, returning to take up the role again this year in Berlin. Hailing from Myrtle Beach, Chloe now works as an educator and technician at Counter Culture Coffee in Charleston. That is, when she is not volunteering. She has volunteered at a wide range of both national and international coffee events, including both United States Coffee Championships in 2018 and 2019.

Despite this, the seasoned stage manager has not always been into specialty coffee. "Before I got into coffee, I actually dropped out of high school and kept up with a few different odd jobs. Such as Victoria's Secret, a tattoo shop, and a health food store until I inevitably found a small coffee shop where I planted.” Recalling that time, she remembers, "being in a perpetual state of fear for the future. Fear that nothing would open up for me and I would never find something I truly cared about doing. It's funny how things work out that way.”

Her first coffee shop position was at a local drive thru shop, where she heard her first stories of barista competitions. “I just remember thinking ‘what is there to even compete with? that's so silly!’” From there, Chloe began to attend specialty barista classes at a not-so-local Counter Culture training center, driven by a desire to be considered by the only local specialty shop for a barista position. “Taking those classes and gaining an understanding that there was an industry I could actually find a home in was such a turning point. After that, a roastery opened up in town and hired me. Through that company I was able to attend Barista Camp and become certified through the Specialty Coffee Association and eventually started instructing. I made sure that volunteering at events was always at the top of my priority list.”

And she has: Chloe enjoys being heavily involved on a local, national, and now international level. She’s taken part in many roles, from helping to organize and run latte art throw downs, to traveling thousands of miles to make sure a competition stage runs as smoothly as possible. Among her favorite specialty coffee community memories was her time during the 2018 World Coffee Championships in Belo Horizonte: “I would say traveling to Brazil last November takes the cake, though. At that point, I had never left the United States and I was constantly pinching myself, thinking about what 17 year old me would say about coffee bringing me here.”

For Chloe, the opportunity to travel with her work has kept her passionate and excited about her industry. “Traveling and volunteering has kept me in coffee, 100%. If I had just stayed in the coffee shops in my small town and never saw more of the industry and how other communities operated, I'm not sure I would have stuck around. Seeing people lead events and lift up their communities inspired me to do the same in mine.” Chloe sees volunteering within the coffee competitions circuit as an integral part of her career and how it has shaped her approach to coffee as a whole. “I choose to keep coming back to the volunteer work because of a philosophy I am trying to apply to the rest of my life: if I have the tools, I'm going to use them. I am able to volunteer, therefore I will. If I have the ability to make this whole operation work smoothly, and decrease the stress for folks doing important work, then I always will.”

On her days off from her busy schedule, Chloe does attempt to relax best she can. “I limit caffeine consumption and I stay at home! I'm the type of person that requires solitude. I call my best friend Melissa, water my plants, pet my dogs and read a book. It's a simple life.” At the time of the interview, Chloe was planning her route to Berlin and was excited to get back onto the Cup Tasters Stage once again. But what are her plans other than her upcoming travels? “Outside of that, I look to focusing on the equipment tech portion of my job for a bit. It's a vast world that I'm trying to get more experience with and my goal in coffee is to become useful in as many ways that I possibly can be.”

SUSIE KEALY is a freelance communications and marketing professional based in Berlin.

The SCA was built by dedicated volunteers with a vision of an organization that promoted the values of specialty coffee and community. The contributions of SCA volunteers can be seen in the various leadership groups that support the mission of the association and in the thousands who give their time at SCA trade shows and community events every year. Please join us in thanking the many volunteers who make this year’s World of Coffee possible!