Ashley Delgado has been drinking coffee at Blueprint Coffee Delmar as long as we can remember. She joined our team in 2017 and now serves as the coffee lead at Delmar.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN COFFEE & WHAT PROMPTED YOUR INTEREST IN THE INDUSTRY?
I started working in coffee right around 19, and I am 28 now. So, a little over 10 years? Geeze! Honestly the coffee industry is the only type of job I have truly known and it took a long time for me to understand it as a “job” and not just who I was or what I did every day. Your teenage years into your early twenties are pretty impactful years so you could say the industry and communities surrounding it have shaped some important aspects of who I am today. But at the end of the day it wasn’t a quest of passion that began it all, even though that’s what it has certainly turned into.
That being said, I suppose that’s how love likes to operate—unexpectedly. I have an intense sense of emotional identity connected to how coffee has shaped who I am today. It was only when I started to get older, however, that I saw a true humanistic beauty behind the coffee process as a whole and not just in the day to day interactions with the people it brought to the counter.
Like all things, it has been a relationship – and like any relationship it presented heartbreak, insecurities, challenges, friendships, opportunities, self realization, growth, beauty, sadness, intense joy, and more. Coffee has, in itself, brought all this to my doorstep and will continue to do so as I play a role in its world.
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSONS YOU HAVE LEARNED THROUGH YOUR ROLES AT THE CAFÉ?
I have learned I am exactly where I am. No matter what I want to happen, what has happened, or what can happen, what I have in front of me is what is going on. I have to do my best, and know that things come in time. Every day I work to improve myself or take care of myself and it’s every one of those days that make my life and my career. So, I’ve tried to stop worrying about my life as a whole and start focussing on the people I have to love and things I have to accomplish now. I have learned that knowledge is attainable only if we reach out for it and play a part in the world, and have the courage to ask for what we want.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE BLUEPRINT DELMAR COMMUNITY?
That’s a really hard one that needs a little backstory. When I showed up to Delmar at 10am on June 22nd of 2017, I was incredibly insecure and fearful of falling backwards. The job presented itself as a fresh start, and that also scared me. A series of horrible decisions and short sighted solutions to those decisions had left me in a state of instability and longing for something consistent and conducive to growth. I was unaware of this at the time of actual employment, but I was actually looking for healing I guess.
I have had a long history with mental Illness along with so many others out there and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 8th grade. Most of my life has been an ungraceful dance with learning to live alongside my brain that's pulling me through its impulsive and destructive ups and downs. I have hurt a lot of people and I myself have hurt through those decisions. I am the hero and villain in my own story, at all times. I am hard on myself. I love the Blueprint community in particular because, despite these things, they have collectively taught me the meaning of grace and healthy ambition.
My first year working at Blueprint was chaotic, and I almost “didn’t make it.”I was missing work and breaking down often. I was so overcome with the lie that I would never be free of the weight I carried around and that it would consume all hope for the community and belonging I’d been searching for. It was in this moment of clouded mind that my bosses and fellow coworkers reached out with a gentle hand and hard truth.
They invested in me, they saw potential in me and in that hope they presented me with the reality of choice. I could choose to go to therapy, get medication, be honest with my emotions, and reach out to those who cared about me. This chance they took on me raised my expectations for myself and my life in a way I never had before. Blueprint accepted me for exactly who I was, and saw me through a pivotal point of growth in my life.
I will forever be in debt to them on some respective level. There aren’t many people, let alone businesses, that know how to handle situations like that. Because of this community I not only feel that sense of belonging I was searching for, but ownership in it. I learned that an important part in loving others correctly is making sure we love ourselves.
HOW CAN COFFEE MAKE POSITIVE CHANGES IN THE WORLD?
It’s not so much coffee as a beverage, but coffee as a community and the philosophies it presents where I have found positive changes or see the potential for them. I view this question with such gravity because coffee is the only job I’ve had. The hard truth is that coffee is just a plant and we give it meaning though our relationship with it, like most things in life. Whether coffee is used to wake you up in the morning, give you somewhere to go everyday, or helps build your career, it is a multi-faceted representation of the human condition and spirit. It’s a glorious bridge in our desire to understand each other, and by viewing it as the true craft that it is, coffee brings to light the beauty in taking something previously seen as a “commodity” and revealing it as a journey. All these pretty words just to say, coffee is a process not a product. When it's viewed this way, positive things happen.
WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS OUTSIDE OF THE CAFÉ?
I’ve always been pretty artsy, and I have loved drawing since I was a wee little Ashley. It’s been a huge coping mechanism and way to express myself for as long as I can remember. Over the past few years I have been slowly working on a graphic novel composed of short stories I have written over time, but it’s more of a private ambition. As far as public art, all my tattoos are my own drawings and I have had several successful art shows in the past. I intend, at the end of my life, to be covered in my own artwork, so more tattoos to come. I also love being outside and have enjoyed hunting for many years. I have my Missouri Hunting License and take my recurve bow out as often as I can. Archery has become a deep passion of mine and the peace I get from it is very primal and satisfying. I will say having the opportunity to hunt my own food has been a humbling experience in how I choose my meals and has impacted my view on life and death. Hunting is a tradition and spiritual experience to me despite what some people view it as. But to keep things a little lighter, I enjoy singing a lot and even though it’s been many years since I had any gigs, I did actively participate in a band for 5 years. It was a great side hustle as well as an incredible emotional release for me. Now I just sing in the shower or at karaoke and that’s just fine with me.