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Our ‘Odd Jobs’ month begins with Colectivo’s coffee creations

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Women standing in an office in front of a Colectivo Coffee sign

We've all heard the famous Mark Twain quote: "Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life." In response to that, however, I can't help but think of The Smiths' lyrics: "I was looking for a job, and then I found a job, but heaven knows I'm miserable now."

Wherever you fall on that spectrum, I’ve found myself thinking about jobs quite a bit in my free time lately — wondering what people do for a living and whether they are genuinely happy with their work. We’re all familiar with more common job titles like registered nurse, server, customer-service representative. Even if you've never worked in those fields, you can probably piece together what a typical day looks like with just a few minutes of thought.

But what about the jobs we rarely think about?

Think of that situation at a dinner party or out with friends when someone mentions a job title, and you're left scrambling to figure out what field it's even associated with. They’re the “odd jobs,” and for this entire month Uniquely Milwaukee will pull back the curtain on these roles and the people who fill them to learn about their day-to-day. So we’re starting in a very natural place: a person who helps us get through the morning.

When you think of a city that's a haven for coffee lovers, Seattle and San Francisco might come to mind. But Milwaukee stands out in its own right when it comes to local coffee shops. Back in 1993, two major coffee roasters had their breakthrough moment: Colectivo Coffee and Stone Creek Coffee, both of which were instrumental in putting the city’s coffee scene on the map.

This was a logical development since, in the 1990s, coffee was — as the L.A. Times put it — the new "safe drug.” This trend was driven by a growing number of Americans choosing cafes over bars, as well as the portrayal of coffee culture on TV (think Central Perk on nearly every episode of Friends.

Today Colectivo has expanded to more than 20 locations in three major cities: Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. It’s become such a staple, in fact, that some customers in the Windy City believe it’s their local coffee chain.

Across every location, you’ll find the same specialty drinks menu — curated by one person who tests, adjusts and decides what goes on the board. On this episode of Uniquely Milwaukee, I sat down with that person: Emma Cowen, Colectivo’s beverage category manager. She shared an insider’s view of her unique role and even gave us that chance to try a yet-to-be-unveiled November drink (hint: It has something to do with Pandan).

Audio Storyteller / 88Nine On-Air Talent | Radio Milwaukee