This is my Narrative
On a recent trip to Manila we had the chance to sit down for a chat with Andi Trinidad, the current owner of Narrative Coffee, Manila, to learn more about her journey as she took over the reins of the company last year.
When you shared your story at Narrative’s grand opening, you talked about quitting a very lucrative job and shared about the other sacrifices you made to take on Narrative. Why did you make those sacrifices?
Well, when I quit my job, it was because I really wanted to pursue a slow life. I had been in advertising for so long, dealing with all of the luxury brands, but since I came to know Jesus, God has been simplifying my life until such time that I was ready to let go of all of the material things. You know when Jesus called us to deny ourselves and carry our cross, I am trying to take it seriously now. I’m not saying that loving Jesus is being poor, but for me, having lots of stuff is not important anymore. My identity is rooted in Christ, whether I wear my Valentinos or I wear my Adidas, my identity is with Christ. I am filled with contentment and joy with Jesus. So to sum it up, it’s ok to have nice things, but I am not gonna die if I don’t have them.
Recently you had a Facebook post about white Hanes t-shirts. Why are those shirts significant to you?
To be honest, I am just following in the footsteps of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. It is about decision fatigue. Simply wearing white t-shirts reduced the amount of decisions I need to make in a day. And also, before coming to know Jesus and before taking on Narrative, I worked in the fashion industry where you shouldn't repeat the clothes that you wear. Every Sunday, I would plan my wardrobe for the week. I would mix and match and was like “Oh, I wore this a month ago, I can’t wear it.” I had so many clothes and it was all about image and brand building. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I just want a simple life; white shirt, jeans, and off you go.
How has your journey with Narrative affected your understanding of who God is?
Oh, so much! It has really broadened my perspective on who God is. When you just study the Bible, you learn about the attributes of God, but now for me, I am experiencing them. I have truly seen how faithful he is; how trustworthy he is in the small things and in the big things. Like how he brought Narrative to where it is right now. It really is because of his faithfulness, even when I was unfaithful. I wish I had trusted God more but sometimes trusting him comes as an afterthought.
Do you have a specific story that comes to mind that you recall God being faithful in an impossible situation with Narrative?
Yeah, the most obvious one is in finding our location. Who would have thought that Philam Life had this space since February and no one was able to use it? And I didn’t really look for it. Okay, I may have asked one person, the broker, but little did I know that the leasing officer is a friend from church who I helped a few months ago because she was struggling with something. I prayed with her, I wept with her, and I didn’t know that through that simple act of kindness, God would be glorified and God would bless me a thousand fold. If you look at our new space, it’s a much bigger, brighter Narrative.
You have been in the coffee industry now for just under a year; you’ve probably had the chance to taste a lot of coffee. What would you say has been your favorite coffee you have tasted so far and why?
I don’t know... everyone likes Ethiopian coffee but for me, I like Panama. I’m biased towards #YKW Roasters' Panama, Carmen Estate. I even used that for my final barista exam at EDSA Beverage Design Studio and until now I really like the taste of it. It’s not too flowery for me; it’s like maple with merlot. I heard the WBC competitors explaining that it’s grown where the air from the Pacific Ocean passes by and the soil is really rich at the farm. Maybe it is because I studied it in depth so I have an emotional attachment to it.
When a customer walks into Narrative, what do you want them to experience?
I want them to experience what I felt the first time I walked into the shop. Like when David, one of Narrative's baristas and his friend JC were there, they made me feel so welcome. I want our guests to feel like how David and JC made me feel; at home. "It’s okay, come in, you belong here." Because we’re in a world where everyone is disconnected. I also don’t want them to think that Narrative is a snooty brew bar with coffee snob baristas. Whether you’re a newbie or a specialty coffee person, it’s okay. You’re welcome here!
How do you see your position as owner of Narrative Manila being used to impact the greater community? Be it Salcedo Village or it could be the coffee community in general.
It’s very dangerous, to be honest. Because, you know, as Spiderman says, "Great power comes with great responsibility." And when you’re in the front row, you’ll be the target of hostility. It can either make or break your vision and the vision of the company. I aim to be on the positive side of impacting the community, you know, how Jesus and the other faith heroes of the New Testament have impacted the lives of other people in the Bible.
When I was asked to host the Brewer’s Cup talk a few months ago, I was hesitant. To be honest, I just want to work behind-the-scenes and just do my thing, but if the Lord is calling me to make Narrative a platform for him, I shouldn’t let my light be concealed in a room. It has to be seen! Although I am praying that I will not be hungry for the spotlight, that I need to remind myself that this is for Jesus that this is not for me, that this is not for my glory.
You took Narrative over after only being in the coffee industry for a few months. Anyone who is familiar with running a business knows that there are so many challenges in being an entrepreneur. What were some challenges that you’ve faced since taking over Narrative?
Whew, a lot. But most of them are in operations. Because I’m a marketing person, so I didn't know anything about running a shop on a daily basis. I just knew how to make campaigns and all that. The daily operations almost killed me at first. But it’s okay! It’s also nice to work in a small shop, because you get to learn as the day goes by. It’s trial and error.
What made you not give up, but to actually push through those challenges?
Narrative is a small scale business so at first, I lost money but I didn’t lose that much. So for me, I can still do it. When I weighed the cost, the pros outweighed the cons. So, I pushed through it. I love what I’m doing and God was very clear when he called me for this. I know this is still it for me.
During those months of running Narrative, the community really rallied around you especially in a lot of those challenges you faced. Tell us a little more about what that was like.
That was a surprise. I had no idea how many people would be there for me in the hardest times. You know, when you guys left, I really felt so alone. I was like, "Oh my, I’m the only one here!" During that season I felt like an abandoned child. Like, "Lord, you brought me and you’re just going to leave me here alone?" But again, like what I told you earlier, it’s His faithfulness. He may have taken you, Christine, and David, but he did that because He want me to depend on Him. And when I started to depend on Jesus alone, on Christ alone, that’s when he started bringing people to help me, to encourage me.
I started to get messages out of nowhere, even baristas from the other shops, wanting to help. It’s so humbling how other baristas supported me. You know that feeling! And then other friends from church would offer their help; their services. It really was the body of Christ working together for the good of those who love him. That’s how I see it.
When you aren’t working at Narrative, what do you enjoy doing with your free time?
Spoken like a true entrepreneur!
Yeah, I lost so much sleep before the reopening of Narrative. So I’m catching up on sleep. I also like to read and listen to podcasts. But yeah, I won’t lie. Catching up on sleep is very needed these days.
What reputation do you hope to develop for Narrative in the community?
To be a safe place for guests and other baristas, where they can have their stories valued. It is our desire for Narrative to be an inclusive shop where guests belong. We also want them to feel like they can ask the baristas about the coffee and about various brewing methods. I want them to know that hey, we may specialize on brew bar, but we also make mistakes. We have bad days of brewing coffee but we are growing and improving together. I want them to feel that they can be honest with me, and if my brewing is not great or if it can be improved, we'll brew it again.
Okay, last question! You said earlier that you love what you do. What do you love the most about your role at Narrative?
I like teaching people. I like talking about coffee and basically, I like talking in general :) I feel like I have so much to share. So when I start talking about coffee, when the people ask me, how did you get here, okay I’m going to talk and talk. I love sharing. I’m not insecure that they’re going to steal the information from me and use it against me. I let God take care of that. I love connecting to people. And since I love coffee, I love sharing the things that I’ve been learning.