Andi Anquoe-Parnacher displays a cup of coffee she has prepared.

As one of the few professional female coffee roasters in the world, Andi AnquoeParnacher has the distinction of being acknowledged by the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) as the first female First American coffee roaster. Parnacher received this recognition after being selected as one of the few recipients of Coffee Project New York’s scholarship program.

“The Specialty Coffee Association defines the industry standard for the coffee,” Parnacher said. “They set the industry’s protocols. They call the shots on what is good and what is not. The SCA provides training standards for coffee roasting, sensory and barista skills, among other skills that the industry agrees on.”

Parnacher traveled to New York to complete SCA’s three-day premier roasting classes. With six storefronts in New York City and a premium roastery, Coffee Project New York is home to New York’s SCA training facility.

Founded by two women, Coffee Project New York competes in a global, male-centric industry. The founders of Coffee Project New York provide six annual scholarships to select women chosen from a worldwide pool to attend SCA’s certified roasting classes within their roastery.

Parnacher was a recipient of the 2023 scholarship. “Coffee Project New York offers educational opportunities for self-identifying women,” Parnacher said. “The thing about the coffee industry – and roasting in particular – is that it’s a male dominated field. They want to break the stigma of women roasters.”

According to Parnacher, specialty roasting classes are expensive, some costing as much as $3,000 for classroom lectures and hands-on training.

“I had to raise money for housing, but everything else was taken care of,” Parnacher said. “My family and I did the typical things to raise money, like an Indian taco sale. We had so much support."

"The majority of my learning experience (in New York) was science based. We learned that flavor profiles of a coffee are affected by the elevation of where it is grown and how time and temperature affect the beans as it is being roasted. There are so many variables.”

Receiving an SCA certification in coffee roasting is a milestone for any coffee roaster’s career. Currently in her early 20s, the certification will pave the way for Parnacher’s professional growth.

“I made some lifelong friends in New York. They came from across the world to attend these classes,” Parnacher said. “I met a girl from Puerto Rico, another from Kansas City and a girl from the Philippines. Two other girls selected for the scholarship were from Arizona. One of the panelists that chose me for scholarship I had already met from a coffee convention we attended in Oregon.”

Through conversations with her employer, followed by a little research, together they realized Parnacher is the only First American with an SCA roasting certification.

“When I applied for the scholarship, I wasn’t thinking about my Native American heritage,” Parnacher said. “I was going into this as just another woman looking for her SCA certification."

“When I received the acceptance letter my manager pointed out that I am not only one of the few female certified coffee roasters, but also the first certified Native American coffee roaster. That was a shocking revelation.”

Parnacher works for Not Your Average Joe, an Oklahoma City (OKC) based company. She began as a barista nearly two years ago serving at one of the many locations in the OKC metro.

“I thought it would be cool to be a barista,” Parnacher said. “I had seen baristas in movies and TV all the time. As a part-time job while in college, I didn’t think it would turn into what it is now. I think I stayed because of the free coffee. “There is a sense of community in coffee, like with Native Americans. I feel a sense of togetherness. I love that about the coffee industry. You get to meet and network with people every day,” she said.

Not Your Average Joe has five retail coffee locations, along with its own roastery. The roastery provides roasted beans and ground coffee to both its own stores, and regional, independent coffee shops and retail outlets.

More than a dozen shops from as far away as Texas and Enid, Oklahoma, receive their coffee products from Not Your Average Joe. Parnacher can often be found at the corporate distribution center where the company roastery is located.

“Our coffee comes in from all over the world,” Parnacher said. “Along with roasting coffee for ourselves, we sell to other individual coffee shops and small chains. To keep standards high as we continue to grow, our CEO and founder, Tim Herbel, asked me if I wanted to learn to roast."

“I thought ‘why not?’ The thing about me is that I want to learn. I want to be able to share my knowledge with my community,” Parnacher said.

Herbel encouraged her to apply for the SCA scholarship opportunity.

“I didn’t think I was going to be selected, but I thought I might as well give it a shot,” she said. “Three months passed before I received an acceptance email. By then, I believed I didn’t get the scholarship. The first thing I did after reading the email was praying. I had to thank the Lord for this opportunity. Then, I called my mom.”

Not Your Average Joe is an Oklahoma City nonprofit entity devoted to inclusion. The company’s mission is “to inspire our community by including students and adults with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities in the creation of exceptional coffee in an encouraging atmosphere.”

Nearly half of the workforce at Not Your Average Joe’s retail locations are staffed by people with special needs. It’s a great fit for Parnacher’s worldview of educating and helping others.

“As well as roasting and writing drink standards to be applied at our stores, I also train employees how to prepare coffee, tea and other specialty drinks,” Parnacher said. “This includes both what we call our neurotypicals — people with normal cognitive function — and our neurodiverse employees. We train everybody in a way that works best for them.”

Along with roasting coffee and continuing her barista duties, Parnacher has worked her way into corporate leadership. She is Not Your Average Joe’s co-director of strategic partnerships and coffee initiatives, as well as special assistant to the executive director.

Also, a member of the “Made in Oklahoma” business association, Not Your Average Joe was selected to provide coffee to Bedré Fine Chocolate, owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation.

“More than a year ago a conversation between our CEO and Bedré took place. It was decided that Not Your Average Joe would provide the coffee to Bedré that tasted like chocolate.

“I had to jump in when I heard we were thinking of working with the Chickasaw Nation,” Parnacher said. “These are both my communities. Not Your Average Joe went back and forth from the Bedré chocolate factory to our roastery. Together we settled on two flavors exclusive to Bedré, including Dark Chocolate Decadence and Chocolate Pecan Sensation. Two regular roasts will be available as well.”

A varied birthright

Parnacher said she receives her Chickasaw heritage from her father, Randy Parnacher. She is the granddaughter of Lloyd Parnacher, a full-blood Chickasaw. Her father’s lineage also contains Mississippi Band Choctaw. Her father’s family is from the Ada, Oklahoma, area. Parnacher’s mother Cheryl Anquoe’s antecedents include relatives from the Kiowa Tribe.

“I am honored to have and carry the last name of Parnacher. Parnacher is a prominent Chickasaw/Choctaw surname. I am proud of my Chickasaw heritage and my name.”

Growing up in the suburbs of Oklahoma City, her family made a concerted effort to keep her in touch with her varied heritage. They instilled in Parnacher a love for the many First American dancing styles. These include southern cloth, southern gourd and fancy shawl dancing, among others.

“When I first started dancing, I started with southern cloth attending gourd dances almost every other weekend at powwows,” Parnacher said. “As I got older, I thought it would be so cool to jingle dance, so I was fortunate enough to be blessed by an Ojibwe elder to be able to dance jingle. I then switched back and forth between jingle and fancy shawl, but I unfortunately got hurt so I decided to go back to my roots of southern cloth, and I have been doing that ever since.”

As a dancer, Parnacher and her mother have spent countless hours working on the flashy regalia worn by First American dancers while attending powwows all over the state.

“I take a lot of pride in my varied Native American heritage,” she said. “I love bragging about it. I like explaining to my fellow students or professors about Native American history, about what is truly the Native American experience. It is interesting to see what continues to transpire in our shared cultures.”

Parnacher is a senior at Mid-America Christian University (MACU) earning a degree in psychology. She plans on pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership upon graduation.

According to Parnacher, the college is composed mostly of minorities and strives to promote and make people aware of all the cultures represented on campus.

As an upperclassman at MACU, Parnacher uses her firsthand experiences to guide other students in their college journey. She belongs to the school’s Chickasaw Nation Recruitment and Retention program, First American Student Conference — promoting high school students to attend college — and has choreographed First American artists to speak at the university. Parnacher said the Chickasaw Nation Recruitment and Retention Program is a place for First American students to gather and find community.

“We are slowly but surely getting people into this program. The big push seems to be community; activities such as beading and moccasin-making classes, or just having a night on the town together.”

“I love having a Chickasaw program like this,” Parnacher said. “The manager goes out of his way to help students and finds the right resources for them. The experience has been nothing but positive.”

According to Parnacher, her college experience has been easier due to support provided by the tribe.

“The Chickasaw Nation has helped me every step of the way,” she said.