Rise and grind: Behind the scenes at Oatly’s coffee magazine

Haley Weiss photographed by © Tess Mayer

This article is printed in the latest issue of British Journal of Photography: Performance. Sign up for an 1854 subscription to receive it at your door. 

Our latest edition of Creative Brief dives into the world of Hey Barista, a free magazine celebrating the people and communities that contribute to the world of coffee

Hey Barista is a free print and online magazine celebrating the people and communities that contribute to the world of coffee. The content is developed by an editorial team led by editor-in-chief Haley Weiss, who joined in May 2022. Weiss’ previous experience includes writing, production and photo research for publications such as Teen Vogue, W Magazine and Interview. More recently, she was a senior content strategist at The Atlantic’s in-house creative studio, Re:think. Since launching in October last year, Hey Barista has been distributed free in coffee shops in over 100 cities across 14 countries. As the team gears up to launch its Spanish and French editions, we catch up with Weiss about the making of the publication.

Can you describe your editorial tone and visual identity? 

Our style is irreverent and organic. We didn’t want a clean, uniform aesthetic because we mostly feature people who work in the coffee industry or are adjacent to it – covering their passions, musings and more – and we want that human element to come through in our storytelling. In the magazine and on our website, you’ll find handwritten pieces, a lot of film photography, and sometimes out-of-focus and off-kilter images. It’s never too perfect, often quirky, and always expressive.

What are your main considerations when choosing photographers?

We commission stories around the world and want our roster of photographers to reflect that diversity. We aim to hire local talent because we rely on our contributors’ knowledge of the places and communities that they’re documenting. We don’t treat subcultures or people as objects of fascination with a sense of remove; we want the magazine to feel intimate and bring a grounded perspective, and that means working with contributors who we can learn from and collaborate with on shaping stories.

Is there a standout editorial piece that you have worked on, where you feel the images married particularly well with the story?

Las Traileras by photographer Mallika Vora and writer Madeleine Wattenbarger is the kind of creative collaboration we aspire to. The story took us on the road with a woman who is a long-haul truck driver in Tijuana. It gave us a way to cover a profession where workers rely on coffee, while also touching upon labour, gender politics and international trade. It’s a story where the images and text work in concert, and it expands expectations of what covering the coffee community looks like.

Bonn Bodega, Santiago

“Our style is irreverent and organic. We didn’t want a clean, uniform aesthetic because we mostly feature people who work in the coffee industry”

Hey Barista is funded by Oatly. How much does that influence the running of the magazine?

Oatly provides a tremendous amount of support in the development and distribution of Hey Barista, but they also know that the magazine isn’t about them; they created it for the coffee community. So we’ve been given a refreshing amount of editorial freedom to pursue the stories that we think will resonate with that community as well as readers at coffee shops. 

What is your advice to photographers who may be looking for commissions?

Don’t pitch us stories about coffee, as we rarely cover coffee itself. We’re more interested in human-centred stories about people. If you’re a creative person who’s also a barista, or if you know someone in the coffee industry who has an interesting hobby or subculture that they’d like to share, please reach out to info.heybarista@oatly.com. Or if you’re a photographer who’s interested in working with us, drop us a line introducing yourself and the kind of subjects that you’re most interested in.

Marigold Warner

Deputy Editor

Marigold Warner worked as an editor at BJP between 2018 and 2023. She studied English Literature and History of Art at the University of Leeds, followed by an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London. Her work has been published by titles including the Telegraph Magazine, Huck, Elephant, Gal-dem, The Face, Disegno, and the Architects Journal.