Luis R. (Brentwood, California)

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JOE: How long have you been a barista?

LR: I’ve actually been in the industry for about ten years.

JOE: So how did you come to become a barista?

LR:  I used to teach, and in the summer 10 years ago I went into a coffee shop and saw a barista make some latte. I was very interested and I asked how long did It take you to learn that? And kind of interviewed him, asking how long it took him to get going and this and that. As a teacher, I didn’t work during the summer, so I took that as a challenge. I literally looked at a sign that said they’re not hiring and I decided what’s better than working at a coffee shop and learning the craft. So, I decided to get hired and got hired immediately and I realized that it was very fun and that I really enjoyed working with them. I ended up quitting in the Fall because I was still teaching and I picked up another job where I was catering on the weekends for a coffee company. And after a few years of doing management work in that company, I realized that I really like coffee. Because I really enjoyed the craft and really enjoyed the process, I decided to do the full transition. And this place here gave me an opportunity. And I’ve been with these guys for six years now.

JOE: Where was the first place?

LR: That was in Southgate, California, a latino-based coffee shop. I got to give them credit where it’s due, they taught me everything that I know and where I picked up the passion. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the opportunity to grow there. So that’s why I had to step away. And I found the means here and these guys that hired me were amazing. And they gave me the opportunity to go and get it. And I’ve been here for six years.

JOE: What’s what’s the most popular drink here?

LR: A lot of people like ice drinks. So Shakerato, which is four shots of espresso with mocha, a little bit of simple syrup and your choice of milk, shaken, not stirred.

JOE: Like James Bond.

LR: Exactly.

JOE: So what about the weirdest request you had to drink?

LR: Weirdest request. We call it the Navy drink. It’s literally macho with a double shot of espresso, completely unsweetened with your choice of milk. So if you ever want to wake up and get kicked in the butt, that’s the drink to come get. It has a really muddy color to it, so it’s a little bit awkward to me.

JOE: It’s not something requested very often?

LR:  Yeah, believe it or not, a few people that come in here who are high-end athletes, people that want the energy without the sugar are usually the ones that they like to get that kind of drink.

JOE: Have you ever got a request for a drink that you couldn’t fulfill?

LR: Blended drinks. We don’t serve blended drinks here like your frappés and frappuccinos. We’re very traditional in that aspect. So we try to stay away from drinks that require a lot of sugar.

JOE: Are baristas social with each other?

LR: Yeah. It’s a very small community. You’ll be surprised once you are out there and you go out to different coffee shops and you start talking to people. People know people. Even if you’re on the opposite side of town, you’ll say, oh, I used to work there. And they’ll say, I know somebody who used to work there. We’re a small breed of people that still work with their hands. It’s very interesting, especially with these new generations coming in. Everything’s high tech, everything’s behind the screen. Everything is, you know, away from people. We’re still that small breed of people that have to interact with people on an everyday basis, work with their hands, come up with solutions. It’s very cool.

JOE: How do you handle difficult customers? People who aren’t happy.

LR: You have faith in what you do. And you basically trust what you do. And you are confident that you’re serving something that’s good and you obviously want to cooperate with the customer and fulfill their needs. But at the same time, have the customer understand that we are serving something that we’re proud of.

JOE: Have you ever served any VIPs?

LR: Yes, I’m very happy to say I have. Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the names. Yeah, I’ve had some really cool people. I’ve actually made friends with a few people that are considered your VIP people, sweetest people in the world. And the only reason I don’t like to mention names because I want to make sure that they keep coming back.

JOE: Do you have regulars, return customers?

LR: Oh, yes. We have regular customers all the time.  I would say a quarter to half of our people that come on in are our regulars that come in almost every day. And they’re the reason why we’re open, so we’re very happy with them.

JOE: What’s your personal favorite drink?

LR: I am old school, man. If you give me a good shot of espresso I’ll be the happiest ever.

JOE: Anything you want to talk about that I haven’t asked you about?

LR:  Basically I hope people find the right spot even if it’s not here. Find your coffee and whoever tells you your coffee is wrong, they’re wrong. Coffee is what you like. If you like instant coffee, drink instant coffee. If you like pour-over, or buji, whatever it is, find your happiness. Find the right cup of coffee for you.

 

 

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