Story of a...Barista
Coffee, like beer, has gone craft, and no one knows that better than Aaron Albright, 26, of Barnie’s CoffeeKitchen.
“People still want to come in, get their buzz and run out,” says Albright, who started working at Barnie’s Coffee-Kitchen in Winter Park two years ago. “But there’s a culture to coffee. People are getting into this craft movement and they care about where things are sourced.”
And they care about how their coffee is being made, as confirmed by some of Albright’s loyalists, who look on while he dotingly executes a four-minute pour-over—a custom drip coffee in which the barista slowly, in a circular motion, pours hot water over freshly ground beans.
While he works his magic, Albright is happy to provide the lowdown on contemporary buzzwords like single origin (non-blended beans), sustainable (farmed using renewable and organic practices), fair trade (proper wages for workers), and rainforest-friendly (no disruption to the local ecosystem). “I am noticing that 50 percent of my job is educating. I’m constantly telling people what we do and why we do it that way.”
He’s happy to give customers what they want, including brews with a double or single shot, hot or iced preparation, and the milk of choice (non-dairy or dairy). His craziest request: A 180-degree, half caf, no foam, skim milk latte.
Albright has memorized more than 35 drink recipes, including his personal concoctions invented on the job. “But about 35 percent of our business is just plain ol’ drip, no milk, no sugar.”
Could coffee see a sommelier-type accreditation? Albright thinks so. “People tell me all the time they are making and drinking their coffee like most do wine. Like grapes, there are so many different coffee beans. There are 1,000 different coffee farms in Ethiopia alone, and that’s not even the most popular [growing] region.”
Albright makes around 350 cups of coffee per eight-hour shift, including the lattes he graces with his own artful panache. “I do about seven different designs: a tulip, rosetta, heart, hanging heart, phoenix, swan, and a Buddha head. I had to practice for two months to learn my first design.”
But beneath the foam, it’s still just comfort in a cup. “Coffee is comfort food. It’s how many relationships start.” Ironically, that holds true for Albright. He met his girlfriend—now his fiancée and coworker—at Barnie’s, and the two are expecting their first child in April.
Albright takes his coffee—usually espresso—black, but it wasn’t always that way. “I had my first cup of coffee in church. I was 14. I used a lot of cream, a lot of sugar, but I slowly built a taste for the type of coffee and the region I loved. I might have a little mocha from time to time, but I like to keep my coffee as is, true flavor from the bean.”