As a barista for over five years, I’m starting to think that I really like coffee.
I’ve found dozens of ways to drink it, hundreds of ways to spill it, and perhaps thousands more things I should like to try.
Specialty beverages have always held a special place in my heart- I distinctly remember ordering coffee and tea alongside my chicken fingers when my family took me out to restaurants as a child. (I never did get any more well-adjusted.)
As I began to explore the world of coffee more thoroughly, I began volunteering at my previous church’s coffee bar, and my obsession only deepened from there.
Close friends of mine began to teach me more and more about all of the fascinating ways in which coffee may be prepared- pour overs, espresso, cold brew, even well-dialed in batch brew. One by one, the coffees themselves revealed to me their intricate, fascinating, and subtle flavors which needed only some care and patience to unveil. I was completely hooked.
My appreciation for the craft has never wavered. Every time I think I have a handle on this whole “barista” thing, I learn a better way to do something, or an entirely new method of preparation, or a new coffee origin which demands to be understood more thoroughly.
One of the really cool things about this industry is that anybody can keep learning new things forever, which is especially helpful if you’re a slow learner like myself.
Besides the rush of learning new things, (And that of the caffeine itself!) being a barista grants me a special privilege which I enjoy very deeply- getting to know a huge portion of my town.
I’m not sure if my guests truly know how much they mean to me, but it’s an awful lot. I’ve made deep friendships from across the bar, and have received enough good vibes to sustain me for my next few lifetimes.
My latest fascination has been with a sort of coffee mixology!
I’ve created several new drinks which are currently exclusive to our Roastery location in the Plant Street Market, like the Grog Latte and the Hop Soda, (as well as a few others which I won’t divulge quite yet.)
I’ve had an awful lot of fun pulling inspiration from bartending techniques, historical preparations, modern cuisine, and heavily coded recipe-books from the early days of Tiki Bars.
Stepping outside of the realm of ingredients and methods typically found in second-and-third wave coffee shops, and playing with exotic or unusual ingredients has been very rewarding!
Pairing a tasty coffee like our Ethiopian Sidama, or our Brazilian Fazenda Do Salto with ingredients which do not cover up the natural and subtle tasting notes, but rather, complement, showcase, and elevate what is already excellent in the beans themselves, has proven to be both engaging, and tasty!
All things said, coffee can be exactly what you want it to be; a reason for a break, an energy boost, a reprieve from the events of the day, an intriguing beverage, the reason for a meeting with a friend, a career, or an obsession. I’ve had fun with all of these, and I really hope you will too.
((Joshua Mahn can be found at the Axum Roastery most days. He may also be found training Orangutans in that strange cavern beneath City Hall, or on Instagram as @JoshMahnWrites.))