In this edition of Five Questions, we’re talking with BGA Member Lauren Lathrop of Public Domain Coffee in Portland, Oregon. A veteran barista of seven years, Lauren sparked this love affair by sneaking coffee into her hot chocolate at Girl Scout Camp. That sounds delicious - I hope it was Thin Mint hot chocolate. What began as a job in college developed into Lauren's passion, and ultimately into her chosen profession upon moving to Portland.
Lauren working her magic at NWRBC.
Photo courtesy of our friends at Sprudge.com.
I had the privilege of meeting Lauren at Barista Nation PDX 2012, which concluded with a latte art competition. Lauren displayed some serious pouring chops, but more importantly, provided great company and was super supportive of the other competitors (even with prizes and a modicum of glory on the line). When the contest was over, I was glad to have made a friend like Lauren. Almost a year passed until our paths crossed again at this year’s North West Regional Barista Championship. Here I had the privilege of watching Lauren execute a solid performance to earn a place in the finals in an incredibly vibrant community of coffee professionals. Her dedication to craft and service was apparent and my respect for her grew even more. Part of the reason I love being in the BGA is that it connects us to people like Lauren, who inspire us to be better and more dedicated baristas. But enough of what I think, what does Lauren have to say about the BGA and her chosen profession?
Michael Harwood Why did you join the BGA and what keeps you involved?
Lauren Lathrop When Public Domain first opened in 2010, every employee became a registered member. We knew it would keep us in touch with the industry and the coffee communities. Since that first year, I've renewed because of benefits like discounted NWRBC registration and the ability to stay in touch with what's happening in our industry.
MH What is the most fulfilling aspect about being a barista and why?
LL I've always loved the customer service aspect. Connecting with someone, providing them with service and a product that satisfies or exceeds expectations. I love to take care of people, teach them, and make them happy. The most rewarding part of my job is the first-name basis crowd, the regulars whose lives you feel you are a part of because you see them every morning and start them on their day. In specialty coffee, the connection to our farmers is also really rewarding and I love being a part of the global connectivity of the coffee world, but in the day-to-day it's your consumers' faces who greet you with a smile and a "thank you". I have a whole category of close friends who began as coffee customers, I think that's really special.
MH If you could impart one insight to a fledgling coffee lover, what would you share?
LL Ask a ton of questions! I'd been a barista for years before I really started to explore coffee on a biological level, and the brewing process on a chemical one. With the help of some amazing lead baristas and co-workers I learned way more than I thought was possible about my own job. You have to be inquisitive to find the angle that most interests you about this career. For some people, it's production, for some it's roasting, for some it's the parameters to pull the perfect shot. Once you find what really fascinates you, it's hard not to be excited about going to work.
Double L serving up goodness at Public Domain in PDX.
MH What is your go-to coffee brewing method at work? How about at home?
LL I'm pretty easy to please. At work it's a shot of espresso from a co-worker or a cup of drip off the Fetco. At home it's literally whatever's easiest, usually French Press but lately (and probably for the rest of the warmer months) it's Cold Brew in the fridge. I have a bunch of fun equipment but I always go for a simple lazy method when I'm left to my own devices.
MH What music are you currently jamming to on bar?
LL So many things. This past week it's been Bahamas, Haim, the new Yeah Yeah Yeah's album, Polica, and Sbtrkt. With a healthy dose of the new Justin Timberlake thrown in.
So there you have it, folks. Catch Lauren at Public Domain in Portland for a great drink; and I’d say there’s a strong chance you’ll see her at the 2014 USBC in Seattle. Until next time...