Happiness in Every Cup
Our fabulous partner, Jessie Chou from Good Day Sunshine Café recently won the Vancouver Foodster’s 2nd annual BEST BARISTA award for 2013. We were able to talk with Jessie and ask her a few questions about being a barista and her award.
How did you get started as a barista?
I have always volunteered to make coffee for my families and friends for as long as I remembered. However, I became a barista when my husband and I opened our café in October 2011. He makes all the food while I handle all the drink. We are a team of two!
Are there any tricks or tips you would like to share about the art of being a barista?
Being a barista is more than making great coffee. Serving up great coffee is a prerequisite. But essentially, it is about how one provides the service – the interaction with customers, listening to their needs and responding to them accordingly.
What was your reaction when you found out you won the Vancouver Foodster Award for Best Barista?
When I found out that I won, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Wow, Christmas wishes do come true!” Then a deep sense of gratitude followed. I must thank all of my wonderful customers, friends and families who nominated me. It is great to be appreciated for doing what I love!
What do you think makes Good Day Sunshine Cafe coffee so special?
I think there are several factors. First of all, we use very fresh beans from local company JJ Bean Coffee Roasters. I order our coffee beans on a weekly basis to ensure freshness. Once great beans are obtained, I try to extract them carefully when pulling espresso shots and try to have a proper grind and water ratio when brewing coffee.
When creating fancy specialty drinks, such as flavoured lattes and mochas, I try to make my own syrups and sauce as much as possible, while staying away from the commercially available flavour syrups made from “natural/artificial” flavours. For example, our maple cinnamon latte is made with pure maple syrup with a dash of cinnamon on top while our seasonal pumpkin spice latte is created from pumpkin puree and spices.
Real food always tastes better. Also, I believe people can taste the love and care that I put in each drink. The motto for our café is “happiness you can taste.” I always try to serve a cup of happiness to each of my customers.
What would you say is your signature drink?
I am constantly experimenting and coming up with new drinks. One of the crowd pleasers from the very beginning is the maple cinnamon latte. In addition to its great taste, people identify with it as being very Canadian!
What would you say are the three most important things for being a great barista?
First and foremost, I would say a great barista must respect and appreciate coffee. Coffee being the second most valuable traded commodity in the world is planted, cared for, harvested, graded, processed, traded, shipped, and roasted by many people (just like you and me) before it reaches the consumers’ cups. Too often in this busy world, people lose sight of where their food and drink comes from while overlooking the human effort. Consequently, people seek the cheapest/fastest products and wasteful over-consumption is the result.
Besides appreciating coffee, a great barista must pay attention to details. There are so many variables that can affect the taste of coffee. It’s always important to be watchful and adjust accordingly to achieve and maintain the quality of each drink.
Last but not least, a great barista must care about people. Being in the service industry, without customer support, we cannot exist. It is a lot more fun to treat customers as guests who we invite to our home than to merely operate a business. The human touch and interaction make the experience of going out to get coffee and/or food complete.
Would you tell us an interesting story that happened while you were working as a barista?
We have regular open mic nights that take place at the café on 1st, 3rd, and sometimes 5th (if there is a 5th week) Saturdays of each month. Consequently, we have become friends with several local musicians. One of them (Paul) also likes to come play his guitar in the day time on weekends once in a while. There was one Saturday morning that Paul came in with two other gentlemen and a guitar. They decided to sing a couple of songs impromptu. It was a great treat for all of us who happened to be in the café at that time. After they left, a few other customers came to us excitedly and said that we just had a Canadian celebrity sighting. It turned out that Paul’s two friends were Canadian folk musician Valdy and New Zealand guitarist Graham Wardrop!