Calm is the mood, the atmosphere, the vibe.
Java Jacks, is a coffee shop that thrives on calm. And that is something, considering 95% of what they offer is caffeinated.
Talk to Jenny, Justin, or Sarah, and the overriding mood you get is calm. Even when they are caffeinated to the hilt.
Brent too. Calm.
And when you sit down and have a conversation with these espresso meisters, you begin to get a sense of the poetry that goes into making a brew.
The day that I sat down to talk with Jenny about being a barista, she had been working with the new espresso beans to get them “dialed in.”
Brent the chief coffee buyer and roaster in the joint, had been working behind the scenes on the current espresso blend at the Camino Real roastery.
He was modulating the flavor and origins of the coffee blend, to develop one that will meet his quality standards. and represent the flavors he expects from a great espresso. It was Jenny’s job to get it to taste just right (dialed in).
And get this, there are sixteen discrete steps to making the perfect cup of espresso (that’s doesn’t count finding the best beans and roasting them).
Any step can change the final taste of the product.
To get it right, Jenny had to taste a lot of espresso. But she was as calm as a sleepy cat on a couch.
Dialing it in is just one of the duties of the head barista at Java Jacks. And it’s not unlike the duties of a chef or chief cook at a restaurant, working with the best ingredients to get it just right.
And then comes serving each customer. When you order a cup of espresso at Java Jacks, it is made expressly for you. Those wonderful Camino Real beans are ground right when you order, not a moment before. The cup is brewed for you right there, on the spot, not sitting in a warm carafe.
And of course there is nothing wrong with coffee sitting in a carafe for 20 minutes or so, maybe 30.
But espresso is only good if you drink it right away.
It’s made just for you, each and every drink.
Jenny and Justin both know each step and how each particularity affects the final taste.
Jenny as the head barista, trains the others on the crew. She patiently watches over each step. She makes sure that every barista can duplicate her specifications. From the grind to the packing of the grind to the length of time the water stays in contact with the grind to the temperature of the water and more, each piece of the process is carefully taught to keep the quality consistent.
Once a server becomes competent, each cup can feel like a small piece of poetry to them. This is not unlike a cook who has made a beautiful meal. There seems to be a touch of them in the product.
For instance, when you talk to Justin about espresso, you absolutely get this impression. He doesn’t want to talk about the steps. That’s too much like asking a musician about the steps to playing their instrument. They do it as a series of interlocking pieces that flow from one to another.
That’s Justin pulling espresso. There’s a melody in there.
And he keeps trying to master that song, even if no one else can sense the variances, he knows them, and plays with them like a poet plays with words, or an artist with color.
Both Jenny and Justin can talk java for hours and you feel like you are just beginning to scratch the surface of what they really know.
I asked Jenny how long it took her to master espresso. Her answer was that you never do; there’s always more to learn.
And learn she has. When she started at Java Jacks, she had no idea that she was going to discover a new way to express herself. She thought she was just applying for a job.
But she learned and absorbed what was going on. She started to taste the complexities of all the different kinds of drinks. And she was hooked. She wanted to learn more. Wanted to be a part of creating the cup, not just a server.
So she has trained in Austin, at an SCAA event learning from some of the best in the business and then adding to her knowledge by going to the SCAA annual Conference in Seattle to learn more.
Maybe you have been enjoying coffee at Java Jacks for years and didn’t realize how much these baristas actually know about the product. Maybe you would like to know more.
Jenny, Justin and the other baristas are ready to talk coffee.
So the next time you are ordering your usual, maybe you are feeling a little adventurous, ask them what they like. Find out about the different coffees from all over the world, and the care that goes into each and every cup.
Java Jacks is the safari, and the baristas are the guides.