In this blog series, we offer you a glimpse of our team members behind the scenes, and the many unique viewpoints and experiences they bring to our company, our coffee, and the Kaldi’s family.
This week, we’re talking to Lauren, a Kaldi’s Coffee team leader who has mastered all areas of cafe operations, from the bakery to the espresso bar, and is now a developing to be a leader at our cafe in Washington University’s Medical School’s Mid Campus Center (MCC), which is connected to the Barnes hospital complex.-
What’s life like at the MCC?
A little insane, honestly. We were the only cafe to remain open during quarantine - do you remember the empty streets? - and we were very busy, we’re still busy. We had a rotating staff from other cafes, and we were told if we weren’t comfortable, we didn’t have to come in, but I worked throughout all of 2020. During the past year, the most rewarding moments were watching the stress sloughing off of our customers as they stepped away from the hospital, ordered, waited, and enjoyed coffee or lunch. They’ve all had unbelievably stressful years, and while we don’t offer a typical homey-cafe atmosphere (being in an administrative building), we’re their escape, their moment away from work, sickness, and sometimes death, and there’s nothing like offering them a moment of kindness and connection.
Any favorite memory of the cafe?
We have wonderful customers, and they contribute so much to the best parts of working here! One night, Becca, one of our team members, tried to teach us to line dance — and all of our regular customers walking by got to see (and danced along!). My favorite times are when Lilia, Reggie, and I get into our morning groove. Dancing, singing, and everything included!
What hobbies are you pursuing right now?
My current hobby right now is sewing, though it’s a coincidence that quarantine hit at the same time. I knew how to do cross-stitch and embroidery, but right now, it’s very much sewing clothing, which I’ve started wearing. I’ve gotten a few compliments from customers on my skirts, and I’m like, “thanks, they use to be bedsheets.” It’s interesting to me how many handicrafts get lost over time, but come back when groups become interested in them again; when generations gift equipment and supplies, we take them up again and they have new lives.
Any advice to someone who is starting a career in coffee?
Don’t get pretentious. There’s something new to learn every day, and welcoming customer service is much more important than a showy display of knowledge.
Favorite drink or origin?
My favorite right now is definitely a single origin espresso or cappuccino with the Brazil Ariovaldo Bonfim (editor's note: since sold out!). It's become my go-to espresso choice when I stumble into the cafe at 4:35 AM! It just has some really nice, medium-to-dark flavors. The single origins are nice because they change to stay seasonal, keep it fresh, and offer something unique. I’m excited for the Tanzanian coffee that’s coming up next.
Favorite place to vacation?
My sister, friend, and I once vacationed in Asheville, North Carolina for a weekend, and I wish we could have stayed for a week! It's such a beautiful part of the country, and there is so much to see and do. I'd also love to visit Germany and Austria again as an adult. I went as a teenager with my choir, and it resembled a flock of ducklings being herded carefully around than anything else!
On getting hired and working at Kaldi’s:
When I was asked what position I was interested in, I asked to learn everything in the cafes, so I started with 2 weeks out front, 2 weeks in the kitchen, and a week of baking. So I jumped into the deep end immediately, but I had lots of support and encouragement. I liked that they were willing to give me the time to train in every position, and it was a great introduction to Kaldi’s.
Worst tasting note you’ve ever had in coffee?: Garbage Charcoal/Raw Potato
Favorite Season?: Spring! Because winter is terrible!
Favorite Food: Veggie Korma at Everest Cafe
Most Important Skill to have in cafes?: Communication
Washed or Natural?: Natural
Describe MCC: Lively, the most wonderful and dedicated regulars, and an outstanding team.
Hobby to get into: Woodworking!
Dream Job: One that involves seeing the same customers everyday, that’s fast-paced with multiple facets, and requires coordination of a lot of moving parts.
One Drink: Single-Origin Cappuccino
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our interview with Lauren. Stay tuned to our blog for more interviews with the team members behind your favorite beverages and cafe experiences, and of course, more exciting coffee knowledge and brewing tips!
THE PEOPLE OF KALDI'S COFFEE: ESTEVAO
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