Barista Interview: Jason Duncan from Cafe Evoke

barista_jason-Duncan-Nov.-2010-150x150This month, Jason Duncan from Cafe Evoke Catering, tells us about why social interaction around coffee is important to him, and how coffee catering is a great extension for special events and some cafes, without losing quality.

When did you start drinking coffee?

If what I drank as a Junior in High School was coffee, it was then. My real answer would probably be in 2001 when I was living down the street from one of Bob Bernstein’s shops in Nashville: Bongo Java.

When and how did you decide to become a Barista?

You know that feeling you get when you are watching your favorite band with hundreds of your “best friends” and long to be the one on the microphone or playing that great solo? It was like that for me when it came down to coffee. I’m not sure how you can sit and watch a barista, love what they serve you and not want to become one! But seriously, I was really in to the social side of coffee (direct trade/fair trade/farmers/etc) and because of that, spent lots of time talking with people that were involved with coffee.

I talked with someone that told me of a time they were at a small farm building a home for the family who grew there. Before building, the grounds had to be “cleared” in a few spots and 3 trees where tagged. The father ran out and said they could not cut down those trees as it was their families income. He would rather keep the trees than have this brand new home. The trees stayed and the construction plans got altered to fit what space they had. That story struck a cord for me. I knew I wanted to be in a business that could serve coffee with a story like that behind it. Now that I’m in the coffee industry I can’t imagine any other career! It’s art, community and science. And, probably most of all, it tastes great and is a great time.

How long have you been in the industry?

I’ve been a professional in this industry for 6 years now – loving it for longer than that, though.

What are you involved in with the industry?

Our company, Cafe Evoke Catering, is one of the few specialty coffee catering companies actively involved with the SCAA. I’m also a member of the Barista Guild of America. We attend at least one Coffee Fest or other trade show each year as well to be sure we stay in touch with our other coffee friends as possible.

Why should coffee catering be considered along with caterings for events and business meetings?

First off, we believe in last impressions at Cafe Evoke. We are living in a day in age when people are tired of all the same mess that is served at these meetings. Here is the deal. Many people think that a coffee bar is a “kids menu” item. Really though, we are serving $3 and $4 dollar cups through some of the best techniques around. From pour overs to espresso based drinks, it not only adds a bit of class to any function, it also adds atmosphere. People love talking over coffee and if for no other reason, it shows that you care enough about the guests you invite to your meeting or party by serving them nothing but the best. We believe in last impressions. Nothing is worse than sipping that final cup of coffee after a perfect event and being left with a taste you have to chase with the nearest beverage.

Why should cafe’s implement catering at their cafes?

I’m not sure all cafe’s should. Frankly, it is a great way to keep quality coffee available to your customers but if you are not willing to do it correctly, I would suggest not trying. We spend lots of time making sure what we provide on location is as good as we would provide when we can control all variables. Getting that perfect extraction and milk on a 220v machine in a controlled environment is much different then achieving it on a 110v machine and a different location every day. The cafe’s that can figure it out and not loose quality at their shop or on the road will do great with it.

How should cafe’s utilize catering as an extension of their cafe?

People choose your shop because it is the best. With a mobile coffee bar, you are able to not only take care of that person who comes in to your shop every day, you will be able to extend your customer base. People will be surprised when they show up to an event and the coffee is as high end as the beer, wine and food. When they have a chance to taste it, they are yours and you will be seeing them day to day at your counter. Just be sure that you are consistent and take care of each event as you would each daily customer.

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Jennifer has been in the coffee industry since 2003. She started Daily Demitasse to educate and share her experience with other passionate coffee enthusiasts, from a Barista, Cafe Manager, shop Owner and freelancer perspective. When she's not working or blogging, you can find her at Transpire Life.

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