Barista Interview: Terika Raak

Continuously improving your skills as a Barista never ends with so much to learn on different levels. Training and expanding into other areas of the industry seems to come with the territory. Just as it has for this month’s “barista on duty”, Terika Raak from JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar.

Terika-150x150When did you start drinking coffee?

My family moved to a suburb of Seattle when I was 5. I remember drinking brewed coffee with plenty of cream and sugar by the time I was 7, yet it took until I was about 12 to have my first mocha. Ever since then, the fascination, passion, and addiction have just grown stronger.

How has coffee impacted your life?

In more ways than I ever expected. When I was in high school I really started to discover the various cultures that coffee shops tend to create. Being a Christian in a very un-churched area of the country, I discovered that people walk into coffee shops in a much less guarded, more open state than if they were to walk into a church. They would open up and tell their story or their troubles to the teenager sitting there on a bar stool, just because I was willing to listen. Since then I have been working toward opening up a coffee shop of my own and letting it be my ministry…a place where the community can gather and feel welcome. I went to college and majored in Business Administration and Management, then I went to seminary where I received my Masters of Divinity with the intent of the two degrees working together.

Coffee has kind of been the driving force behind all of this, but it has also allowed me to keep my sanity…and has funded my education. I always tried to keep a side job at a local coffee shop. No matter how stressed out I would be with finals and papers, as soon as I would step behind the bar, all of my cares would melt away and I could focus on making great drinks.

What all are you involved with in the industry?

I am currently working at JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar where I am an Assistant Manager and also bar train our baristas. I also work for the Midwest Barista School where I train our students, help run the booth at Coffee Fest, and also to our students’ coffee shops to train their staffs.

What made you decide to become a Barista?

When I was in high school and wanted to open up my own coffee shop I thought it might be a good idea to start learning as much as I could then. Yet it wasn’t until I started college that a job opportunity in the coffee industry presented itself.

What do you cover while training others through the Midwest Barista School (MBS)?

Training through MBS is part classroom, part training on the bar. In the classroom they get introduced to coffee and the various processes that take it from seed to cup, and we also go over the business side of things which is typically catered toward the specific needs of our students. On bar we start out with basic espresso extraction and milk steaming techniques, teaching them what to look for when pulling the perfect shot and steaming the perfect milk. Then we move into the proper way to build drinks, and even let them practice making drinks for some of our customers, a unique opportunity since our barista school is located in a successful coffee shop. Not only can they observe the application of what we are teaching them, but they can also see the results. Finally we go over advanced espresso extraction and milk steaming techniques, and teach them latte art. We also teach them how to properly take care of their equipment and basic espresso machine and grinder maintenance.

What is Coffee Fest like?

Awesomeness. Coffee Fest is one of those unique opportunities where you are surrounded by coffee geeks who are eager to talk about coffee to people other than their coworkers. It is a great opportunity to network, check out the latest and greatest products, drool over new equipment, watch competitions, take some classes, and just get inspired!

What do you do when you’re working the booth?

Talk with people about MBS and about the training tools that we have. The Barista Basics and Latte Art DVDs that we have are great tools for any coffee shop to have, and address the issue that every coffee shop has: baristas deciding to do things their way, not necessarily the way they were trained. These DVDs give a concrete reference point that you can go back to or re-watch just for a refresher. They also provide a foundation for the trainer to work on, rather than starting from scratch.

What advice would you give to new Baristas?

Continually push yourself and don’t give up. The coffee industry is constantly changing, so challenge yourself and be creative!

What advice would you give to Baristas looking at options to further improve their skills?

Don’t be afraid to look outside of your own shop and network. The coffee community is one of the few communities where there is almost this instant camaraderie. People are willing to share ideas and tips, so don’t be afraid to ask. Go to whatever events, workshops, jams, or throwdowns that you can. Continue to push yourself and try new things.

Favorite Brew?

This changes on a daily basis, but I typically like darker roasts with a heavier body and chocolate notes. I’m not really a fan of anything very bright or acidic.

Favorite Espresso Drink?

Doppio ristretto macchiato.
Whether it’s serving up a cappuccino or training other Baristas, Terika is on her way to fullfilling her dream of owning her shop. Good luck Terika!

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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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