I first met Jason Dominy while working at The Connection Cafe in Wilmington, NC. He, and his lovely wife April, were in town from Charlotte and checking out local cafes. We geek’d out about coffee and I mentioned my ideas for my own cafe that I may someday own. His advice and feedback was the push I needed to officially make coffee my career.
Since then, Jason has been busier within the industry. This is his story about building community and improving the industry.
When did you start drinking coffee?
I started drinking coffee in college, more for the enjoyment of the environment that anything else. The art of sitting in a comfortable chair, reading a nice book, and enjoying a nice cup of coffee. There was a coffee shop called Java Dave’s, I just thought was the best. It was 1993.
I first started enjoying coffee at Blue Sky Coffee, the most amazing shop in Athens, GA, that has since changed and become something else. My two favorite coffees were Tanzanian Peaberry, roasted by Jittery Joes Coffee, and Dancing Goats, roasted by Batdorf & Bronson. I didn’t think about this fact and connect it to my new coffee home until a couple of months into my new job. Even then, it was a great coffee.
When and how did you decide to become a Barista?
I decided to become a barista, start my first coffee shop by realizing a lack of real community on the campus of the state college in Augusta, GA, which then, was a commuter school, with no dorms.
There really weren’t avenues for students to get to know each other better on campus, beside classrooms, and the occasional cafeteria visit. I started my first coffee shop to build community, and to this day, fight for the value of true community. From there, I was asked to move to Athens, GA, and open another coffeehouse, which became The Bean’ry. A special part of Athens coffee history, to this day.
Tell us about your journey from Charlotte, NC to Atlanta, GA
I worked hard for several years with Dilworth Coffee, a regional roaster out of Charlotte, to help it build it’s presence in the Southeast through social media, and just being active. I worked hard to better myself, following the example of people like Ellie Matuszak, taking advantage of every resource I could to learn more, to become a better giver to the industry, not just a taker.
I started out as a station leader at a Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event, then moved my way up. Was invited to be on the SCAA’s Training Committee/Espresso, and later onto the Barista Guild of America (BGA)’s Executive Council. And I did all I could do at Dilworth Coffee, before I realized I needed to be in larger pastures.
I have personal goals for myself, and my role in the industry, and knew I’d need a larger company to partner with to help. And Batdorf & Bronson was a roaster that I really respected for being a great industry standard, working with farmers for 24 years, roasting with 100% renewable energy, focusing on it’s people, not just the business, and had worked with Heather Ringwood for years with the SCAA’s Training Committee. Plus, their team is made up of incredibly coffee passionate people who aren’t pretentious, and that was important to me.
I always want it to be about the coffee, and for Batdorf & Bronson, it really is, and has been for the past 24 years, before some of this stuff like sustainability and relationship coffees were cool. They’re old school, but in a good way.
What else are you involved in the industry?
Well, I do work with the SCAA’s Professional Development Committee, formerly the Training Committee. I’ve organized two SCAA Skill Building Workshops. I’m an SCAA Accredited Lead Instructor, a certified examiner for the BGA’s Certification, I’ve judged at four regional events in Chicago, Atlanta, and New Jersey.
I will judge again this year, probably as a sensory judge. I’m currently the BGA Vice Chair of the Executive Council, working with some amazing coffee professionals. I’m also involved in creating a better coffee community here in Atlanta, and have just finished the Atlanta Disloyalty Card.
I also created the Manual Brewing Battles here, with our first one in June. They’ve been well attended, and I think will be a great thing for the coffee community here. My favorite part of it? We all go out to eat together after it’s done. Again, it’s about the coffee and community.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for yourself and at Batdorf & Bronson?
Myself, in the short term, to be the best employee I can be, and the best husband I can be. To give back to the coffee community every chance I get.
As far as with Batdorf goes, my goal is to help it get the respect and attention it deserves. That more people would come to know our coffees, and our story. That people would get to know who Batdorf & Bronson really is. My long term goal, and it seems crazy, but I’ve got to have a goal, is to be the best coffee trainer in the industry. I don’t know that I will ever reach it, but I will dang sure shoot for it.
There’s a lot of amazing people out there I look up to. I also want to be a better person than I am. That I would have no enemies, and be respected by all. That would make me feel satisfied.
What advice do you have for beginning barista and barista who want to improve their technique and move up in the industry?
I’d say get involved as much as you can. Hang out with your local roasters. Spend time at other shops, getting to know the baristas. Check out events happening in your area.
Aren’t any? Start ‘em. Join the BGA. Get plugged in, check with your Chapter Rep as to what’s going on and how you can get involved. Read up on the origin and history of coffee. Respect it. Grow it. Change it.