Interview: Kemp Watson from Joe Van Gogh

June-2010-barista-kemp-300x225Starting as a Barista can be exciting and overwhelming juggling school and learning about a whole new industry part time. Once you are a full time Barista, there are many great changes and possibilities. Just as Kemp Watson has recently learned from Joe Van Gogh‘s cafe Cup A Joe in Chapel Hill.

DD- When did you start drinking coffee?
– I started drinking coffee occasionally when I was about 15 years old. For my birthday one year, a friend bought me a travel mug from Krispy Kreme that you could fill up with coffee for 75 cents, so I would get them to load it up with cream and sugar just so I could drink it. When I started college, I decided that I wanted to drink coffee black, so I slowly backed off of the sweeteners and eventually I really started liking it (and developed a mild caffeine addiction also).

DD- What made you decide to become a Barista?
– I always enjoyed hanging out in coffee shops once I became a regular coffee drinker, and I was interested in what baristas did, but the thought of becoming a barista never occurred to me until my second year of college when I needed a job. My roommate at the time worked at a coffee shop and he got me a job where he worked. It was a really slack coffee shop and nobody really cared about the coffee, but it was a start.

DD- How long have you been a barista?
– Almost three years.

DD- What’s the difference in going from part time to lead Barista?
– The increased time behind the bar has already started to make a huge improvement in my skills as a barista. Although I have been a barista for almost three years now, it has only been in the last year since working at Joe Van Gogh that I have really begun to realize my potential as a barista. Only working 10-12 hours a week while going to school allowed me to be a pretty good barista, but now that I am behind the bar 5 days a week, I have much more chance to improve my craft and become more consistent.

Becoming lead barista has also made me really believe in Joe Van Gogh’s coffee and relationship to its customers. I want all of our customers to have a great experience every time they come into our store, and I also want to provide them with the best cup of coffee they’ve ever had. I think that creating a community atmosphere in our store is important, and I want to do whatever I can to make that happen. It has been a cool experience so far to become more of a personal representation of the company and our coffee that has a tradition of almost 20 years behind it.

DD- How all are you involved in the industry?
– I am working full time at the Chapel Hill location of Joe Van Gogh (called Cup A Joe) as the lead barista. I also attend all of the monthly Latte Art Throwdowns that I can in order to improve my latte art and meet other baristas in the Triangle.

DD- Do you plan to pursue your craft further?
– Yes, I plan to continue expanding my knowledge as a barista over the next year and also become more visible in the coffee community. I see being a barista as a skill that can be taken anywhere, and I plan to always be expanding my knowledge of great coffee and my skill as a barista.

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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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