By Brittany Leslie – Wholesale Account Manager and Educator, Kean Coffee
In this week’s Beyond the Beans interview series, we get to know Eric Miyoda! Eric has been working at Kéan Coffee for six years now, each day working toward his goal of learning more about coffee and honing his skills. When he is not working on his latte art, he is working on his own graphic and physical art. Learn more about Eric’s coffee journey in our interview below.
What made you decide to pursue a coffee career? What did your coffee journey look like before working at Kéan Coffee?
I am from Westminster, and I remember passing by this location in the past when it was a Diedrich Coffee, though I had only visited their other locations at the time. I had been an artist for a long time and as an artist you need something to keep you going and I was immediately drawn to coffee. I started at Starbucks because it was the most well known to the general public. Then I found out about Peet’s being a little more of a gourmet coffee place and decided I would work for them for a while. It started off as a fun job but then evolved into a more corporate feel. Once I heard about Kéan Coffee, I thought this would be the shop I was looking for. It is absolutely gourmet coffee. More importantly, it has that coffeehouse feel that Peet’s and Starbucks was lacking. That is what I enjoy.
How have you grown or changed throughout your different roles?
Yes, my time at Starbucks and eventually Peet’s started feeling as an automated routine—they only expected my basic barista duties out of me and that may just be due to the corporate culture feel of those jobs. I didn’t feel a sense of openness. Here at Kéan Coffee, we aren’t just expected to learn and pick up the skills, but really get to learn about all these different coffee things and grow in the company. It feels much better. This isn’t just important for my own growth, but it is knowledge I can pass onto others, like our guests.
What do you like most about being a barista?
One of the things I most enjoy about working here is the people I work with and meet. The work atmosphere is really important to me. Kéan Tustin has an amazing team.
What would you say is the most challenging part of being a barista?
As someone who is a perfectionist, knowing that my skill set doesn’t match that of another barista. For example, I may be working with a barista that really has their skills dialed in— he or she might have that precision, skill, or creativity for great latte art. Mine, on the other hand, are a little more free pours in comparison and it’s something a can do better in. Some baristas have a knack for latte art. Let’s just say that milk is not my preferred medium for art. I like using my eraser when I am drawing and with latte art, you get what you pour.
What’s the best “treat yourself” item on our menu?
Something I recently tried and got everyone else to try was a Churrsant (a cross between a churro and a croissant) with a sipping chocolate. The specific sipping chocolate I had was the Peru and it was really a wonderful combination that everyone got excited about. Experimenting with our drinks and other combinations is a lot of fun.
What are your passions outside of work? Are there any projects that you are currently working on?
I have been making art for over 40 years. I have taken classes in life drawing and sculpture, but it is mostly self-taught. What’s fun is that I don’t like to restrict myself to one medium. I play around with everything: I draw, paint, sculpt, a lot of different things. I have several art projects outside of work. I’m actually working on designing bandanas right now, inspired by the current pandemic situation.
Speaking of your appreciation for art, do you have a favorite style or artist?
Some artists I love are Georgia O’Keefe, Rodin for sculpture, all the masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci…. really, I love classical art. I like the style of manga and anime; my drawings of people are sort of inspired by that art style. Hiyomi Miyazaki is a great example of an artist that has touched me for his love of nature and the natural flow of his work. I am also strongly influenced by Native American art, as you might notice on the bandana that I made.
Who inspires you?
Musically, Marvin Gaye. He combined music with social commentary. President Obama for being a leader who inspires and powered through discrimination to achieve such an influential position in our government. Also, I just think of all the people who are out there now — I am proud of all of those who stand up to social injustices and know how to speak out and voice their opinions.
What else would you like to share about your coffee journey?
My journey is just beginning. For as long as I continue to pursue my art, I will continue to pursue great coffee and it will keep me awake and going! I have always enjoyed African coffees and I always love a great Ethiopian coffee. I haven’t displayed my art yet to the public, but I will continue to build my collection.
We feel very lucky to be a part of Eric’s coffee journey. As Eric describes his journey with both art and coffee, it reminds us that the art of coffee is a skill just like drawing and painting that must be perpetually practiced as it evolves and grows with time. The latte art skill Eric mentions is something that takes most baristas many months and years of practice to master, and perfectionists are never done learning. Eric is a gentle soul with a generous spirit and is well loved by his fellow baristas at Kean Coffee. Thank you, Eric for being such a solid member of our Kéan Coffee team with your many years of coffee experience and your caring, genuine, and positive presence.
Interview conducted and written by Brittany Leslie, November 19th, 2020.