Beyond the Beans: An Interview with Ramone Valerio
By: Brittany Leslie – Wholesale Account Manager and Educator, Kean Coffee
With his coffee journey beginning at Kéan Coffee in 2010, Ramone has provided a decade of excellent service and skill as a barista. After becoming friends with so many of our regulars, many have probably wondered where he seems to disappear to for a few months out of the year. When he is not slinging expertly crafted espresso drinks at our Tustin coffeehouse, Ramone is touring around the country with his rock band, Dayseeker. He introduces to us the life of a barista, part-time musician, and dad.
How did you start working at Kéan Coffee? Did you enjoy coffee before?
My friend Allie told me that Kean Coffee was hiring at the time and so I went directly there to apply. I got the job right after a group interview. I started out as a barista but I have also been a senior shift lead for quite a while now. I didn’t drink coffee at all before being a barista. The taste of coffee definitely grew on me. The first drink I used to get at coffeehouse was a Napoli, and now I only get an espresso or macchiato. It was an acquired taste after drinking sweet drinks for so many years,
You have been working at the coffeehouse for 10 years now! Would you say that you know the Kéan Tustin community well?
There are some guests that have probably come in every day that I have! We catch up on each other’s lives when they come in for their morning coffee. Guests like to ask me how my daughter is doing, and some have even brought gifts in for her. It’s a very sweet and thoughtful community that we have all built. I have relationships with guests and of course our team is all very close– Some of my coworkers are like family to me. I met my future wife through work. I am very thankful for all the interactions with the guests and relationships I’ve made from my time here.
What is your favorite part of working as a barista and do you have a favorite coffeehouse memory?
My favorite part of being barista is the interaction I get with people every day. It feels like being a bartender but it’s very quick and short interaction we get when it’s really busy. It is nice to catch up briefly and make our guest a drink. It helps them out with their day. Coffee gets your morning started. Coffee or a sweet treat helps when you’ve had a rough day. It’s nice to help in that way. Some of my favorite coffeehouse memories have been hosting a throwdown, making a ladder safety video with my friend Jim (it got the point across!), and when we hosted “A Night at Kean Coffee” at the coffeehouse and my friend Rory played an acoustic show.
Does your experience as barista impact your decision on coffee stops while you traveling around the county? Do you have a favorite coffeehouse outside of California?
In terms of easily going to convenience store or Starbucks for coffee? Yeah, I think I go out of my way to find the best coffeehouse in the area. I’ll ask for specific drinks: an espresso, a macchiato, and maybe a specialty drink if it really catches my eye. My expectations are a lot higher than my bandmates, but our drummer has hopped on the specialty coffee train too and has found some really good spots. My favorite spot ambiance-wise outside of California is Black Forge coffee in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They play metal music, cool bands tend to roll through there, they have great pastries, really dark, scary, paintings on the wall. In terms of coffee, Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters near Denver, CO has excellent coffees. The espresso shots were so great. One more: Deeply Coffee in Orlando, FL. The atmosphere and coffee were superb. I’ll take suggestions from those who have them.
I have noticed that a lot of our baristas and even Roastery staff are creative people. Why do you think that so many artists are drawn to coffee?
We all need that pick me up. We go to coffeehouses to get that pick me up and to work and then end up making friends with our baristas and working in the community. The job itself can be inspiring with the number of stories we hear from people and interactions we have with new faces and regulars. Also, coffee is a fun job. We all enjoy doing it and becoming proud of a new craft. If you’re an artist, please share with us projects that you are working on!
When did you first become a musician and what has your music journey looked like?
I started playing music when I was in high school, around 2005, to have fun. I started playing with friends would then become bandmates. Some bandmates take it seriously and that allowed us to grow and make ourselves even better. With the group I’m in now, everyone is very dedicated and willing to put in the extra work and invest in it. I would consider myself a part-time touring musician with my band, Dayseeker. I tour every four months. It’s definitely been a large journey: When I think about it, I’m surprised and thankful to see how far I’ve come. The things that we are doing, the things we have done, and the things that are coming up are all very exciting. Keep an eye out for our live virtual show that will be coming out soon for Dayseeker.
How many tours have you done? Is it hard to get back to your normal flow in life and work when you return home?
I think I have done 11 tours. In the beginning of tour, it’s hard to get dialed in with our music and tone, and also the lifestyle of playing and traveling every single day. It’s the same way when I get home. You have to then get used to doing your every day at home activities and being in one place. At work it feels weird coming back, but the flow and coffee is always so consistent at Kean that it’s not too difficult.
Do you have any passions outside of music?
I love making art and crafting in general. I used to love shooting short videos to edit—slow motion is definitely my thing. Drawing is always fun. I really enjoy climbing. It keeps me active and I try to climb on tour as well because it’s a skill and strength that you can lose if you don’t keep at it. Shoot, I wish I could make coffee on the road if coffee houses would let me on their machine. I would like to keep up with that too while on the road!
Lastly, congrats on being a relatively new dad! How is being a parent? Does she like coffee and metal too?
Thank you. Being a parent is whole new, non-stop job. It’s a lot of fun. I feel like I don’t get enough sleep, so I’m grateful I work in coffee. I’m always in parent mode. She’s always learning. I’m always learning. I love watching her experience new things and grow. She does like coffee. She says, “Coffee, coffee!” Also yes, she head bangs, throws her arms in dance, and sings “Sleeptalk” by Dayseeker. I’m glad she likes my music.
Ramone closed out his interview by stating how thankful his is to his Kéan Coffee family and all the guests for making every day a new and impactful experience. Coffee brings a new energy to life, whether you’re a parent, an artist, or touring musician on the road who needs to make it to the next stop. Ask Ramone about his project, Dayseeker, the next time you see him at our Kean Tustin coffeehouse!
Interview conducted and written by Brittany Leslie, August 21st, 2020