By: Brittany Leslie – Wholesale Account Manager and Educator, Kean Coffee
For our new baristas, working with Hayley means learning everything from coffee origins, espresso extraction, milk steaming and texturizing, and pouring perfect latte art. Our interview dives into her love for knowledge and what makes her a great barista trainer. A longtime Kéan Coffee barista, Hayley has gifted us with her contagious laughter, hard working attitude, and a passion for coffee that extends much further than aromas and taste notes.
How long have you been working in coffee? Have you always been a coffee lover?
I have been working for Kean Coffee for six years come September! It was my first coffee job when I started in 2014. I thought I didn’t like coffee at all when I first became a barista, I was more of a tea person. It just so happened that our coffee is really good, so I ended up taking the “acquired taste” route. After that I became basically obsessed with the craft because it fascinated me. The more I learned every day, the more engaged I was, the more I wanted to learn.
You have been able to apply your experience and coffee knowledge as a barista trainer. How do you approach this role?
Being a barista trainer helps me build leadership skills and helps others build their own sense of personal leadership because as a trainer I am learning that the most effective way to engage a student is based on their specific ways of learning. Another thing is that everyone responds well to positive reinforcement.
I try to implement this more just because in general, throughout someone’s life whether it be school, home or work, they might have not received enough positive influence so giving that to others actually helps me feel more confident in myself and how I communicate with my team. One of my favorite parts of being a trainer is the more I teach, the more I learn. Everyone might assume that I know everything, but I don’t! Even before I became the “certified coffeehouse trainer” I knew I had a knack for explaining things. It was only after I was given that opportunity every day to explain to different kinds of people the theory, concept, history of coffee, that I realized I had become so much more knowledgeable and those who I shared this knowledge with become super fascinated as well. Your energy reflects and so if you’re fascinated, they’ll get fascinated.
What is your favorite coffee topic to teach to others?
Coffee origins, for sure. I even won a speech competition once in college when I was explaining a brief history of coffee and its origin, dating back to 800 BC with what is assumed to be coffee’s origin in Ethiopia then tracing that to what erupted into coffeehouse culture. I talked about its evolution throughout European countries and influence in American culture—it’s fascinating to me how it branched out from Africa, to the Middle East, and how it went to being consumed in America. When I teach at our Roastery and show them the images of the coffee trees and the maps, I am hoping to really implement the “seed to cup” mentality every single time. That has been the most impactful for me as a trainer.
Speaking of coffee origins, do you have a favorite coffee origin?
You can’t go wrong with an Ethiopian, but besides that… *laughs*
Nicaraguan coffee always blows my mind, especially a natural process. I love South American coffees for that milk chocolate note, but I love a little bit of a kick. That is probably why I tend to drink Ethiopian or Kenyan coffees, but I would say South American and African coffees are both my jam.
What do you like to do outside of working at the coffeehouse? What does an ideal day off look like to you?
My ideal day off is going to the park and reading a book. I am reading a book for my upcoming Women Writers class, “Orlando” by Virginia Woolf. It’s going to be such a good class, I’m excited. I am going for my AA in Communications and English then plan on transferring to university to pursue my aspiration of becoming a teacher.
As a vegan yourself, what would you recommend to our vegan coffeehouse guests?
My favorite vegan pastry will always be the gluten-free/vegan chocolate banana loaf. I know we have a lot of fancy vegan pastries, but that loaf will always feel like home to me. The coffee cake also slaps. For a drink: drip coffee, no creamer, all the time. If I’m feeling like a little treat, I get an oat milk flat white. I also love Turkish lattes with half sweetener. I love the cardamom spice. I love cinnamon. I love the spices.
If you could only play one song on repeat all day at the coffeehouse, what would you play?
Some sort of lo-fi, like, jazz, YouTube thing. It streams endlessly and I love it. Jazz works great for coffee making.
What else would you love to share with us about your coffee journey?
I am so grateful to be at Kéan Coffee. I’ve met so many different people and made so many real connections, so many great friends. I would’ve never thought when I applied as a teenager how much this would change my life. I know it’s the same for our regulars too. Coffee absolutely builds community. Even when we’re behind the bar, we build community with each other. The Kéan Coffee community really is a support system to me and I am so thankful.
Thank you so much to Hayley for sharing your story and love for coffee with others. Next time you see her at our Newport Beach coffeehouse, ask her to pour you one of her beautiful swan designs.
Interview conducted and written by Brittany Leslie, August 7th, 2020