The Saturday Morning Post


The Saturday Morning Post
June 18, 2011

Tim Chuey Weather: – Looks like the weather for Father’s Day will be similar to what we had for Mother’s day. That means clouds, a chance of showers and still cool. Next week, though, will be warmer and dry: Mostly cloudy with rain likely (60%) this AM, a good (50%) chance of showers and cooler this afternoon (0.10 in of rain possible), a (30%) chance of showers tonight (under 0.10 in of rain possible), mostly cloudy with a (30%) chance of showers Sunday AM, a slight (20%) chance of showers Sunday afternoon (Father’s Day), just mostly cloudy Sunday night and Monday AM.

Package of education reform proposals gains momentum – A wide-reaching package of stalled education reform proposals got moving again Friday in the Capitol.

Springfield vote due on cuts – The Springfield City Council will vote Monday on a stripped-down budget for the coming fiscal year that cuts 16 positions, based on projections that property taxes will grow less than 1 percent.

Fire station fliers create confusion – Eugene City Councilor Andrea Ortiz has been busy lately dispelling fears the city will close the fire station at West Second Avenue and Chambers Street in central Eugene.

Golden Temple remedy unclear – The 2007 reorganization of Eugene food company Golden Temple, which ultimately gave a group of Golden Temple executives rights to 90 percent of the company’s profits, was unfair, Multnomah County Court determined.

Volunteers sought to battle Civic weeds – Jim Watson wants to spare Civic Stadium from the wrecking ball, but first he hopes to save it from the weeds. With permission from the stadium’s owner, the Eugene School District. – wasn’t there just a notice from the city about weed and grass control regs? –ed

LTD pass program coming to an end – A popular student transit pass program that allowed thousands of middle and high school students to ride Lane Transit District buses for free during the school year will come to an abrupt end.

Summer Barista Institute offers “coffee camps” – The Eugene Coffee Company will hold three sessions, possibly more, for teenagers to learn about coffee and job skills.


Barista Bluff Doesn’t Make it to Bank


Barista Bluff Doesn’t Make it to Bank
by Mike Hulter, EDN

Pulling your own expresso shots at home doesn’t count.  Even pulling off a decent cappuccino rosetta doesn’t quite qualify.  And if you spell expresso with an x, they’ll know for sure, your barista skills just might not be up to par. Possibly the most sought after job in the food industry, coffee making is no longer the simple drip ritual we once watched our fathers do daily, standing in the kitchen bleary eyed and sleepy, watching the cone filter drip drip drip.

I never realized how lacking my coffee capacities were until yesterday morning, while sipping on a beige lukewarm cup, picking flecks of Folgers from my teeth. In that moment I forgave all the coffee places that passed over my resume and decided to find a barista to interview and see if perhaps there were more barista bluffers than just me, hoping to show up behind the espresso machine and finally make some decent tips.

I’ve made well over a hundred cappuccinos, but I guess my standards are low.  I can taste a good one.  I can sip one of mine and spit it across the room.  (no, that’s not true.  I’ll drink anything with caffiene.  Perhaps that’s my problem) Apparently the artisan in me is not responsive to the illustrious burnt bean.  Museless espresso fumblings have I known.

Complicated high quality coffee beverages have long been around, descending from a variety of ancient traditions.  There’s an old joke, well, it’s not a joke really, but I think it’s funny.  Ask any old guy with strong cultural ties where coffee comes from, and he will claim it as an invention of his ancestors. I asked a Greek once, “Oh, you try the Greek coffee, and you taste the ancient world.  Coffe came first from the Greek tradition. A thousand… Three thousand years ago.”  Ask a Palestinian or a Jew.  “We drank coffee before the Roman Empire.  Moses in the desert drank coffee.  Noah, when he invented wine, also had coffee.”  and so on.

Taking these claims seriously only makes sense when you picture pangea as a crowded house full of bickering boys.  I grew up in a family of 9 and know the various traditions we’ve each taken from that home, and the way we each hold it as truly and deeply our own.  The preparation of coffee is one of these highly sacred rituals that some of us subconsciously hold as central to our expression of self.

I used to work at a diner in Berkeley called Caffe Med.  Right there on Telegraph across from Moe’s books.  The current owner is a newbie, having taken over only a few years ago, but he has the audacity to hang a sign that claims the Med as the origin of the Latte.  Apparantly the Westerners weren’t accustomed to the taste of straight espresso being served in the Italian tradition,(“All Coffee is from Italia.  Caffe!  Why is a coffee house called the Italian word for coffee?  Because it all comes from Italy…”) and the English speaking owner would tell the Italian speaking barista to add milk, “Mas latte, Mas Latte.  Latte, latte, latte, bene.” This is a cute story with absolutely no grounds for believability, but it continues the time honored tradition of claiming that you and your people invented coffee.

Living in Cascadia (a self imposed nickname for the Northwest) necessitates the regular consumption of hot delicious stimulant beverages, and the preparation techniques are as varied as the population.  Dutch Brothers Drive Thru is king of the quick caffiene kick, adding shots of espresso to every coffee ordered.  Manned almost exclusively by attractive young college age folk, Dutch Brothers seems almost an extension of the college realm, and perhaps the 23,000 U of O students are a large portion of their regulars, ducking in for a quick one on their way to class.

The Vegas Version of the Dutch Brothers business model can be found in the form of Java Gone Wild.  Who can say no to this strange approach to commerce?  Java Gone Wild has several drive thru coffee stands where your steamy stimulants are served by scantily clad cuties. I once tried to get hired there, (TRUE) but they seem biased towards baristas who look good in bikinis.

In my search for a barista to interview I enjoyed a tour of some of Eugene’s coffee spots, such as The Divine Cupcake on 11th and Chambers, a charming little spot where you might take your mother or wife, featuring frilly feminine art that centers around cupcakes and incorporates collage, watercolors, and cute phrases about cupcakes.  Then there’s the Wandering Goat down by the train tracks in the Whitaker, catering a bit more to the counter-culture, hosting live music and local artists. A rather inspiring scene, if you hope to write something like On the Road or Howl or some other edge oriented piece.

Wandering Goat

The barista I finally interviewed was named Brennan, but I didn’t meet him at coffee shop.  He showed up at my house to visit my roommate, and I just happened to bring up the topic.

EDN: How many barista job applicants are actually competent baristas?

BRE: A lot of applicants are hoping to get training, but we prefer to hire experienced baristas.  Maybe one in ten try to bluff their way in.

EDN How long does it generally take to get the skills down?

BRE: Different cafes have different approaches.  Where I learned, they train you for half an hour then they give you a gallon of milk to practice with.  They do that once a week for a month.  At that last place the emphasis was on the foam.  If you have a quarter inch of foam and all the bubbles are real tiny, and you do the rosetta and you fill it up to the brim without any leftover milk, you’re a competent barista. You could burn the espresso, leave it sour, whatever.  You could use leftover coffee, and as long as the foam was right the boss thought you were good.  This place is a bit more focused on the entire drink.  The espresso grind needs to be the right consistency, the pull needs to be the right length of time, you have to call the customer’s name before you pull the milk so it doesn’t sit for more than ten seconds before they get it, it takes a while to get down.

EDN: It’s like a bartender, right?  You go from busser to bar-ista back to barista?

BRE: Exactly.  I started out as a busser, and the barista showed me how to make my own cappucinno, and when my boss noticed my interest he arranged training for me.

EDN: How long did it take?

BRE: I was a busser for a year, than they trained me, and I had to wait another six months for a barista to quit before I actually got to change roles.

EDN: Why is it so hard?

BRE: I blame customer bias.  It’s like when a kid wakes up, and if it’s not his mom serving him cereal he might not eat it, like it’s different somehow.  Customers know their specific barista, and if there’s a substitute barista their whole morning ritual is thrown off. Their coffee doesn’t taste the same.  Of course, it’s their fault, and when they return it with “This doesn’t taste right.”  All you can do is exactly the same thing, smile a little wider, and…  It’s exactly the same!  But with the replacement, they assume it must be better, and at that point they’re usually satisfied.

Oddly comforting to know I’m not alone in the attempt to bluff my way in.

March 16 – Morning Headlines


Here are the local Wednesday morning headlines:

Tim Chuey Weather
The rainy weather will stick around, but without the high winds.
County to raze Extension building
The Lane County commissioners voted narrowly Tuesday to raze the building that formerly housed the Lane County Extension services this summer, opting to make more room for the county fairgrounds to expand its offerings.
Judge upholds city tax ballot title
The ballot measure for Eugene’s income tax for schools can be presented to voters in May without a word being changed, Lane County Circuit Judge Lauren Holland ruled Tuesday.
Barista describes robbery that turned into shooting
A Dutch Bros. barista testified Tuesday in Brandon Lee Plunk’s robbery and attempted murder trial, publicly describing for the first time what led the coffee worker to fatally shoot Plunk’s alleged accomplice during an armed robbery last Thanksgiving Eve.
Board gets first vote on Eugene bond issue
The board will vote on whether to refer a $70 million bond measure to the May 17 ballot. Thursday is the deadline for filing to place measures on the ballot.
Pair questions police encounter
Police say multiple issues led Agent Tom Schulke to question the men’s intentions on the afternoon of March 3. “The fact that Salmon and his roommate, Josh Kennedy, are black is not one of those reasons”.
Fred Meyer to adjust vets’ pay, pension benefits
The Oregon attorney general’s office and the state’s veterans affairs agency say Fred Meyer Stores has agreed to change some of its employment practices following complaints from veterans.