A year before I opened Lemonjello’s Coffee, I didn’t like drip coffee. I loved espresso beverages and had learned how to consistently brew good pots of coffee (I had yet to hear of manual brew methods in 2002). But I knew that if I wanted to open my own shop, I had to learn to like drip coffee.

I had a disadvantage. My mother spent my entire life telling me that coffee was gross. It was bad for you. The Good Lord didn’t want us to have it. My dad worked third shift at a local factory and drank Folgers as if his life depended on it. Actually, it probably did. My mom hated the smell, refused to even try it, and hailed it as borderline evil.

I was not a rebellious teenager, but I found myself joining friends in the local coffeehouses and trying the stuff. I felt guilty. It started with flavored lattés, turned to plain lattés, then to vanilla americanos, then plain americanos, then back to lattés. But I knew I had to get the drip thing down.

When I took a job at the bakery I would later convert into Lemonjello’s, I was determined. I found a single origin (my first) Organic Peru coffee from a local roaster. I brewed it at the shop every day. For myself, I added vanilla and a couple ounces of soy milk to it and called it the Vanilla Peru. I added it to the menu and it sold well (still does).

This was my gateway coffee experience. After some months, I dropped the vanilla. Eventually, I dropped the soy milk. And there I was. A bonafide coffee drinker. Not so hard, right?

I understand my role in the coffee industry. I’ve trained baristas at my shop that have later worked at and managed successful shops in bigger cities owned by well known micro-roasters. They had to start somewhere.

I have college students come in for fufu frozen lattés their freshman year that graduate drinking espresso and microlot pourovers. They move to big cities, frequent the “cool” independent shops there, and spend entirely too much of their entry-level income on good coffee. You’re welcome.

We all had a gateway coffee experience somewhere and it’s time that those of us who are baristas let folks have theirs. Basic barista customer service, right? What’s the first coffee drink you had? I bet it wasn’t a single-farm-single-variety-picked-ripe-washed-process-central-american-espresso pulled at 21 g in and 49.3 g out at 32 seconds because it “breaks rules” and makes that mango acidity really pop on the second sip.

Just sayin’.

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