The best baristas: Coffee-lovers brag about their favorites
Seattle Times staff writer
OK, so they give good foam — but you already knew that. Baristas, the best of them anyway, are more than that — they're espresso-shot versions of hairdressers and shrinks, shoulders to lean on for a few froth-filled minutes at a time.
Their knack for names — "Double-tall hazelnut for you today, Chris?" — and trained hands fuel tip jars whose longterm campaigns might be European backpacking trips, where (of course) they'll frequent coffeehouses and compare what they sip with their own behind-the-bar creations.
We asked readers to tell us about baristas who go beyond the call of duty — not just as technicians but as matchmakers, performers, bendable ears, good Samaritans. Here are just a few of the best.
The Still Cafe and Espresso Bar (laundromat and cafe), Capitol Hill
"He can (and does) direct any poor soul in need of direction in the fine art of laundry. In the blink of an eye he can tell you what soap is best for what fabric, if you need a cold-, warm- or hot-wash cycle for a good clean wash and make you a wonderful latte while doing so!"
— Gerald Simonsen, Seattle
Cafe Carretto (The Bears Espresso), Kirkland
"What's special about Michael-Ellyn Schetzle is that, if you're lucky, she'll serve up your latte with a song. She's an aspiring singer who actually sings with three local groups and posts her upcoming gigs on the window of the espresso stand.
When I come swooping in with my window rolled down and jazz tunes coming out the back, she always knows the song and sings along. Recently we harmonized 'Moon Glow' together. ... By the way, 'Moon Glow' was a double latte."
— Francesca Lyman, Kirkland
Java Bean, West Seattle
"He greets his customers by name, has your drink waiting for you when you walk in and, of course, he makes a delicious and beautiful latte. I have seen Jared help people who locked keys in their cars and lost their dogs. Recently I was ill and stuck at home unable to get up off the sofa. I called Jared at the Java Bean and he walked up to my house and delivered a latte, still very hot, to help with my headache."
— Tracey Mori, Seattle
Stace Culver Dayment
Starbucks, 130th and Aurora Avenue, North Seattle
"Last spring, my dad became ill. Since my mom missed a few days of work (and her early morning coffee stop) Stace inquired about her whereabouts. When she heard what was going on, she asked for their address. My assumption was that she was planning to send a card or give my mom a call. To all of our surprise, one evening later in the week she showed up at the house with a hot, homemade complete meal prepared by her and her husband!
(And) early last year, on my morning coffee fix, Stace encouraged me to visit her Web site, www.daymented.com, to see pictures of her customers — in particular, she said, notice 'Jon.' ... A year later, Jon and I have our barista, Stace's, friendship, determination, and good coffee to thank! "
— Amy Mayfield, Seattle
Olympic Coffee & Roasting Company, Burien
"Helen is always ready with a smile, to listen to my latest 'woe' or (often pathetic) joke. One day I got a flat tire about a quarter-mile down the road and walked up to the coffee shop to use their phone. Helen was busy, but after I left, someone told her why I came in ... and she came running down the road after me and offered to fix the flat !!!!"
— Kathleen Appleyard, Normandy Park
Jeremiah "BJ" Nonis
Pickering Place Tully's , Issaquah
"The ambience of the Issaquah Tully's takes on a better, brighter tone when he's running the espresso machine. What really makes him stand out is his disposition, his energy and his extraordinary recall ... In a line of customers 20 deep, he will invariably know 19 of the customers and their regular coffee orders, and dispense those orders, along with a personal salutation, observation or quip, without breaking stride."
— Tod Jones, Capitol Hill
Reporters Jack Broom and Tyrone Beason contributed to this piece.