As we continue to grow in this coffee blog journey, we realize that we crave more than just writing about coffee shops. One of the best things about coffee shops is getting to know the different baristas and people within coffee. The more and more we meet people, we realize that each person has a unique story to tell and we want to listen. Recently, we read a quote by a man who said, “Listening is giving the other person the experience of being heard.” It’s the kind of quote that forces you to go out of your way and get to know people and really hear them. Which brings us to this: we figured that coffee shops are some of the best places to get to know people, especially creative people, so we decided to start a new area of our blog called Beyond the Beans.
Beyond the Beans will showcase some of the amazing people we get to meet at coffee shops – from baristas to the girl next to us reading an intriguing book or the guy snapping pictures of his food. We cross many people’s paths throughout the day and especially at an intimate setting such as a coffee shop; we know there’s somebody that’s supposed to share their thoughts and story with us – all we have to do is ask. We hope you guys enjoy reading about them as much as we love listening and getting to know each person! So without further ado….
The first person we’re introducing to you is Roscoe or @waxwingedgambler. We met him while visiting Bakers & Baristas, a jack-of-all-trades type of coffee shop in Artesia, California that has an amazing variety of coffee roasters on their shelves, seriously delicious baked goods and Filipino-fushion brunch and dinner menus.We hadn’t been there in awhile and wanted to grab some coffee and food to kickstart our day. From the moment we walked in the door, Roscoe said hello to us and made us feel like we had never left B&B. He didn’t know us, yet he treated us like we were coming home.
Ah, home. A lot of images and feelings come to mind when we think about home and what it means to each of us. Roscoe put it into very beautiful terms telling us that,
“Somebody once told me a long time ago that everybody has their three homes – the first home is the one that they live in, the second is work and the third is the place that they go to relax. And I feel like a lot of the times coffee shops are that place.”
It’s a simple explanation for why he loves coffee shops, yet said in such a profound way. A lot of the times as we delve deeper and deeper into coffee culture, we can find ourselves getting a little snobby, a little pretentious.
But, Roscoe explains that it’s completely normal and eventually you sorta humble yourself and remind yourself how you once enjoyed coffee before it was this big, cultural thing.
“I think that there are phases. You start with just general interest and the more information you learn, you get more excited and you start learning more and more and more and you start to get to that phase, coffee snobbish, and then eventually I think you get to the point where it’s like you have to see it from a bigger perspective. Try to view it from the outside and remember what it used to be like for us before we knew specialty…and just kinda tread lightly when you talk to people about it.”
If you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, this guy is deep! He seems to have been around for awhile…,” then you wouldn’t be wrong. He’s actually been exploring the vast world of coffee for about six years. What was once just a job to pay for community college, turned into curiosity. He used to ditch class and go to a coffee shop right up the road from Bakers & Baristas, off 183rd and Pioneer, called Coffee Studio.
He tells us, “…it was their attempt to bring specialty coffee to Artesia and I don’t think it really worked out that well,” he says with an exasperated laugh, reminiscing about those days. “Six years ago, I don’t think anyone wanted specialty coffee…[yet] in the past three years alone it’s blown up a lot!”
You can imagine what it was like in those early years before third wave coffee existed. It seems like people are just now starting to get on board to the idea that paying a little more for a cup of coffee at a specialty shop is the norm because of the effort that goes into each cup. They say ignorance is bliss so most of us would like to think that coffee is simply grown somewhere beautiful like Costa Rica, then we grind it, package it and it’s ready for consumption. However, the truth is that it goes through seven different hands before we even get the chance to sit down and enjoy it.
First, it’s the producer (coffee farmer), then the miller (they mill the coffee cherry out), then the exporter, importer, roaster (who helps enhance each bean) and barista. It’s eye-opening once we realize that coffee is so much more than a tasty beverage or a necessary part of our morning routine.
“One of my biggest goals in coffee is to elevate coffee to the same standard that people hold wine or beer. You know people have such a high regard for craft beer and craft wine and people are just barely scratching the surface in coffee, so that’s probably one of my goals. For people to hold it to the same standard because it is almost exactly like wine, agriculturally.”
So, how exactly does coffee compare to wine? Well, for the wine connoisseurs who swirl their glasses to release the aroma for each wine, you can find 200 aromatic and flavor compounds. However, coffee has over 1500 flavors meaning that it’s way more complex than wine!
Those sentiments are exactly what drives Roscoe to someday open up his own coffee shop. He currently roasts his own coffee at home with a one pound roaster and sells his beans to a local bakery called Candlelight Bakery in Norwalk, California. His eyes light up as he talks about his passion for roasting his own beans. “They only ask for fifteen pounds every couple of weeks, so it’s not a lot but it keeps me busy; [it’s] a little extra income!”
It’s hard not to want to smile and cheer him on as he speaks about his love and enthusiasm for coffee. You want to share that excitement with him and delve more into the coffee world, too.
Yet, Roscoe understands that the specialty world of coffee is still a lot for people to digest, so he’s all about making people feel comfortable and asking them a few simple questions so he can guide them into deciding on a coffee that they will enjoy.
Specialty coffee kind of gets a bad rapport because there’s a lot of pretentiousness surrounding coffee and it seems like the more one works in the coffee industry, the easier it is to forget that we were once just like the customer standing before us asking for a Venti caramel macchiato. We asked Roscoe how he bridges the gap between mainstream coffee and specialty coffee:
“Oh that’s the number one thing I’ve learned in the past, don’t give people information that they’re not asking for. I think that the first and most important thing is to make people feel comfortable. Invite them in and if they are kind of lost, the first thing I ask is if they want something black, they can add cream and sugar too or if they want something milky and sweet or just milky. If they say black, then I direct them to the coffee options that we have like pour overs, drip coffee or something like cold brew. And if they want something milky and sweet, then I go towards the lattes and start to break that down if they want even more information. You gotta pay attention to the customer or guest and see whether or not they want to even know that stuff because overloading people is the biggest issue that scares people away.”
You can tell that with every word he says, he really cares about his customer and their experience. He doesn’t want someone to walk into the coffee shop, get confused and walk right back out. He wants to educate each guest by being patient, asking the right questions and allowing them to make the final decision on how they want their coffee.
“That the reason why I brought the bourbon caramel [latte] to the menu, a lot of people were asking about something with caramel. I didn’t want to do just another flavored drink…so I started messing around with caramel recipes and I’m also lucky enough to have a bunch of bakers in the back who went to school, who know a lot of culinary stuff that kinda helped guide me to make the sauce. So bridging the gap that way is one way to get people in slowly. There’s good ingredients, good coffee, good milk and then slowly you can start weening them off. Get them a smaller drink like a cappuccino, then move them to cortado, then straight espresso or just coffee.”
He understands that not everybody is going to enjoy coffee the same way that he enjoys coffee, which was a hard pill to swallow in his earlier years. He shared with us that he “would get so mad when people would order something super super milky, but now I kinda understand that people enjoy coffee the way they want to enjoy it and that’s a very personal thing. That’s not a line you want to break. I think that’s what’s most important to me and understanding how people enjoy it.”
His unabashed honestly is refreshing to hear and really goes to show how far, not only coffee has come, but how far he’s come with his coffee knowledge. He tells us that it took him a long time to get over it. He continues, “Before I was like no, just drink it black. No I don’t have cream for you…just drink it like that…I realized that was the worst way you could approach it. So, once it’s in the customer’s hands they can do whatever they want with the coffee.”
Roscoe really puts an emphasis on the most important thing being that the customer enjoys their coffee.
As for his thoughts on the future of coffee or what fourth wave coffee will look like? He says, “Ideally, I think exactly what I see is happening is just what I wanted. For people to elevate coffee to the same standard as beer and wine. To see it as an agriculturally product and not a commodity; to see it for what it is. And for shops to be a little more transparent about where the coffee comes from, how it’s sourced, stuff like that.”
Lastly, on exploring the coffee scene, he says that once you go down the rabbit hole, you just dive deeper into it. The best thing is to learn as much as possible, be open to anything, find different resources that can teach you about coffee, ask the right questions and have that drive to make it happen.
We are excited to continue to watch Roscoe follow his passion for coffee and hopefully reach his dream of owning his own shop one day. If anybody deserves it, it’s this guy. A true gem in the coffee world and somebody who’s at the forefront of putting hospitality back into the coffee industry!
Fun facts about Roscoe:
- Phil & Sebastian Coffee, located in Calgary, is one of his favorite roasters. Bakers & Baristas currently have them on rotation, so stop by and try it!
- Not only does he work at B&B’s, he also works production at Rose Park Roasters in Long Beach, California.
- He only drinks hot coffee. Yes, even if it’s 100 degrees outside!
- Pro tip: if you’re going on a coffee crawl, make sure your first drink is tea so you don’t get that weird caffeine high later on!