Erin Hulbert is a New York-based barista originally from the coffee homeland of Seattle. Every Thursday morning she will be checking in here to let us know what's on her (caffeinated) mind.
Artisan coffee has flown south and landed on the beautiful shores of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. The Brasserie Market, a streamlined café geared towards the expat business people of the island's capital George Town, happily welcomed Barrington Coffee (BCRC) to its new home away from home. Barrington, located in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, is a true independent roaster consisting of eight employees and has been passionately roasting coffee since 1993. Owner of The Brasserie Market, Lisa Flowers, hired me to train her staff and act as her official consultant on anything coffee. I was elated to be a part of such a monumental project and, of course, fifteen days on Cayman is a dream all in itself.
My mornings began around 6:30 a.m. where I'd wake in my hotel on the famous Seven Mile Beach and head to a local bakery for a cup of drip coffee. The quality of my morning coffee emulated any airport, waiting room, or hospital, where cream and sugar are essential ingredients in delivering the caffeine into your system. The beverage itself had only the blanketed term of "coffee"—appearing as an orphan, unknown of its origins, and suffering from amnesia on its long journey from seed to cup. The view of the blue-green water from the white sandy beach definitely made the beverage more palatable as I pondered the day's syllabus for my barista trainees and reminded myself that as a great chef will know the origin of his ingredients, a great barista will know his.
All four trainees, referred to as the Fantastic Four, had an instant sense of commitment that makes a teacher's heart swoon. Jomel, a bartender and the hardest worker I've ever seen, brought the most necessary skills of a great barman to the espresso machine. Pace, wit, presentation, and hospitality are just a few qualities, not to mention being able to juggle liquids at ease. These traits are nearly impossible to teach. A good barista and a good bartender are one in the same—it's the drug that's different. One serves uppers while the other serves downers, providing an ideal chemical yin and yang.
Elizabeth, a rock-solid employee, was so dependable I imagine she would show up to work even in a hurricane. She was a huge asset to The Brasserie Market and my new team of baristas. Kristine, the eager learner, provided a freshness and level of energy needed for such a demanding trade. Which leaves Lori, Lisa's sister, as the last of the trainees.
Cayman is a transient community full of travelers and expats. While this provides a fabulous landscape of diversity, it can also become rather costly for training purposes. Lori is as stationary to her sister's business as the concrete foundation it sits upon and will be the barista still standing when all others migrate onward.
After six hours a day of steaming milk, mastering espresso fundamentals, diligently learning cleaning routines, coffee origins, and preparation methods, my team of baristas were well on their way of becoming the only residents on Cayman to fully understand and execute perfect espresso as an art. As the doors officially opened on January 11, I watched these new coffee enthusiasts' eyes light up with each sip of perfectly mastered microfoam, reminding me how much I love my job.
Barrington Coffee has found a great home in George Town and I can't imagine a better clientele than the Caymanian community to enjoy it.
The Brasserie Market
Cricket Square, Elgin Avenue, George Town, Cayman Islands, KY1-1004 (map)