Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a barista trainer with Bailies Coffee Company, a director of Fellow Bicycle Co., and a family man with a stunning wife and two beautiful kids. I was born in Arizona (American dad, N. Irish mum) and eventually settled down in Belfast 10 years ago.
How did you get into coffee?
Like a lot of people, my start in coffee wasn’t a strategic move; I was 20 and just needed a job. So I started working in a café in a Barnes & Noble bookshop making chai lattes and café au laits for the bookworms. The next few years had me moving from Missouri to Detroit before landing here in Northern Ireland and a decent place to work when you’re travelling around is Starbucks because they are everywhere. After a few years of honing my skills in the fine art of frappuccinoery, I finally made my way into working with really good coffee at a small, independent café tucked quietly behind Queen’s University here in Belfast; Common Grounds became my home for the next 6 years. It’s a special place where I learned a lot about what it takes to be a good barista. Not only the coffee making part of the job but the customer service, the multi-tasking, the keeping cool under pressure. After my time there, I joined the team here at Bailies where I actually get paid to continue learning about all those things and pass them on to others. It’s a good job.
How do you make coffee at home?
I rarely make a coffee at home during the week. The weekends are for taking your time and zoning in on a V60 ritual though. The process is as relaxing and meditative as the final result.
Espresso or filter?
I really do love and drink a lot of both but mostly filter.
What’s the best coffee you’ve had recently that we should all try?
I had a washed Kenyan from Round Hill Roastery recently that was lovely. Very juicy and sweet. I really like the Ethiopia Henna Natural that Bailies are roasting too. I love the almost-boozy berry notes in it. And quite uniquely, we’re also roasting the same beans but as a washed coffee. Tasting them side-by-side is a real treat.
What developments would you like to see in coffee here in NI?
I’d love to see the community between baristas develop a bit more here. The NI Aeropress Championship was a great example of how to encourage that; getting the country’s coffee-makers/enthusiasts in the same room just to have fun and connect. I think the more that happens, the better our coffee culture will get. We need more really great cafés opening, but you can’t do that without more really great baristas.
Big thanks to Jonathan… It’s great to see a coffee journey unfold like this and also great to hear from another team member at Bailies Coffee.
We have a bag of that Ethiopia Henna Natural here which we will be tasting really soon! Boozy berry you say… we can’t wait!