Barista and manager Amy Broderick has been with The Coffee Bar for just over a year. Originally from Tuscon, Arizona, Amy made her way to Colorado where she worked at Novo Coffee before moving to Washington, D.C. to pursue her master’s degree in International Economics. Below is a condensed version of a recent conversation where we discuss living abroad, ukuleles, and of course, coffee.
How did you first get into coffee?
I was actually weirdly and serendipitously hired there, at Novo Coffee, which was a roaster we (TCB) were using for a while. I was hired there because one of their shops needed a crepe maker, and I lived in France above a creperie for like a year, and I got really close with the owners and the chefs so I learned how to make them pretty well. So they hired me as a crepe maker because my roommate randomly got hired by them when we moved to Denver, and they were trying to round out the team.
So they were just opening?
Yeah, they had just opened a third shop. The roastery has been open for decades, but they had two other shops and they were opening a new one, so I was a part of the opening team, and I was the crepe maker. I had not done anything with coffee in my life.
Were you a coffee drinker?
No, not even particularly. I drank coffee every once in a while when I was living in Senegal (for study abroad). And the way they drink coffee is the instant café with like a pound of evaporated milk…it’s like a milkshake, but hot, and with a coffee flavor.
So yeah, I was just their crepe maker, and then they trained me on bar, and I think the thing that grabbed most at me…I mean, there are a lot of different aspects about the coffee scene in Colorado and the coffee scene in general that I like, but particularly the craft with third wave coffee shops…it creates such a family environment, so you’ve got a group of really passionate, energetic, thoughtful people who also have each other’s back and are really supportive of each other in all of their endeavors. I mean, for many, coffee becomes such an important passion, but everyone has their other pieces of their life and things they’re going through, and everyone is so supportive and so connected. I had no idea. The reason I’m even here (at TCB) – I didn’t contact anyone at The Coffee Bar. I was going to because I knew they used coffee from Novo, but Matt (General Manager/Coffee Director) contacted me because the general manager of the roastery contacted him and said, “Hey, we have a new girl in town. She probably needs some guidance.” And that’s across the country! So I really like that aspect of it.
What is it about The Coffee Bar that you like so much?
That same family aspect and the supportiveness we all have. Coffee brings in just a lot of different, unique people […] and I find that just really fulfilling as a group, because everyone has something cool to talk about and teach me about. It’s just absolutely phenomenal. We have two opera singers working here, and one girl who was in a band who performed at South by Southwest and is now trying to make it big in LA…English writers and reviewers, skateboarders and coffee nerds.
Speaking of coffee nerds, how do you feel about coffee snobs?
I feel like everyone gets to pick something to be pretentious about, and it’s okay to pick coffee. I mean, everyone’s got that one thing where they’re like, “I know too much about this, and I really want other people to know, too.”
Do you only work at this (Shaw) location, or do you alternate (with the downtown location)?
We alternate. Some employees are more in one place – kind of to build that foundation with the community, particularly here since we’re in the middle of a residential neighborhood. And having that connection with our regulars and being a part of the community, that level is really important. Obviously quality product, but knowing who you’re serving, who you care about. But I work at both. During the week I’m usually over there and weekends I’m over here.
What is your favorite beverage to drink, and what is your favorite to make?
My favorite drink depends on the espresso that we have. […] (Ethiopia’s) Hambela region is apparently what I really like. It’s a natural process too so it’s uniquely fruity. Of the things we offer, right off the bat, I would probably say a cortado. And if you add a little bit of chocolate to your cortado, you have a choco-tado. And with this espresso? It’s like chocolate-dipped strawberries. […] My favorite thing to make these days is mochas because I used to be horrific at doing art in them because it’s thicker and sort of globs up, and now they’re just a lot prettier. I’m getting good at it!
What is your favorite type of customer?
I love all of our regulars, and I love all of our customers, which is why I’m in the service industry – it’s my favorite thing about it. But when I talk about why I love the service industry…I really like angry customers because it’s like a challenge, like a game for me to make sure that by the time they leave…my main goal is like, “You’re going to be happy by the time you leave here, and you’re not going to break me.” […] I also want to add a certificate to my Econ program in Conflict Resolution because I think that’s so important, so I think that’s part of it, that I’m really drawn to fixing that problem. If there’s an issue, how do we resolve it?
What do you like to do when you’re not working…and you’re not in school?
I actually spend a lot of my time hanging out here. But I play ukulele and I sing […] I used to do “Ukulele Tuesdays” where I’d post videos of covers. Since starting school and working here full time I’ve fallen behind on that a little bit, but I’m trying to do it now where I do it with somebody every time. So the girl I was talking about who performed at South by Southwest, before she left I made her do a little duet with me. Our opera singer Maureen here, I’m making her do one with me. I have a new roommate who sings and also has a ukulele, so I’m having her do one with me. […] I used to be in an acapella group in college. I do miss singing.
Where do you see coffee playing a role in your life going forward?
I’ve been talking with a lot of my friends in the Econ department […] talking to them about why coffee is something I want to marry into my interest in econ, my joke response to that is usually, “Second largest import/export good.” And it’s a literal global addiction. Can’t say much more for job security. If you’re working in coffee trade, that’s not going anywhere. But the more genuine response perhaps…coffee is so intricately connected at each level of process, from the crop to cup there’s so much that goes into it and so much connection in that. And the way that I think the coffee industry is sort of beginning to shift, I think it’s approaching a lot of ethical issues, in major trade in general, and it really has that connection from farmer to roaster to coffee shop, and how at each facet of agricultural industry to service, there’s so much dedication to it and so much global connection. If I’m looking to make a difference internationally…the coffee trade – it’s everywhere!
I want to thank Amy for being our first featured barista, and you can visit her at one of The Coffee Bar’s two locations. Who would you like us to feature as our October barista? Sound off below!