Barnie’s Coffee & Tea is excited to introduce our new Supervisor of Coffee, Dustin Fleming. When you’re drinking our small batch flavored, or single origin crop•ex coffees, Dustin is the mastermind behind them.
How did you get started working in coffee?
I got started working in coffee while a sophomore in college. A friend of mine started a coffee catering and needed help at events. Initially, my role was basically carrying/setting up equipment, taking orders from customers, prepping cups and generally just making small talk. From there, I began a long and arduous journey as a coffee delivery boy, a barista, a production tech, a GM and now I am here at Barnie's Coffee & Tea as the Supervisor of Coffee & Roasting
When did you start drinking coffee? How has your coffee path/tastes changed?
Sophomore year of college I worked as an overnight desk assistant in the dorms; I’d go to class all day, rugby practice then go to work. After working 10pm-7am I’d walk to a third wave coffee shop and order the sweetest latte with an extra shot—I am talking gobs of caramel, honey, vanilla, chocolate, I think it was called a Honey Bear, but it was sweet and delicious. I became a regular and made friends with the baristas who started slipping me samples of some pour-overs they’d made.
I specifically remember the coffee that changed my life. It was a washed Burundi that tasted savory like tomato soup and bell pepper. After that, I started ordering pour-overs every morning and looking forward to when they had new coffees in stock. (yes, I still kept my hazelnut creamer). Now I tend to drink my coffee black with some exceptions here and there.
What is your favorite/best coffee memory/experience?
I could talk endlessly about the amazing coffee I’ve had over the last 6 years or so and could probably come down to a handful of truly amazing coffees, usually spicy washed Kenyans, but the thing I’ve come to appreciate the most about coffee is the people.
Every time I can convince someone to think a little bit more about what it took to get that coffee from a war-torn region in Africa to their cup, that’s my favorite coffee moment.
Did you ever see yourself becoming a coffee professional? What did you think you would be doing instead?
This is a great question because of how ironic my career has become. I studied philosophy in college and the typical joke is that if you get a degree in philosophy it really only qualifies you to:
- Go to law School or
- Become a barista
Initially, I never saw myself as a coffee professional or really any professional. College for me was a self-exploratory period to figure out what kind of person I wanted to become rather than what I wanted to do. Then came the time to pay the bills so I started looking for jobs doing something I genuinely enjoyed until I could figure out my grand life scheme. I fell in love with the story of coffee first, from seed to cup, then the taste and now the culture.
What are some major trends you’re observing in the coffee biz?
In my brief career, I’ve seen some big trends in the industry like Cold Brew, alternative milks and minimalism in the café. The most important trend I see though is the switch of focus to the farmer/producer rather than roaster. At the end of the day we as roasters/baristas only spend roughly 25-30 minutes with a coffee from the time we drop it in the roaster to the time it’s in a customer’s cup but over 2000+ hours of work has already gone into that cup from farmer to processing to packing to loading etc. Those are the people that really deserve the credit for great coffee.
What projects are you working on at Barnie's Coffee & Tea?
I have my hands in a lot of different projects here at BC&T because we all really collaborate as a team but my focus is mainly on product development. We have some really exciting things coming up like our cold brew program, and I am always sourcing/hunting our next Crop•Ex coffee.
Do you have a favorite coffee that you’ve roasted - and why?
I look forward to roasting many more coffees this year but my favorite one of 2016 has to be the Ethiopia Guji Adola we brought in, in early December. That coffee has been a whirlwind of challenges to get right but also very rewarding and I really do honestly recommend everyone to try it out and give me feedback.