“I think I might know you from somewhere.”
That’s a pretty common sentiment in a city as small as Halifax. We likely see the same people several times a week on the street, at the grocery store, on the bus, at the bar, at the brewery, in the liquor store and at that restaurant that serves beers in the giant mugs you know the one they changed their name like a year ago the one with the decent wing night I know you know it. The point is there’s a lot of places you might know someone from.
But I know where you know me from.
Hi! My name is Cailen Alcorn Pygott and I work at Java Blend Coffee on North Street. My paystubs list my occupation as “BARISTA” but my roles at Java Blend also include customer service, employee training, quality control and inventory management. I should’ve introduced myself earlier but I had this whole thing about small cities and familiar faces that I thought was really cute and you know what there’s nothing wrong with taking the scenic route sometimes.
I recently pitched the idea of writing a blog for Java Blend to my bosses and they were immediately incredibly excited and equally supportive which I, someone who always expects the worst, found very rude but also truly flattering.
Things you can expect from this space will include news on upcoming coffee offerings and how to brew with all the cool coffee gadgets you bought at the start of the summer when we all decided to stop hanging out with each other for no particular reason at all. We’re very fortunate at Java Blend to work with and supply many amazing local businesses and cafes so you can look forward to me showing them some love here.
But first I’d like to give you an idea of who I am and what my experiences are and why I deserve this tiny slice of your weekly screen time pie. That sounds like key lime pie. This is an excellent example of the top tier content you can expect here.
I got my start in specialty coffee in the summer of 2013 when I was hired to work the morning shift at Cafe Ristretto on the Halifax Waterfront. Before this I had spent three years working at a Pizza shop that I have recurring nightmares about to this day so I am very grateful the Seth family took a chance on an inexperienced kid with nothing but a charming personality and a great head of hair. I had two training shifts and then I spent the majority of my time working alone so I had to *get good* very quickly. During particularly busy cruise ship days I got to work with Laura Fraser who helped me develop a strong initial understanding of time management and bar flow in a cafe setting.
Cafe Ristretto closed that winter and unfortunately I wasn’t picked up by the cafe that moved in: likely because the owner was intimidated by my charming personality and great head of hair.
After spending a month of unemployment watching Adventure Time and doing nothing I was hired by Midpoint Cafe. I was part of the initial crew who helped open Midpoint and we brought in Java Blend to assist in training and menu development; this would be my first time meeting Jim Dikaios. Jim spoke to us of the growing conditions of beans in coffee producing countries and this was my first peek at the coffee industry beyond what happens in cafes. I didn’t stay at Midpoint long as I got a dreamy job offer from one of my favourite spots in the city.
The Nook On Gottingen
I lived right around the corner from this cafe when it was opened by Katie Roux and Mark Pavlovski and I fell in love with that space (and those NACHOS) at first sight. Katie’s vision for how that cafe should look, feel and operate was a gosh darn delight. She’s someone I still look up to for having a clear vision and on point execution of a project.
During my three years at The Nook I had the opportunity to work with The Coast’s 2015 Best of Halifax best barista Danielle Archer. I learned a lot from Danielle about tasting coffee and dialling in espresso extraction. She taught me that, while it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that coffee needs to be brewed the same way every time following exact parameters, Taste Is King. Conflicting feelings about the monarchy aside this is something I still pass on to the people I train. But more than coffee Danielle taught me how the role of a barista is to educate while still being compassionate and kind above all else.
After three years at the Nook and some shake ups in my personal life I was ready for a change of scenery when I got the call in the form of a text from Laura Arsenault at Java Blend.
I’ve been at Java Blend for the last three years and, in addition to learning more of my craft from another BOH winner, it’s really helped solidify many of my views of the coffee industry. Coffee is a really interesting commodity in that for the past fifty plus years there has been a huge internal push to promote it as a high end specialty beverage like wine or craft beer but it’s also, for many people, a necessary part of getting through the day. Coffee is both a good and a service and I’m so happy to work alongside like-minded people at a roaster and cafe like Java Blend that is able to serve both of these realities. I think the person who orders two dark roast triple triples every day is just as important and valid as the at home brewer with a high end grinder and multiple brewers who designs their own water (it’s a thing)
So I’m really excited to be working on this project in a way that will hopefully serve you all well. I’ll be honest after seven years there’s still so much about coffee that I’m learning and I’m stoked that this project can inform what I’ll be focusing on next.
Hey we did it! We made it all the way through our first article together. I'm not sure how or if I even can enable comments here BUT feel free to connect with me on instagram if you have any questions about coffee you’d like to have answered or if there are any topics you’d like to see future articles tackle.
I’m winking at you.
This Week I am:
Drinking: Ethiopian Ardi Natural
Brewing with: Chemex 6 Cup
Listening to: Thundercat - Drunk