NERBC Barista Preview: Mike DeJesus

With the North East Regional Barista Championship coming up in a few short days, we’re offering a sneak peek into the activities at our training lab in Ozone Park (and basements in Long Island). As the city’s finest baristas gear up to compete for the title of best in the region, it’s time to practice, practice, and practice—with the occasional break to answer questions for our blog.

We finally pinned down our very own Mikey DeJesus to answer a few questions about competition!

Where do you work and how long have you been in coffee?

I have been in “da biz” for over 7 years. 5 as a service tech. Now over 2 years with Dallis Bros. coffee as a sales rep and service tech.

What made you decide to compete in the NERBC?

With everything going on I have been asking my self WHY did I decide to do this? I defy anyone to not want to compete after listening to World Barista Champ Gwilym Davies talk about competing. I decided to throw my hat into the ring to push myself to be a better barista. And have fun doing so.

What coffee did you choose to work with and why?

I chose two different microlots from Colombia: our Andino Especial and the Finca Monte Redonda Narino, along with and a Brazil, the #5 microlot, Catuai—from our farm, Nossa Senhora Aparecida. The reason I picked these coffees was because they played so well together.

What can you tell us about your signature drink?

I can tell you working on my sig bev has been harder then I thought. If I pull it off it will be delicious.

What’s your training regimen been like so far?

I practice every time I train the staff of my new accounts. But I did the most of my training in my basement cafe. There have been too many sleepless nights due to over caffienation.  That is where I worked on my blend, my timing and my idea for signature beverage.

Have you been to a competition before? What do you think is rad about it or what excites you about its role in the industry, or your role within the competition and within the greater community?

I went to the WBC in Atlanta a few years back and was shocked at the level the baristas’ skills. They were the rockstars of the coffee world to me at that time. I think these competitions are great because they help to push the industry forward.

Things like this and throwdowns help to show people that don’t know yet how great coffee can be.

Meet the Dallis Bros. (and Sisters): Sue Fawver

Sue enjoying a cup of Dallis Bros. Ellis Island Blend at Parm.

Though we no longer require our sales team to travel via horse and buggy, our coffees wouldn’t make it out onto the streets of New York City and beyond without them. From specialty food stores to cafes to fine dining, our talented sales staff are the link between the roastery and your cup. Meet Sue Fawver, who left behind her first love, the music industry, for a beautiful relationship with coffee.

Where did you grow up?

Portland, Oregon. Good coffee credentials.

How long have you been at Dallis Bros.?

Almost 4.5 years. I made a decision to change careers about 10 years ago, I was in the music industry for years, working for indie record labels. I worked for Watermelon records in Austin, TX and worked for Shanachie here. My specialty was American roots music. But with the music industry being what it is, and watching everything start to change, it occurred to me that I was going to be pretty much extinct.

My other big passion has always been specialty foods and coffee, and I was a fan of Whole Foods in Austin, and they had a career development program. So I got into the career development program in specialty foods, and made my way into being the coffee buyer with the Union Square store, I set that department up. And in the process of setting that department up, they were actively looking for local coffee roasters. I was working there one night and a guy came in peeking around the open barrels of coffee and it turned out he was with Dallis Bros. coffee, and he took me out to the plant and I got samples and I just fell in love with the place. It’s been great! And having been a field rep before, in music, this is great for me, because I’m accustomed to going into businesses and working with them, figuring out what they need. Plus I’m just permanently curious, so I love to poke my nose into anything! I don’t have any problems with knocking on doors. I’m in so many different environments every single week.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

Oh boy. Keeping up with learning all the new things, definitely. Scheduling is a constant challenge with this kind of job, because there are so many things pulling at you all the time. I want to be focusing on customers, I want to be out at the plant learning things about our single origin coffees, and pourover methods. That’s probably the most challenging part is balancing all that. And the fact that green coffee prices have gone up so dramatically, trying to make all of that stuff that we’re passionate about into a viable business decision for people is really challenging.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?

It’s so hard to pick, the most fun thing is really the coffee, to be honest. When you get the chance to really cup coffee—going to origin and seeing the coffee in Brazil, that was tremendously exciting. The other thing about coffee that’s so great is that you never really learn everything, it’s just a constant ongoing process. I feel like I’m never going to master everything about coffee. There’s constantly new things to learn and new things to practice.

And it’s so interesting culturally, whenever get to meet people—we just had a guy from Ethiopia drop by—interfacing with these people and just seeing what’s going on with coffee in their lives.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park>

Indian Buffet!!!

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?

Right this second—can I pick two? The Honduras Las Amazones, the CoE winner, done as a pourover with a Bonmac, single-cup, becuase it turns out really nice and clean and brings out the qualities of that coffee. And then surprisingly, I was cupping a table of dark roasts, and the La Tacita dark was killer! And it’s great in a French press. You get that kind of nice rich siltiness, it’s not dark enough that it’s charcoally at all, it has nice dried fruit tones to it. Really yummy, that.

Dallis Bros. and Sisters: Meet Carlo Simeon!

Dallis Personnel Bios

Carlo Simeon is one of Dallis Bros. Coffee’s longest-standing employees. Whether alongside the roaster or making sure coffee gets perfectly packaged for thirsty New Yorkers, Carlo’s seen Dallis, well, grow up a lot over the years. We tore him away from his busy day to ask a few questions about his time at Dallis Bros.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Port au Prince.

How long have you been at Dallis Bros.?
I’ve been 30 years!

How did you get into coffee?
My friend was working here before I was. My first job here was packing coffee. I’m now roasting and packaging coffee.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
For me, I don’t see anything hard! Roasting is the hard part. I’ve been roasting here for 20 years! Yeah, it gets more and more fun.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?
The Bosch [bagging] machine! Because I like it. I package 1-pound and 5-pound bags in it. It’s easy to use, and it’s a very nice machine! That machine has been here since 1985. I can fix some of it, but not all of it.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park???
My favorite thing—I think it’s nice neighborhood, I’ve never seen anything wrong over here.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?
Usually that is dark coffee, but I like tea! Green tea, any kind of green tea is what I like best.

Dallis Bros. and Sisters: Meet the Director of Coffee!

Before a coffee gets to your morning cup, it has to get to Dallis Bros. Coffee, and without a talented, diplomatic, and quality-focused Director of Coffee, we wouldn’t have anything to roast at all. Our Director of Coffee, Byron Jackson Holcomb, is thus a critical part of the team here at Dallis Bros. He’s a licensed Q grader, meaning he’s able to evaluate coffees and calibrate his palate with the best in the world. And when he’s not in Ozone Park, he’s managing his own coffee farm, Finca La Paz, in the Dominican Republic. We took a minute to hear Byron’s coffee story.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in a logging town in Northern California. There was no coffee there. But there were a lot of pine trees, and a lot of dirt, and it was gorgeous. My father was a field hydrologist, which is the study of watersheds, and everyday he’d come home with stories about bears and bobcats and rattlesnakes and king snakes. And that really inspired me to do something environmental, something with biology.

How long have you been at Dallis?

Just over a year. John found me wandering the floor at a coffee trade show, I was consulting at the time. We had known each other before — our paths almost crossed at Counter Culture Coffee — and we had a little chat about possibly doing some work for Dallis Bros. in the Southeast. I met some of the people and was super excited, and said yes! I’ll take the sales job. And then three weeks into it, and after my training, they suggested this position.

How did you get into coffee?

I had this little voice in the back of my head, for the two years while I was in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic, that said “do more with coffee, do more with coffee”.

I didn’t go into coffee there, but I did see the production cycle, as well as that of avocados, soil erosion barriers, family planning projects, etc. I left the Peace Corps intending to work in the non-profit world, and it was about a year until I got totally burnt out working in a Cuban refugee settlement program — I received people coming off the plane, and I had 24 hours notice to get their apartment ready. I started looking at myself and what I wanted to do with my life, and then I had what I called my coffee epiphany. I wanted to work with something global in scope, use my Spanish, use my skills I learned in Peace Corps, and then I went to a coffee trade show out west, without a job, and had a great conversation with one guy from a roastery in Alaska, who said “Byron, you can do anything you want in coffee! You can travel, you can fix equipment, you can sell equipment, you can buy coffee, you can roast coffee, anything!”

Six months into my first coffee job, at Batdorf & Bronson, I was offered to purchase a coffee farm. I agreed on a price for the farm over the phone, i knew it was an honest price, and went down and bought it, while i was a production employee at Batdorf.

From there I’ve gleaned an immense amount of production and farming knowledge, because it’s very different when I walk into someone’s farm now as a buyer and ask how is this going, how do you do your pruning, etc., that’s very different than being the farmer, and being the one who has to deal with whatever comes in. Because it’s a fruit tree. It’s not something like a cabbage crop that you can spray or move or manipulate or manage very quickly. It’s a tree farm. If you have an infestation of the bean bore from your neighbor’s negligence, you have to deal with it.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?

There are no challenges! Just kidding… the biggest challenge is the fact that I need to sleep. There’s SO MUCH work to do, there’s so much good coffee out there, if I could clone myself and have one person that’s full time on the road at origin, developing relationships at origin, that’d be great. The biggest challenge is just not getting everything done that i want to get done. Maintaining quality, improving quality, training, sourcing. We’re sourcing really great coffees, all that said, there’s so much I still want to do.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?

One of the funnest things that I get to do is cup with other people. I love hearing other people’s interpretations of coffees, and I really enjoy working with all of the coffee supply chain. So from importers, exporters, directly with farmers, directly with millers, all the way through to baristas. I really enjoy those conversations. Because those are the gatekeepers of quality, and just to say it’s all about the farmer is completely misinformed and wrong. You have to talk to all the gatekeepers of coffee to help produce and create really phenomenal coffee. And that’s an incredible game of diplomacy, of being assertive, of knowing true value, of being a strong cupper, of respecting their culture. And you have to do all of that.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park?

To be honest? I love hearing snippets of people’s excessively loud music as they drive by on 102nd Street. It’s never the same — sometimes it’s reggaeton, sometimes it’s hip hop, sometimes it’s rap, sometimes it’s incredibly loud Indian music. It’s just so diverse. And so loud! This place is just oozing with culture — and yet none of it is sexy.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?

It’s the Kenya Muburi right now, it’s a coffee that is really sweet, it’s really intense, it’s really balanced. Very chocolatey, great tropical fruit notes. It’s not the super typical Kenya, but it is super super coffee. I use a Bonmac pourover with a single hole, 19 grams of coffee, 300 mL, one bloom and then all in.

Dallis Bros. and Sisters: Meet the Roasters!

Here at Dallis Bros. coffee, we all know that our coffee wouldn’t be as delicious as it is if it weren’t for a few special people who help it get from green to brown. In an effort to help introduce you to the, er, Brothers and Sisters that make up Dallis Bros. coffee, we’d like you to get to know two of the talented roasters working on our beautiful vintage Probat and Burns roasters. Both Ed Kaufmann and Anne Cooper have years of experience from all sides of coffee, and right now they’re roasting our coffee for you.

Roaster Ed Kaufmann

Ed, Where did you grow up?
Red Lodge Montana. It’s a small mountain town. No good coffee.

How did you get into coffee?
I got a job at Cafe Grumpy, upon moving to New York in 2006. I just enjoyed the people, and drinking delicious coffee!

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Educating the consumer about what coffee can be — a carefully crafted beverage that has been harvested, processed, roasted and brewed with love.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?
Meeting new people!

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park?
Luigi’s Italian “cuisine”. Either that or the Halal slaughterhouse across the street.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?

The Honduras Las Amazonas COE, through a Chemex!

Roaster Anne Cooper

Anne, where did you grow up?
I actually grew up in Mackay, in Queensland, Australia. We grow coffee there — there’s heaps of coffee growing, especially in North Queensland.

How long have you been at Dallis?
Six months!

How did you get into coffee?
Goodness! I guess it started when I was working in a cafe in college, just to help pay through college, and it started from there.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Working with Ed! No… I think it’s probably the pressure that I put on myself, because of the responsibility that I have, especially with roasting on the Probat, the pressure from myself to always make sure I’m roasting consistently and doing a really great job for Dallis.

What’s the funnest thing about your job?
Oh! All of the amazing coffees that I get to drink! The people that I work with, and just the eqipment that I get to work on as well, it’s bloody awesome. I’m just always learning as well, I’ve been in coffee for 20 years and I’m still always learning something new. It’s fantastic.

What’s your favorite thing about Ozone Park?
Oooooh. The deli up at the Met Supermarket has the BEST hero sandwiches.

What’s your favorite coffee right now, and how do you like to prepare it?
Goodness me. I’m going through a really big Kenya phase. And either as espresso or Chemex. So probably the Kiamabara or, now, the Muburi, but I think the Honduras COE is a close close second behind that, too.