If there's one thing many of us have in common, it's probably our shared love for coffee. But nobody else seems to be more passionate about it than baristas. For a group of baristas in Ilocos Norte, however, making coffee is more than just a job description. As professionals who have held jobs outside of the coffee shop, their common love for making coffee is what brought them together to start a humble but successful coffee stall.
Nathalie Gayle Garma Quinajon of The Coffee Break talks to Candy about how a group of five people from different fields all came together to start a business venture about the one thing they're all passionate about.
Being a barista is not just about making coffee.
For Gayle, being a barista was the first ever job she's had. She started out as a Starbucks barista in 2011 and was part of the opening team of a branch in Baguio. "When my family got back here in Ilocos Norte, I heard that a Starbucks store will be opening. So I tried again and I was part of the opening team of Starbucks Robinsons Place Ilocos. Unfortunately after how many months, I had my 4th rupture (due to a blood vessel complication called cavernoma) so I have to stop."
But it's not just about making coffee for Gayle. Being a barista allowed her to meet new people and connect with them through a shared need and desire for the popular drink. "I love connecting with customers behind the bar. And when their drinks were ready, I always hand it to them with the sweetest smile. And them smiling back and thanking me that their drink was perfect is the most fulfilling feeling. 'Pat on the back, girl, you're a good barista,' I say to myself. Haha!"
There's something new to learn every day on the job.
Coffee making is an art, and it requires total dedication to learning the littlest of details about the job. For Gayle, learning the ropes of coffee making was a difficult journey. "'Yong tipong information overload talaga ang nangyayari sa'kin. Pero hindi naman tayo magiging successful sa isang larangan kung hindi tayo dadaan sa ganitong yugto e."
As someone genuinely passionate about what she's doing, making every shift count is important for Gayle. There has to be something new to learn for every duty she takes. "Tapos mag-enjoy para hindi ma-pressure," is one of her secrets to persistence. "Hanggang sa minahal ko na nang sobra itong trabahong ito. Yan 'yong mga action plan ko para mapagaan ko kung anong mahirap para sa'kin."
If there's any proof of how passionate Gayle is about coffee, she didn't drink a single cup for months after having to resign from being barista! But one particular 2020 trend brought her back to what she loves the most. "Kasi talagang hindi pa ako maka move on na binitawan ko 'yong gustong gusto kong gawin. Pero dahil sa dalgona, napakape ulit ako, haha."
The team is composed of professionals from different fields with one common interest.
Thanks to her sibling's mini coffee maker, Gayle's fond memories of making coffee started to rush back and inspired her to open a small stall with four other barista hopefuls. Gayle is the senior barista who concocted all the drinks currently available on their menu. She's also responsible for training her four co-owners: Vico, who is an engineer and senior analyst, and Renz, also an engineer, are junior baristas for the team; Xian, a pharmacist, also makes coffee and does the marketing duties for the coffee shop, including taking Insta-friendly shots of their products; and Kevin, a civil engineer and rebar detailer, works as a barista and doubles as their accountant.
Even though they started small, putting up their small coffee shop is a team effort. "Ambagan [talaga] para sa kapital para makabili ng mga mahahalagang gamit lang muna at makapagpatayo ng maliit na stall sa tabing dagat," shares Gayle. "Tapos tulungan na gumawa ng lamesa at upuan kasi mahal 'pag ipapagawa pa namin. Naalala ko nga noong simula namin, halos hiram mga iba naming gamit. Pero after ilang days lang, nakabili na kami unti-unti."
They're slowly but surely working on upgrades.
Currently, The Coffee Break is a small stall by the sea. But the team is hard at work to expand their business. "Nagkabubong na 'yong stall namin hehe. At ngayon nag-iipon na kami para sa physical shop na talaga at pang commercial use na machines."
They're also very thankful for the support they're getting from the locals, which is something they didn't expect. "Sabi namin noon masaya na kami na maka 50 cups sa isang operation namin. Pero mas higit pa doon ang nailalabas naming cups."
It's also thanks to their team work that they were able to operate this far, especially since The Coffee Break is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. "Ito lang 'yong day off ng mga kasama ko," Gayle explains. "Team work din ang isang nagpapatag sa'min. At least ngayon nakikilala na itong aming munting bayan na may magandang view ng dagat. At nakakatulong din kami sa ibang gustong mag-business dito sa Sewall Boulevard namin kasi kami raw ang nagdala ng customer dito sa area. Pero higit sa lahat, ang pagpapala ay sa ating Panginoon na hindi kami pinabayaan. Thank you so much Po kasi naniwala kayo na kaya ko. Paano ko nasabi yon? Ramdam ko na gina-guide Niya po ako sa path na ito. Mahirap pero kinakaya ko. Higit sa lahat, kinakaya namin."
Check out The Coffee Break on Facebook.