The people who work for us are seriously top notch humans, and we’re excited to introduce you to them in this column of barista profiles.
Not all rockstars needs an outsized ego. For every David Lee Roth, there is a Bob Dylan - the listener, the old soul. Same goes for rockstar baristas - sure, there are a lot of extroverts and giant personalities out there, ripping up the espresso machine. But sometimes, the mellow person who spends time quietly observing and studying is the one making the best drinks in the house.
That's Luke, who works as barista at our 3 Logan and Radnor shops. Since joining us in 2014 as part of Radnor's opening crew, he's impressed everyone with a careful, consistent, methodical style that is the hallmark of real barista talent.
At Thursday Night Throwdowns (local just-for-fun latte art competitions), Luke routinely advances to the semi-final or final rounds, and when we held our first inter-HubBub TNT, Luke won the shiny gold cup trophy. His pours are just always so steady and true, and he keeps his calm. When we asked him if he thrives under pressure at TNTs, he laughed and said definitely not. "I like competitions, but TNTs do make me nervous" he says. "Being on bar you get a lot of practice, but I'm still working on perfecting some things." Another bit of advice: while the beers are often freely flowing at TNTs, Luke says he doesn't drink much before going up to pour. "Well...maybe one or two beers," he says. But his best pours, he says, usually happen during regular bar shifts, and he finds real satisfaction in sharing his work with others. "It’s always nice to see customers getting excited about their drink. But sometimes you also make something you’re really proud of, and someone just stirs in sugar without even noticing!" he says, laughing, knowing it's just all part of the job.
Luke grew up in the Lansdale area of Pennsylvania, about an hour north of Philadelphia. His parents had a house in a little patch of woods, where Luke spent time exploring as a kid. He attended Millersville University in Lancaster, PA where he studied literature, writing, and secondary education. He was part of the campus lit mag, George Street Carnival, and wrote poetry inspired by Mark Doty and Mary Oliver. After graduating in 2012, Luke began what he calls "a long, roundabout journey." He student taught a 7th grade class in a city school in Lancaster, which he found discouraging. "I just didn’t feel like I was good at entertaining or engaging a group of kids," he says.
After that first semester, Luke moved to Columbia, Missouri to take an internship at the University of Missouri. He stayed in that job for a year, and then felt it was time for a change. He'd made some friends in Columbia and wasn't quite ready to move home yet, so he took a job as a barista at Kaldi's Coffee, a St. Louis-based Third Wave coffee company with a few outposts throughout the midwest and the south. Kaldi's runs a pretty serious program, requiring baristas-in-training to complete an apprenticeship and pass a certification test before working the bar. "Kalid’s was my first exposure to taking coffee brewing seriously," Luke says. "I wanted to learn how deep you can go with coffee, understanding brewing, training your palate, and how to make quality drinks."
Luke moved back home in 2014 and found out about an open barista position at HubBub through GoodFoodJobs.com. "It was exactly what I was looking for!" Luke says. Since then, he's become an integral part of our team. Luke still works regular bar shifts, but has also moved into an education and training role. So far, he says he's been reading up on coffee and attending inter-HubBub cuppings, and has held a few espresso training sessions for newer baristas.
"It’s fun to be someone’s first introduction to being on bar and understanding the process of dialing in," he says. "I’ve seen people go from feeling like I’ll never be able to do this to drinking shots and enjoying them, and learning to pick out flavor notes. Seeing that new world open up for them is cool." Sounds like a teacher at heart to us!
Luke moved from his parent's house to the East Passyunk neighborhood of South Philadelphia in April of 2015. He lives with a bunch of roommates, and loves playing music in his spare time. He's been playing guitar since he was 14, and is now working on learning bass. He's actually been playing in a band with another Bub, our Radnor shop manager Josh. They've been doing some recording together and may be booking some shows in the near future! Luke also loves live music and cites Here We Go Magic and Dungen as two exceptional performances he's seen recently, both at the music venue Boot & Saddle.
We hope you've enjoyed getting to know Luke better. He's already a crucial part of the HubBub Crew, and we're psyched to see how his combined love of teaching and coffee helps our whole staff take their game to the next level!