For barista Christopher "Nicely" Alameda creating the perfect cup of coffee can be an integral part in creating a community.
He sat down with us to reflect on the importance of pursuing your passion, our desire to feel connected, and the best ways to decompress after a long day.
What got you interested in making coffee?
Initially it was just a High School job. 16 years old working at the flagship location for Starbucks in Seattle I got hooked on the environment, hustle, and pride I took in helping people through their day. It wasn't until I started working at Espresso Vivace around 20 that it really clicked for me. There I fell in love with the balances of skill, art, science, and stage presence it called for that made me want to own it as a craft. All of those components make parts of my personality feel fulfilled and happy.
Why dedicate your life/ career to this?
I feel you should fully dedicate yourself to whatever you have passion for. I feel doing your best at whatever it is you do can inspire others to be great at what they do. The trust lent to prep folks something that helps them start or get through their day feels like a badge of honor. Lucky for me, being a Barista satisfies so many of my passions. People, music, food, and art.
What’s the key element in making a great cup of coffee?
The key element is water. Good water is crucial!
Artisan foods/restaurants have become so common, what do you think was the impetus for it?
Well, we all like tasty things! Some people make it their lives to be about making or serving tasty things. Feels like the more our lives swirl around a text, an email, a post…. especially for those that work from home, the more people are yearning for the common ground of community. Many of us don't make or have the time to cook or brew the way we used to when we all didn't have the responsibilities associated with super computers in our back pockets. I feel people are always looking for "their community". Gathering around their favorite food or meeting for their favorite drink of choice is still some of the most common ground we share...
What or who was the biggest influence in you going into this direction for a career?
The community stewardship and presence one of my early mentors had as a Barista in Seattle motivated me to aspire to such an exalted existence. Still does to this day. His name was Brian S. Fairbrother. My first born carries his last name as his middle name. When I got to work with him, he'd already been a Barista for almost 20 years! He was a pioneer for this profession. There are scores of folks that have been chefs or restauranteurs that long…. But a Barista!? How he engaged with people from all walks of life, moved with energetic grace, and executed with deft precision still makes me smile.
Work and family can be all consuming – what do you do for yourself to decompress?
Riding my bicycle and making art or special creations for my boys with Lego are my favorite ways to decompress.
When I first relocated to Los Angeles, I always described my day off with rides around LA as my therapy. I often rode solo. For my body and my mind. No matter what was going on with work or people, I could ride it out. Lately it's been a little tougher to get to and a Dadbod has become a thing for now, but I still love to ride it out! Now more often I spend at night digging in our Lego bins to pull colors or to find the right pieces to build something feels like therapy. It's simple. There's a box with some bags, some instructions, go! At the end there's something complete to enjoy. I marvel at how this interlocking brick system has evolved from a toy when I was a kid into an artform I really love. While it can be a getaway, they're old enough now that it doubles as awesome playtime with my kids too.
What’s a perfect day look like for you?
A full night's sleep (6 hours), wake n' bake, coffee made on my espresso machine at home, take my kids to school, bicycle ride to check-in at all three locations (That'd be a solid ride from Venice to Hollywood.), pick-up my kids from school, take'em to a park, meal at home, bath-time/story-time, a joint maybe a beer while watching SportsCenter, then cozy-time to get to bed and get ready for it all again!