Barista Magazine

APR-MAR 2014

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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IT'S LATE AFTERNOON and we're packed in the car—Truby and I up front, Baca and Chandler, the photographer, in back—peeling up Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, Calif. in a white rented Prius with the Pacific Ocean just to our left. It's been a last-names-only kind of day— chill and spontaneous, stress-free and super fun: I've known Jared Truby and Chris Baca for years—serious years: I met Baca the year Barista Magazine launched, when he was in his first legit coffee job at Ritual Coffee Roasters in San Francisco, 2005. That year was most important for him because it was when he got tight with the crew from Verve Coffee Roasters, namely Truby and Verve co-owner Colby Barr. Baca didn't know at the time that Verve—a specialty-coffee roaster in Santa Cruz whose rise to renown not only on the West Coast of the United States, but throughout North America, has been exciting, fast, and admirably done—would be the company with which he would hang his hat... er, lid—for the long haul. Truby probably did; he'd met Colby and Verve co-owner Ryan O'Donovan way back when he worked at the Naked Lounge, owned by Colby, in Chico, California. In part because Truby made the most delicious soy lattes, Colby and Ryan brought him along when they headed west to Santa Cruz to open a café called Verve. None of them, however, could have imagined just how successful Verve would become, and how quickly it would happen. They still reference that first Santa Cruz café as East Side—it's near and dear to Truby's heart, since he, Ryan, and Colby built the whole thing themselves. On this day in February, I stand inside staring at the ceiling with Truby as he explains the painstaking process of chipping away the insulation on the ceiling beams, and how fixated Colby got on getting the damned thing done in one night. He points to the back wall by the bathrooms and laughs when he tells me about Ryan excitedly running back there to complete one of the final tasks, the café set to open in just a day or two, and how he unwittingly drove the nail into the water main, flooding the shop. "I love this place. I remember everything," Truby says, and he starts to tell me another story but is interrupted by a regular saying hi. And then we see his in-laws at the ice cream shop next door. Sure, it's famous for its surfing, its slightly kooky university, and now for its coffee, but make no mistake: Santa Cruz is a small town. It's a spec- tacularly beautiful coastal town perched on some of the most valuable real estate in California, but it's a small town nonetheless. Baca loves it for that reason, too. Growing up inland in Modesto, Calif., he liked the familiarity he felt with his neighbors, not to men- tion the charm of the city. Modesto couldn't be closer to the ideal of small-town America: It was the set of George Lucas' movie tribute to 1950s nostalgia, American Graffiti. The son of a coffee-loving mom, Baca fell into the rhythm of his first barista job naturally enough. It was at Plantation Coffee in Modesto, and, "They were pretty legit," he says. "Looking back, it's impressive what they were doing." He cites grinding-to-order and operating a manual machine. The first stirrings of Baca's passion for specialty coffee happened at Plantation, though he didn't fully realize it. More than anything, he loved skateboarding. (Still does.) Being a barista, however, was combining the freestyle and movement of skating with something really refined. When his friend Tony Serrano— who has mentored countless baristas in Northern California over the years—suggested they take a day and drive to San Francisco to see the emerging specialty-coffee scene there, Baca was stoked. And then he was dumbstruck. "I couldn't believe what I was seeing," he remembers. "I was sit- ting on the back couch at Ritual with this cappuccino, and I didn't want it to end." Though Baca maintains that Plantation Coffee was "an espresso pioneer" in the larger Bay Area, he felt the pull of the city, of the electricity of the coffee culture there, and accepted a barista job at Ritual. He loved it immediately—the tight friendships he forged, the wildly fast pace, the high level of craftsmanship. He dug his heels in for the next three years. In that time, Baca decided to enter his first barista competition: the Western Regional hosted by Taylor Maid Farms out in Sebastopol, Calif. This was where he met Truby for the first time. They were drawn together because, Truby says, "he was the only normal one there!" Truby and Baca were equally floored by the intensity of the event. "People were deep back then," Baca says. They laugh remembering how they were scheduled for prac- tice time on a machine together with veteran competitor Heather "If you're a good barista, you're 100 percent a good communicator. The fastest baristas aren't necessarily the fastest; they're the most efficient." —Chris Baca 62 barista magazine B o o k 5 5 - 8 8 . i n d d 6 2 Book 55-88.indd 62 3 / 1 9 / 1 4 1 0 : 0 7 P M 3/19/14 10:07 PM

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