Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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"Even Puerto Ricans ask, 'What's 'fi ltrado'?" says Karla, "so we're also trying to empower Spanish." Education has always been important to the couple and will contin- ue to be a focus at the shop, where they're dedicating their one day off, Sunday, to teaching their coworkers more about coffee in the hopes of having a staff as deeply educated as they are—because before coffee, they were teachers. "I'm not teaching anymore," says Abner, "but now I'm bringing the classroom to the coffee shop." "I used to teach history, and in Puerto Rico, coffee is part of the history," says Karla. "I used to take my students to the farms; we used to have road trips just to see coffee farms. Our nature as teachers is that, as fast as you learn something, you have to teach it. That's how we approach coffee: We learn to share it. When Abner gives latte art classes, people say, 'Oh, you said that so well.'" Perhaps because of how entrenched coffee is in the culture of the island, Abner's interest in opening a coffee shop preceded his having acquired any skills. He always knew he wanted to open a business, and he and friends used to frequently hang out at a coffee cart in Caguas around 2008, when it was beginning to be fashionable. It didn't work out then, of course, but he was inspired to use his teach- ing downtime to get a job at the Hacienda San Pedro coffee shop in 2011 that's still open a few blocks from where Comunión is now located. He'd teach from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., then head to the coffee shop from 4 to 7 p.m. There, they don't let just anyone work the espresso machines, and Abner started off by washing dishes. The only drink he could make each day was the one he pulled for himself in the morning, which he'd learned from watching YouTube videos. "I would make only one coffee and then go home to check [latte art] patterns to try," he says. "When I was teaching, I'd just be thinking about what kind of coffee I was going to make. If I messed up, I'd have to wait 24 more hours to do it again." When he fi nally got to make his fi rst coffee for a customer, he was so nervous that he was shaking. "It was a lot of responsibility to the customer. They paid for that and I don't want to mess that up." He got good, though, and he won the Puerto Rico National Latte Art Championship in 2014 and 2015, which gave him and Karla the opportunity to travel abroad for trainings and competitions in Milan, Italy; Melbourne, Australia; and Gothenburg, Sweden, before they decided a stay in Portland would really elevate Abner's skills. There, he worked at BARISTA (which is the roaster they're now serving most often at Comunión). "We are stocking coffees from Buena Vista and Hunapu from Gua- temala, and Gora Kone from Ethiopia," Abner says. "Since we were planning on opening a café, we wanted to serve coffees from roasters from outside Puerto Rico. We tried with different roasters, but Brett 74 barista magazine

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