Five Questions with a BGA Member – Jacque DesMarais

Ed. note: This edition of Five Questions was authored by BGA member Michael Harwood. In this month's Five Questions with a BGA Member, we pause to reflect with Jacque DesMarais. As the Retail Training Coordinator at Kaldi's Coffee in St. Louis, Jacque drops knowledge on coffee craft and service for all of Kaldi's baristas and roasters alike. No slouch behind the bar, Jacque has several years of competition training behind her and is quite the intimidating presence on the United States Barista Championship circuit. Ok, maybe not intimidating, since she is one of the nicest, coolest people around, but she is a fierce competitor! Competitions aside, Jacque owns her craft in the cafe and Kaldi's customers are the lucky beneficiaries, so the next time you're in St. Louis, stop by and say hello. On to the questions!

Jacque DesMarais during a Team Challenge at Barista Camp, June 2013.

Five Questions

Michael Harwood  Why did you join the BGA and what keeps you involved?

Jacque DesMarais  I joined the BGA to hopefully answer these five questions one day... jokes! Honestly, I joined to hopefully give back what they have given to me. I hopped into coffee about 4 years ago now. When I did, I decided to be a crazy person and start training for a competition about 7 months after I pulled my first shot of espresso. I learned so much in that first year that I knew I wanted to give back by being part of the BGA. I hope one day I can help little baristas as much as people helped me when I was new in the industry. It really is like a huge family and I am so happy to be a part of it. I'm the first to admit that I don't know much about coffee, but I'd like to give back in any way that I can to the industry and I feel like the BGA helps me do that.

MH  What is the most fulfilling aspect about being a barista and why?

JD  The most fulfilling aspect for me has always been being that last hand in the process. I get the opportunity to make the coffee either wonderful or terrible. It's kinda scary, but really special all at the same time. I know that the farmers and our roasters, and everyone in between, has worked so hard to make this great thus far. I am just the final step of that process. It's pretty awesome to hand someone a drink and watch their face light up. I love people and I love sharing my passion with them through a cup of coffee. It's a small thing, but it amazes me every day that I get to do this for a job.

MH  If you could impart one insight to a fledgling coffee lover, what would you share?

JD  Ask questions often. I was lucky to fall into the hands of some amazing people right off the bat. I am fairly certain my coach/friend/mentor Holly Bastin hated me at times with all the questions I asked. I was surrounded by amazingly passionate people at The Coffee Ethic working with PT's. Then to come to Kaldi's and work with more amazingly passionate people has just been super special. I cannot say enough great things about the people I've asked questions to when I started in coffee and the people I continue to ask questions to. I am still challenged every day because I've never stopped asking questions. I told myself from day one that if there was ever a day where I didn't go home questioning something about coffee, I was doing it wrong. Never stop learning.

MH  What is your favorite coffee and brewing method combo right now?

JD  I am an espresso girl at heart. I know, shun me. We have a really nice El Salvador Los Bellotos, that we are about to roll out to our cafes, that I am really digging as espresso right now. I am a huge fan of balance, but crazy balance, and this coffee is perfect for that. It's got some really weird things (in a good way) going on, but it is super balanced. Think: peach cobbler with a glass of awesome chocolate milk. Just really awesome. We've got some killer coffees in general right now so it's hard to choose.

MH  You always have really good competition soundtracks. What music are you currently into when on bar and otherwise?

JD  Honestly, I get most of my music selections from friends that are way more up on music than I am. I have awesome friends that I trust to show me cool things to use on a comp playlist. I also find a lot of music on Gorilla vs Bear. As far as what I am listening to, it's a little bit of everything. I listen to a lot of rap and have been digging the new Kanye album. Danny Brown, Josh Baze, and Angel Haze are pretty high up there as well. I am also a huge Justin Timberlake fan and totally proud of it... I own his new album on vinyl. Other music that I listen to when driving from cafe to cafe is: Autre Ne Vuet (listen to it!), The National, Rhye, and Jesse Ware have been on repeat. Oceanlab is a long time favorite that I never get enough of. I like a little bit of everything really.

MH Thanks, Jacque, for spending some time with the BGA community. Your responses about giving back, being amazed, and to always be inquisitive are super useful reminders about how we can all be more dialed-in baristas. Thank you for the inspiration!

Until next time, dear readers...