Barista Interview

Small Town Coffee Converts

It's all about good coffee at Angelina's

Posted

Like any great independent coffee shop, Angelina's is so much a part of Bristol now that it's hard to imagine the town without it. In the summer there might be a man in sweat shorts on a red chair out front, holding court and greeting everyone like he owns the place. In the winter, in the second of its three cozy rooms, Roger Williams students talk music under the guise of studying.

Like any good hipster, I'm obliged to tell you I was there before it went mainstream, just after it opened three years ago. During those years, owners Jason Brignola and Jen Evans have proven a point: quintessential small town America might not know it wants great coffee, but it wants great coffee. Thanks to their pour overs and proselytizing, you've got many Bristolians taking interest in local roasters, flavor profiles and pressure curves. Others might not sweat the details, but they're expecting a lot more out of their cup of coffee nowadays. Thanks to Jen and Jason's coffee wanderlust, you never know what roaster's beans will be visiting on a given week, making for the most varied single-origin offerings in all of RI.

Now that you've won a lot of locals over, how have things changed? Have you made new coffee snobs?
Jen: Yes, we’ve opened eyes to the differences between pedestrian coffee and a refined palate, but I don't like the phrase coffee snob.
Jason: Right now we have a coffee from Tandem with bubblegum as a flavor note. A year ago this coffee wouldn’t sell, now it’s the most popular.

You've been able to bring on staff for the last year or so and have happily stopped working 100% of your waking life. How do you keep standards up with new baristas?
Jen: Jason is there the majority of the time so that helps maintain certain standards. The employees also help taste the coffees and decide what dose to serve so they learn what things are supposed to taste like and what notes to look for – nuances of flavor.
Jason: It’s important for us to connect with our customers, some of the regulars are so familiar with our processes they will give new employees tips on pour over technique, milk texturing, etc.

You are different than some coffee shops because you feature beans from lots of different roasters, whether it's local staples New Harvest and Borealis, or a surprise like Tandem Roasters from Portland, ME.
Jen: We like to try different coffees and want to share the variety with customers. We kind of force repeat customers to try new coffees and expand their view on how they can be different from each other or roasted to yield different flavor profiles. We encourage people who roast coffee at home to bring some by so we can try it.
Jason: Jen and I were in Charlotte over the holidays and we found a roaster nearby called Summit Coffee. They had a picture of a Kenyan washing station on their website so we stopped by their shop. The coffee was interesting and delicious and the staff were friendly and wanted to talk about coffee. I ordered a bunch of stuff and we will have it in.

What do you want to see out of our local coffee scene that you aren't seeing?
Jen: I wish people would pay more attention to quantities and milk-to-coffee ratios. I hate when you go in a place and they ask you what size cappuccino you want [...] everything is bastardised and I wish people would pay more attention.
Jason: I think standards are rising everywhere, but there is a place for lots of different takes on how coffee service should work.

Are you starting to really feel like a local? If so, what are the signs?
Jen: We have a sailboat, so I guess so.
Jason: Yes, the sailboat has really made me appreciate living here, so many nice and helpful people and access to so much knowledge and resources; it's amazing.

Do you have any syrups? Can I get just a regular coffee?
Jen: Syrups are a waste of time; they cover up the flavor of the coffee we are working so hard to present its subtle nuances. Regular is relative and I would ask you what kind of coffee you are actually looking for.
Jason: We do flavored iced lattes from time to time. That drink is fun to play around with. I also keep getting into tea, I have a killer gyokuro right now and a darjeeling blend I like when its rainy.

Angelina’s
301 Hope Street, Bristol
401-396-5592