The Art of Cupping
by Mathew Hill

A Connoisseur of Coffee

By Jeanie Senior

Viva Barista!

by Chris Ryan

What's Brewin'
— Coffee News Flash


Viva Barista!

Reaching out to Baristas Worldwide

by Chris Ryan

There are T-shirts making the rounds at coffee industry events. They bear the text “Viva Barista” and feature designs such as a fist holding a portafilter or a skull and crossbones (with portafilters replacing the crossbones).

The shirts are attention getting, and they’re one of the tools Matt Milletto has been using to get the word out about, a website he recently created for the barista community. Milletto, who maintains the website in addition to his job as a consulting director at Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup and barista trainer at the American Barista & Coffee School, says the idea is to reach out to the everyday barista, beyond the minority who attend trade shows and take part in barista competitions.

“There are so many baristas out there that may never have the chance to go to a trade show or a competition or a jam,” he says. “So the inspiration to build the site was to make a very accessible way to reach out and educate a wide range of baristas.”

Visitors to can become viva barista members for free by entering their name and email address; Milletto says there are currently about 120 members. Features on the site include coffee related articles, tutorials, blogs, forums and a newsletter. Some of the articles have been previously published in magazines such as Fresh Cup and Roast, and others are written specifically for the website. Milletto says the writing schedule is still in development and that he’d like to solidify a rotation of members who contribute weekly or monthly.

The site also features a section for job postings, in which employers can post openings. Milletto says that portion of the site has gotten a lot of use, particularly from some big name coffee companies, and that overall traffic on the site has been high.

And that traffic has been generated organically. Milletto is opting not to accept advertising on his site as one way he can differentiate it from others. He is instead promoting Viva Barista by using a guerilla marketing campaign in which he sends out promotional packs containing information on the website to select areas. Milletto says that the do-it-yourself approach suits his personality and matches what he wants for the site. “I think the purity of the site is the fact that there’s no hidden agendas at all,” he says. “It’s almost kind of like an underground, pure resource. I have always had an underground, independent way of thinking. This is kind of a good little outlet for that.”

One plan for Viva Barista in 2006 is a two-day barista jam in Portland, Ore. The jam will be a relaxed, noncompetitive event featuring seminars, cuppings and workshops, and Milletto says he will invite coffeehouse baristas from all over the United States as well as other countries. Other plans for Viva Barista include a possible fanzine and a T-shirt design contest in which people can submit their designs online to be voted on, and Milletto will print T-shirts of the winning design.

Viva Barista is drawing support from the coffee community. Troy Reynard, owner of Cosmic Cup Coffee co. in Easton, Pa., found out about and its T-shirts on the Internet. He has used the Viva Barista T-shirts as an incentive for his employees: When one gets promoted to barista, Reynard rewards him or her with a Barista Guild membership and a Viva Barista T-shirt. He says the employees love the shirts and will usually wear them to work after receiving them. Reynard says the shirts help create a sense of community among his baristas. “I think anything you can do to make people proud of what they do and exited about it is a good thing,” he says. “I try and do anything I can to create a connectedness to the coffee industry with the employees. Anything I can do to get these kids excited about what they’re doing just helps me, and I think helps coffee in the long run.”

Willie Thomas, a barista at Joe Rico’s Coffee & Tea in Houston, met Milletto when Viva Barista was still in the planning stages. Thomas worked with Milletto to develop some of his ideas, and since the site has gone online, Thomas visits it often and gives Milletto his opinions on what works and what doesn’t work. And because he has been a barista for less than a year, Thomas is able to learn a lot from the site.

“On a daily basis, I visit the website to read up on any products or occurrences in the industry,” he says. “I don’t exactly live in the Mecca of the coffee world, so it’s my responsibility as a barista to read up on whatever things I can find.”

Milletto says he wants to work with other online resources to educate baristas , and he hopes it will in turn educate the customer as well about specialty coffee.

“I’m just trying to put my two cents in and help further barista education and knowledge where I can,” he says. “As of now this is a fun idea, but with more and more interest. I think the site could be an even more valuable resource for the industry. I am excited to watch it grow.”

Matt Milletto is the consulting director for Bellissimo Coffee InfoGroup. He is responsible for coordinating the company's individual and corporate consulting programs, web design and graphic design. Matt has extensive experience in retail coffee and has managed multiple coffeehouses and worked as a barista since 1994. He is an instructor at the American Barista & Coffee School and is one of four lead barista's in Bellissimo's newest Advanced Barista Training/Fancy Pours video. Matt is a speaker at Coffee Fest Tradeshows and has been quoted in numerous newspapers and industry magazines. He also sits of the SCAA Training Committee and the Espresso Training Sub-Committee.

Reprinted from Fresh Cup Magazine

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