Community Spotlight · Blue Bottle Coffee, Venice, CA
Anyone who has attended a U.S. CoffeeChamps competition or Specialty Coffee Expo in the last several years has likely ordered a drink at the Barista Guild Café, the coffee bar placed near the competition hall offering free specialty-coffee beverages to attendees. And if they have, they’ve surely encountered the smiling face of Selina Viguera; she manages the pop-up café, mentoring baristas working there and connecting with the coffee community.
Selina has been immersed in coffee for more than 20 years; having grown up in Los Angeles, she returned to Southern California in 2000 after graduating from college in the Philippines, and landed her first café job. “Way before I discovered the specialty-coffee industry, and way before I even enjoyed the taste of coffee, I enjoyed the motions of constructing coffee drinks and connecting and interacting with guests,” Selina says.
It wasn’t until several years later that she attended her first coffee event—Coffee Fest Seattle in 2008—and her interest deepened. “I was fascinated that there was a whole science and craft behind making coffee (actually) delicious, and I knew that I had found my career of choice,” she says.
A few years later, Selina would land the job she continues to hold today: café leader of Blue Bottle Coffee’s Abbot Kinney location in Venice, Calif., where she exercises the café management skills she also displays at the Barista Guild Café. At Blue Bottle, Selina handles administrative duties common to café management, as well as doing some behind-the-bar work.
What does a day in the life at Blue Bottle look like for Selina? “I spend the first third of my day supporting my team on the floor—I’m usually needed the most during the morning rush, which is also my chance to taste everything.” That means doing casual quality control over Blue Bottle’s three drip offerings for the day and a couple shots of their espresso offerings. Selina’s mornings are also spent working with her team of baristas to provide any coaching or direction needed, as well as having face time with the café’s regulars.
In the middle of the day, Selina reflects on the day’s work so far with the morning crew. “I call it our ‘post shift feedback session’ … and this is where my team practices giving and receiving feedback to each other while celebrating successes of the shift and ironing out any opportunities/challenges,” Selina explains. In addition to these daily duties, Selina conducts regular, biweekly one-on-ones with each barista to check in and work on their development (as a barista or toward growing in other roles in the café).
Selina is a longtime friend of Pacific Barista Series™—she poured the beautiful latte art that adorns the current packaging of Barista Series™ Oat and Barista Series™ Rice. She says she first discovered Barista Series™ while managing the Barista Guild Café at SCA Expo in Seattle years ago—and was particularly excited about Barista Series™ Rice. “I remember rice milk being the first alternative milk (soy and almond were more common at the time) that I was so completely blown away by, and I ‘upsold’ it to all of our guests at the café—even if all the drinks were free!” she says.
As Selina has worked more closely with Barista Series™ in the ensuing years, she says she values Pacific Foods’ approach and “Barista Inspired, Barista Approved” motto. “Having worked with Pacific on the new packaging, what sets Barista Series™ apart is that they really wanted baristas to be a part of the whole R&D process for the product line,” she says. “Unless it was truly barista approved, they would keep working on perfecting the formula to make sure each milk alternative was the best it could be, and that it tasted great and performed well with coffee.”
We’re so happy to have Selina on our Barista Series™ advisory board, and are constantly impressed by this passionate coffee professional!