The Regular: Esther Wallace

Get to Know a Barista

June, 26, 2009, by Katherine

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All Photography by Ben McKeown

I sat down with Esther Wallace, a barista at Helios and Busy Bee, and asked her about her work, her life, and her art…

Kate Milan: So Esther, where are you originally from?
Esther Wallace: I was born in California, but I moved around a lot when I was younger. I’ve been in Raleigh for 9 years, and have been working as a barista for 5 years.

KM: How long have you been at Helios and Busy Bee?
EW: I’ve been with Busy Bee since they opened, and have been at Helios for about a year.

KM: What do you like about working at these places? Why them instead of, say, a Starbucks?
EW: Well, they both emphasize quality, which is really important to me, and they have a modern feel and are good for socializing.

KM: Why work in coffee at all?
EW: I just love coffee! I’m actually going to get a tattoo on my wrist of the chemical structure of caffeine, and up my other arm do the life cycle of the coffee bean. I’m a little obsessed!

KM: How does this career fit into your long term goals? What are your goals?
EW: I’m really into latte art-it gives me a way to express myself creatively while working. In the future I’d like to open my own wine & coffee bar, and working in the field has really helped me develop ideas for my own business.

KM: So, besides yourself, who are the best baristas in Raleigh?
EW: Ian at Helios, and Brian Duggan at The Morning Times. They both do great latte art and make a mean espresso.
I’ll respect you if…if, as a barista, your espresso is on point. And for customers, just being polite can go a long way.

KM: Craziest barista experience?
EW: Besides working Helios on a Saturday morning? Haha, seriously though, there have been a couple times that customers have stood up for baristas when other customers were being rude or disrespectful. That’s always nice to see, and refreshing to know that people will do that for others.

KM: Person in Raleigh you’d like to know more about?
EW: Dug at Sitti. Dug is just really funny and seems like he’d be fun to hang out with.

KM: Best places to eat in Raleigh, besides where you work?
EW: Sitti and Remedy, definitely.

KM: Best bartenders in Raleigh?
EW: Ben at Divebar, he also works at Busy Bee now. He’s really attentive and friendly. And Matt at The Raleigh Times, because he’s really knowledgeable and helpful with beer. And everyone at The Borough because there’s such a great feeling of family or teamwork there.

KM: Anything coffee lovers in Raleigh have to look forward to?
EW: Yes, actually. Helios is trying to put together a latte art competition for local baristas. Hopefully that will happen in the near future.

KM: Well whenever that happens you know New Raleigh will be there cheering you on!

See the Busy Bee {categories show="257|236|256|96" show_group="9" limit="1"}{category_name}{/categories} page.

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Restaurants, Other posts by Katherine.


Busy BeeEsther WallaceCoffeeHeliosBarista


  • raleighreally
    06/26 10:52 AM

    Come on new raleigh—you can do better than this.  No wonder downtown raleigh is a joke to people from other cities.  There are better stories out there—-view from the many homeless (yes they live downtown), why is downtown still self segregated—i mean shaw is right there but you wouldn’t know it from your site, downtown from an otb point of view, etc.

  • ben
    06/26 11:01 AM

    brian duggan has one hell of a mustache.

  • JT#2
    06/26 11:23 AM

    raleighreally has had too much caffeine this AM.  Chill.  We (Raleigh) are what we are.  Don’t like it?  Not hip enough for you?  Move on.  On a more positive note, Esther is a fox.  Thanks NR.

  • resolute
    06/26 12:29 PM

    It’s new raleigh, not progressive raleigh, c’mon!

  • Tony
    06/26 01:06 PM

    raleighreally, there are dozens of local blogs where you can add content if you think New Raleigh leaves something out.  your post just makes you sound like a crying douche.

  • Pisano
    06/26 01:27 PM

    @raleighreally, there is nothing stopping you from contributing the ideas you have suggested to the site.

  • Dwight
    06/26 01:37 PM

    All the baristas/coffee shops mentioned here do a wonderful. I enjoy these interviews.

  • Dwight
    06/26 01:37 PM

    *do a wonderful job…

  • Marcus
    06/26 02:26 PM

    Im a big esther fan.  and anything we can do create more of a neighborhood feel downtown is great.  Knowing your baristas and bartenders better helps create that feel.

  • Ian F.G. Dunn
    06/26 02:56 PM

    Thanks for the props, Esther.  Who is this “Bryan Duggan” hack?

  • David
    06/26 04:23 PM

    @unbiased seems like it has entertained you just fine given your extensive comment history.

  • kg
    06/26 05:26 PM

    geez people…  some of you need to lighten the hell up.

  • Grant
    06/27 12:43 PM

    I for one appreciate the challenges & criticisms posed.

    Personally, I’m still feeling out the site.  This article would definitely be towards the less interesting end (nothing against the subject).  I’m a coffee nut myself but I saw little exploration beyond the surface.  Except for maybe latte art.  Who would have ever thought it could be mentioned three times in one article?

  • dug
    06/27 07:36 PM

    I can’t believe that Ester’s complimentary back rubs weren’t brought up in this interview.

  • Christian
    06/28 07:47 PM

    Shout out to Esther for making me a skim milk latte this past Saturday morning at Busy Bee. It’s cool to have a familiar face now and I will definitely be stopping by more frequently!

  • The Ley
    06/30 06:50 PM

    Bryan Duggan is hands down one of the hottest men in Raleigh.  I didn’t go to Helios for the free wifi…

  • Anton
    06/30 07:03 PM

    Latte art? Really? What potential does this really have? I must be missing something…

  • grandmasterflam
    07/09 04:00 PM

    Esther is a smokin’ fox. Isn’t this a new column? jeez, ease up.
    it’s not global news.
    besides, you have to respect the folks who prepare your food and beverages or suffer the consequences, eh?

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