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!