Brewed awakenings: Meet the baristas

Crafting morning miracles behind the counter.

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These on-the-verge-of-winter mornings don’t start without a fight. Around 8 am, the horrendous chime of my default ringtone wakes me up. I press snooze and re-enter what feels like another REM cycle. Eight minutes later, it buzzes again. I press snooze. After another round or two, I start to think about waking up. The cool air from my ridiculously drafty Edgartown home makes me halfheartedly curse New England and the seven or so months we have to look forward to.
But there is one thing that makes it all OK — coffee.

It’s truly the light at the end of a cold, dark, winter’s tunnel. Whether brewed at home, or a pit stop on my way to work, a hot drink in my hand makes all the difference.

There’s a couple go-to spots on the Island. We’ve all got our favorite year-round cafes we can always count on. And maybe we’ve started to get to know the faces behind the counter. You begin to count on them as much as you count on your morning cup of consciousness.

The Local caught up with some of the Island’s dependable baristas.

 

First, we made our way to Waterside in Vineyard Haven. We met Ana Fischetti behind the counter.

 

What time did you get here this morning, and what did you have to drink?
Ana: I wake up very early, usually between 5 and 6 am, and bike over here from Edgartown. The first thing I do is make a latte.

 

How long does it take you to bike from Edgartown?

When I first moved here, about 40 minutes. Now I’ve got it down to 25.

 

When did you move here?

I moved here Sept. 9, and flew in from Paris on Sept. 3. I got a job here and started shortly after that. I love it. It’s a great little place.

 

How long have you been a barista?

On and off for a long time. You could say 10 years.

 

What’s the most popular order at Waterside this time of year?

Hot coffee for sure. On really cold days, I’ll put a board outside and list things like hot chocolate, hot chai lattes, and steamed cider with caramel. I put those three things on the board and suddenly they become most popular. But normally black coffee, and of course lattes are very popular with this weather.

 

I know you just got here in September, but how did the morning rush then compare to how it is now?

When I got here, it was really crazy, but I kept hearing people say, ‘You weren’t here in August, you don’t know.’ I’d be excited to see what it’s like during summer season.

 

Any memorable stories from behind the counter?

There have been so many. The locals are wonderful. We have a group that comes in every morning and sits at a communal table. Most recently, and this is kinda fun, Tony Shalhoub and other luminary theater people are part of a play at the M.V. Playhouse. They started coming in around two weeks ago. I immediately recognized them, and now I’ve been talking to them every time they come in.

Every day I see great people from the Island. Even though I’m new, I can still instill my excitement about the Island and things that are still new to me.

The other thing that was great was when we had a lot of people from Serbia working here. A great bunch of guys, and I got to know them and work with them for a month and a half or so. We recently, sadly, had to say goodbye, but some will be back next year. They do such a great job. Waterside has been sponsoring them to work summers for many years.

 

Ever experiment with recipes?

A little. I really like chai lattes. I’ve been adding cinnamon and working on forming those designs on the top. I actually work with someone who does a really good job with that. We’ll see what I come up with. Especially with it getting colder, people love hot chocolate. Maybe I’ll put together some mocha, hazelnut, coffee drink.

 

Next, we worked our way down the street to Mocha Mott’s. We met Grace Clark.

 

What time did you get here this morning, and what did you have to drink?

Grace: I either arrive at 6 am or 1 pm, depending on if I’m opening or closing. The type of drink I have depends on the time of day. I don’t have anything with caffeine in it until toward the end of my shift. I’ve been working with coffee for a long time. My first barista job was at 16. I’m very caffeine-sensitive now. If I drink coffee on an empty stomach, it’s bad news.

If I do have coffee, I’m a tried-and-true medium-roast drip brew. In summer, when it’s really busy, I do cold brew.

 

Ever experiment with recipes?

I was a bartender for a while, so I really like to make interesting drinks for people. It’s fun to be creative with beverages. When someone comes in and they’re not sure what they want, I’ll ask them a bunch of questions and then play with flavors. So I like to craft drinks for other people, but for myself, like I said, I just like drip coffee.

 

What’s the most popular order at Mott’s?

It depends on the time of year. In summer, it’s iced mochas. It’s got the best of both worlds — caffeine, chocolate, milk, and we make our own whipped cream. People love it. In the winter, we pound out the hot chocolates.

 

How long have you been a barista here?

On and off at Mott’s for about 11 years. I got my first barista job at 16, and that was in Florida. I was a barista in San Francisco for five years. Pretty much everywhere I live, I end up working in a coffee shop. I was actually a barista in Antarctica. I was at the South Pole Station, working in logistics. We got an espresso machine, and no one knew how to use it. I ended up making everyone’s coffee, and eventually became the station barista.

 

What are crazy summer mornings like?

You kind of have to mentally prepare. Don’t go in really hungry or hung-over — you just can’t do that to yourself and co-workers. It’s not like the service industry, where some people are waiting tables and watching sections. There are no sections here. Everyone sticks to their station.

In summer, I’ll realize I stood in the same spot for six hours. No bathroom breaks, I’ll have had nothing to drink, I’ve just stood there and taken people’s money for six hours straight. As long as there are no major catastrophes, although, those are actually kinda fun too. As long as you have a great group, it goes by fine. You’re part of a machine that’s just turning stuff around constantly. Think about all the people and parts moving, and it all goes off without a hitch. I love that part of summer, because you feel like you just went through a tornado. That’s fun until August, and then everyone’s done.

 

Which season do you prefer working in?

I kind of like the shoulder season. Fall and spring because it’s still busy enough, there’s still people from off-Island coming in, adding that interesting variety. The dead of winter is really slow. Like, oh my Lord. I’ll have to bring something else to do while I’m at work. The shoulder season is still fun. You talk to guests, you can talk to each other. Shoulder seasons are definitely my favorite.

 

Ever served a celebrity?

I hate to admit this, but I don’t know much about celebrities. I think there are more sightings at the O.B. Mott’s. But even if I had served one, I probably wouldn’t know it.

 

What’s your favorite thing about being a barista?

It’s a fun place to work, that’s why I keep coming back. I just finished my master’s degree, but I still work at Mott’s. It’s just fun. You go in, work your shift, and there’s always interesting people there. It’s a different type of service industry that promotes conversation. Coffee shops are a really great platform for getting to know people and developing cool relationships. It’s why I’ve gravitated to coffee shops my whole life. You never know what’s going to happen, and it’s always fun.

 

We took a drive over to Edgartown and stopped in at Espresso Love. We met Kristina Katona. Espresso Love was uncharacteristically busy on this particular late October morning. As Kristina worked her way down a long list of drink orders, she was still kind enough to catch up with The Local — flash-interview style.

 

How long have you been a barista here?

Kristina: Since May.

 

How long have you been a barista?

Around five years. I’ve been doing it between college and other jobs.

 

Where are you from?

Serbia.

 

What’s your favorite part about being a barista?

It’s creative.

 

What are your normal hours?

10 to evening.

 

What’s the most popular drink this time of year?

Everyone’s ordering mocha lattes and pumpkin spice lattes. In summer, it’s usually iced mocha lattes.

 

Ever put together experiments from behind the counter?

I’ve been doing these special lattes with cinnamon. Some with honey and condensed milk. We’ve also done these Thai iced coffees. They’re made in a big shaker with condensed milk.

How long have you lived on Martha’s Vineyard?

This is my second year, and I really like it.