Over a decade ago Erika Lintvedt, the manager of Griff’s Roost at Westminster College, began her love affair with coffee. From grinding espresso to making art with swirls of steaming milk, Lintvedt said she loves being a barista.
Lintvedt is a professional barista, something that is often considered an untraditional path in society. However, Lintvedt said that’s changing.
“The industry is getting so big that I feel like it’s not going to be so nontraditional eventually, because there’s so many shops opening everywhere,” Lintvedt said.
Westminster Professor Nohemy Solórzano-Thompson, an avid coffee drinker, said she agrees and credits this change to the commercialization of coffee.
“It’s one of the few jobs you can actually get benefits from,” Solórzano-Thompson said. “Because of coffee becoming more central in American life than it was 25 years ago, it is one of the very good paths where you don’t necessarily need a college degree. You can do very well, run your own business, get benefits.”
With the new emergence of professional baristas, Lintvedt said she hopes to take her passion for coffee and open her own shop to further her career. One of her apprentices, Westminster junior vocal performance major Alex Olive, said she has just what it takes.
“She loves it,” Olive said. “Anybody who is passionate about something, if you want to create a business in it, that passion is probably one of the most important things you need to have.”
The Forum spoke to Lintvedt about her beginning in the coffee industry, how it’s becoming a common career path and her future plans. Some answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness .
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I’m actually from Utah. I grew up in Ogden.
Q: When did you start working as a barista?
A: It’s been a long time. I think I was 23, so it’s been like 10 years.
Q: What jobs did you have before being a barista?
A: I was a preschool teacher for a long time. It was about five years that I was teaching preschool, and I loved that. I was going to be a teacher, and then I was going to be a writer, and I wanted to do a lot of other things. But mostly, I’ve done coffee for most of my working career.
Q: What led you to your first job in a coffee shop?
A: It was an accident. I was teaching preschool, and I picked up a coworker, or she had to pick me up for work that day, and we had to take a detour, because they lived on a busy street, and she didn’t want to drive that way. She took a detour, and I saw this really adorable new coffee shop, and my work that I was at was going out of business. So, I just wandered in there, and I’m like, ‘This is cute. Are you hiring?’ And I got hired on the spot. I’ve been in it ever since.
Q: What do you love most about it?
A: Most? I don’t know. I really like the art of making coffee, but I also love that it’s the happy place where people stay. You come in, and coffee is your thing in the morning. It wakes you up, you meet your friends, you catch up with people, it’s just a happy part of your day. But really, I just love making coffee. I’ve actually worked on a coffee farm, and I have done everything from the ground up. There’s something special about the roast of the coffee, and you grind it, and then pouring the espresso is like an art in itself, and then you have to steam the milk, and if you do it just right, you can make the latte art. And I love the latte art part of it too.
Q: Latte art’s a relatively new thing in mainstream media. Has it been around for a long time? Is this something you’ve always done?
A: It actually started in my first coffee shop job. The owner there, I remember the first time he drew latte art. I didn’t even know that that was a thing. I was blown away, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do that.’ And so I’ve been doing it ever since.
Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made with your coffee art?
A: I made a golden retriever once.
Q: What is your favorite drink to make?
A: I love making breves.
Q: And what made you want to continue? What moment did you realize, “I want to make a career out of this.”
A: I was friends with this guy that was a manager of a coffee shop in Salt Lake, and he was like, ‘Hey, I’ll hold a spot for you if you ever want to move to Salt Lake. You can come manage my shop.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, there’s actually something in this.’ So I ended up quitting my first job, and moving to Salt Lake, and taking that job for the next five years.
Q: When did you make it your goal to open your own coffee shop?
A: After so many years deciding that I still like going to work and I like what I do, that I would like to do it every day. But part of opening my own is to do it my own way, to have my own ideas, my own recipes, my own atmosphere.
Q: What led you to your job at Bon Appetit?
A: When my last job ended, I was looking for any other coffee job at the moment. And when I ran across this, this is the only place that I found that would actually treat baristas like professionals. I get benefits, and paid time off, and opportunities for growth, and I can travel anywhere in the world. I can transfer to different locations, because this company is huge.
Q: And before Bon Appetit, have coffee shops you’ve worked in been local, have they been chains?
A: This is the only corporate company I’ve ever worked for, so that’s been new for me. I’ve worked in small businesses, I love the atmosphere of small business, but it also doesn’t let you grow and be more professional about it. That’s kind of where you have to be an owner of a coffee shop to be able to truly grow.
Q: Historically people have thought being a professional barista is an uncommon path, do you think that is changing?
A: It has been before, but I feel like that’s changing. A lot of that is changing, because coffee is growing. The industry is getting so big that I feel like it’s not going to be so nontraditional eventually, because there’s so many shops opening everywhere.