Kevin Aquino, manager, barista and fully caffeinated guy at BrewHaHa, talks about the big move from phlebotomy to coffee connoisseurship (spoiler: It involved crossing Market Street), the special relationship between barista and customer, and what you should order for the full BrewHaHa experience.
“My history with coffee didn't start off well. I'm not a sugar person. And when I grew up, the only time I tasted coffee was through my parents, and my parents just jack it with cream and sugar, so when I drank it, I was just, 'This is dessert! This isn't really for me.'
“I started my career in health care. I was in blood banking, that Wilmington site across the street. I was following this path I thought I had carved out, and I was going through my masters in business and I did all my papers at the Trolley Square BrewHaHa. My friend Jill, she's the district manager now, she always wanted to show me new coffees. And I'm the kind of person who will nerd out on anything, and I think I needed something to do that I was passionate about, and I had a really strong passion for coffee.
“We get here at 5:30. This area at 5:30 in the morning … yeah, it’s not that booming, but you'd be surprised. We open at 6:30, so we give ourselves an hour to bake all the muffins and scones and have batches of coffee ready. Most people start to rustle in at around 7. You can almost tell time by these people. They'll notice when we notice that they're early. And then they'll tell me why they're late, and then you follow up on it the next day.
“That two or three minutes that you interact with people while they're going through line … some of these customers have become some of my better friends. There's this one couple who come in the Delaware Avenue store every morning, and I remember in March they had asked me, randomly, when my birthday was, and it's in July. And it was never brought up again. And on my birthday in July, they brought me a present.
“I gravitate toward the traditional Italian type drinks, the traditional cappuccino which is quintessentially an espresso-based drink, texturized milk, some foam and espresso. If it's perfectly done, it's out of this world. Normally, when I train baristas and they really want to get into coffee, I will make them one of those drinks and they'll have this thing where they'll sip it and they'll go, 'Whoah.' And yeah, that's what this is about. You don't want to just chug it. You want an experience like this.
“And that’s cool. Even for someone who does this for a living and eight hours a day, researching and talking about coffee ... there's still so much for me to experience.”"