Interview: Barista Nicole Mournian (Caffe Luxxe)
Santa Monica, CA 90403
310 394 2222
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From January 23-25, top baristas from California and Hawaii will converge on Los Angeles to compete at the Western Regional Barista Competition. The winner scores a coveted slot in the Semi-Finals of the 2009 United States Barista Championship. Here’s one of the baristas you’ll find competing at downtown L.A.’s Spring Arts Tower:
Name: Nicole Mournian
Coffeehouse: Caffe Luxxe
Location: Santa Monica/Brentwood, CA
1. Why did you decide to compete in the WRBC?
Because I like being challenged to be better at what I do.
2. How did you become interested in coffee?
I was moving to L.A. from San Diego, where I was a pastry chef at a small WONDERFUL coffee shop called Influx Cafe. They had spoiled me for 3 years with great espresso drinks. On my way out of town, I stopped at what on the outside seemed to be an ‘OK’ coffee shop. I ordered an Americano, iced (it was about 100 deg. outside), and watched in horror as the girl took a jug of black liquid from under the counter and poured it over some water in a cup. “What’s that?” I asked… “It’s our iced espresso, we pull all the shots in the morning so they are cold.” I gasped and paid and left with a frown, It was then that I knew I had to be within walking distance of some place that cared enough to make my drink for me, to order. Even if it meant changing jobs and working the bar – as it turned out, working the bar was just where I needed to be.. Thats when I found Caffe Luxxe.
3. What’s your first coffee memory?
Sour, burned coffee pot on counter in my Grandmas kitchen. It was so over cooked, it smelled like cat pee, (You didn’t say GOOD coffee memory) It’s why I refused coffee until college.
4. Do you have an espresso mentor?
If so, who are they and what did they teach you? I’d have to say Mark and Eric from Luxxe, also my co-competitor Ian is a total badass. They taught me how to apply my culinary skills to coffee
5. What did you do to prepare for the competition?
Pulled shots. ALL NIGHT LONG. FOR 2 MONTHS.
6. Outside of your coffeehouse, what’s your favorite coffeehouse in the U.S., and what do you like about it?
I love Influx Cafe in San Diego. I love it because of my own personal history there – its like my cheers. BUT, if we are talking just coffee – no romance – Blue Bottle, Mint location, SF. I love the iced Chicory blend. Literally NO ONE can touch a short Americano at Luxxe though. It is the best presentation of what we are about.
7. Other than yourself, who do you think has a good shot at becoming WRBC champ?
I know very few people competing. So, Ian Levine, you’re my man.
8. If you didn’t work in the coffee industry, what would you do for a living?
I would be a pastry chef again.