By: Maria Johnson
Being greeted warmly by a homey environment and two genuine smiles from behind the counter eases the apprehension of ordering coffee that comes with my indecisive mindset.
There are a few people conversing and giggling, but not so loud to disturb the loner reading a couple tables down. The walls bear local art and a large vintage sign from the room’s previous services. I’m excited that downtown New Albany is home to a Quills Coffee as of December 7, but I can hardly pronounce half of what’s on the menu, let alone come to the conclusion of what I’m in the mood for sipping. What’s sweet? What’s strong? What’s in this stuff? What do they think of me staring hesitantly at the handwritten menu? It doesn’t take long for me to admit my ignorance and inquire for the barista’s suggestions. Fortunately, these guys know what they’re doing, and are eager to share.
“We want to make the customer happy,” barista Erin Ferguson said. “We’ll do whatever you want, but we also want people to be educated about what we do and what we’re about. If someone comes in and wants a cappuccino but they’re used to a gas station cappuccino and want it to be really sweet, we might say, ‘The way that we make our cappuccino is two ounces of espresso and four ounces of milk, so you’re going to taste the espresso more. It’s very smooth. It has a great taste if you want to try it that way, or we can make a latte and put some syrup in it if that’s what you like.’ We’re not gonna say, ‘You can’t have that.’ They can have what they want. People have preferences on what they like, so we just want to have conversations with them.”
Leaving her office job to become a barista was a big decision for Ferguson, but it has proven to open many doors for her. She appreciates the numerous opportunities the position gives her to meet people and serve them. And the occasional cortado (two oz espresso, two oz steamed milk) with a chunk of dark chocolate or a piece of biscotti is certainly an upside.
“My favorite [part] is getting to serve other people,” Ferguson said. “Getting to serve people a really quality drink, tell them about the coffee, and just to engage in conversation.”
If I want to know more about coffee, Quills is certainly the place for me to visit. Sure, I could search the internet, but there’s no friendship building there. Ferguson told me personally about different ways of getting the coffee from its “green bean” (name for coffee beans stored after arrival and before roasting) state to the beverage in my cup. After the beans have been roasted and ground, there are various brewing methods to choose from to craft the cup o’ joe.