Behind the counter, Kayla Carruthers, senior French major, stood and focused sharply on pouring her art into the mug.
“That’s one thing I love about the job,” said Carruthers. “I love to practice the latte art. Sometimes it works out well, and sometimes it looks awful,” she smiled, “but that’s just part of learning.”
The real appeal to Barefoots for Carruthers, though, was the atmosphere and the people who make up that atmosphere.
“I started noticing that the coffee shop was becoming one that facilitated great conversation and relationships between people in a way that only other places had before,” she said. “It was a movement in this generation that was saying ‘lets go pour out our souls over some coffee.’”
So, she applied for a job at Barefoots her sophomore year.
“It was during the middle of the semester, so training was shorter than it usually is,” said Carruthers. “My first semester was very much survival mode – learn how to make the drinks and do what you’re supposed to do.”
The taste and appreciation for coffee slowly developed, she said, but the appreciation for the people and the environment was there from the beginning.
“I got to go to the summer training after my first semester of working and then really started learning a lot more about coffee and my relationship with the craft started deepening,” said Carruthers.
“I got to learn about how it’s produced and grown, how it’s handled on the farms in other regions of the world, all the stuff that goes into serving a person a latte. I was wowed by how, at that point, the cup of coffee has moved through so many hands. It’s really cool to be a part of something so global, something that is really pulling people together everywhere.”
Since coffee is a global appreciation, Carruthers hopes to be able to take her skill anywhere. She wants to live in the city and, eventually, dreams to own her own business.
“I want to be able to bring inner-city kids in and teach them something that can help them,” said Carruthers. “I want them to have a marketable trade to put on their résumés, too.”
Carruthers is the barista supervisor, and along with serving customers and making drinks, she makes sure things are “running smoothly” and creates the schedules at the beginning of the semester.
“I didn’t know until I got to join the leadership team how much work goes into protecting what Barefoots is,” she said. “We do a lot to keep true to our mission statement, which I love. We want to cultivate conversations between people, make sure to incorporate art into the space and serve with hospitality. We are trained to treat Barefoots like our homes and really want customers to feel comfortable when they come in.”
Much has changed since she began, she said. “When I first started, I couldn’t really tell the difference between different brews of coffee. People would keep saying ‘oh, this one tastes like this’ and I would be like ‘I don’t really know what you’re talking about,’ but then, slowly, after I had developed more of an appreciation for the coffee, I started to understand what they were saying.”
“I have such an appreciation now not only for the coffee, but also for all of the people who go into the process of cultivating this craft. It really is something that brings so many different types of people together.”