Interview: Amanda Salisbury (Dolcezza Director of Coffee)
1704 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20009
202 299 9116
View Web SitePhoto courtesy of Joshua Cogan
Amanda Salisbury is D.C. native who’s logged time in Maryland and now works as the Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato Director of Coffee. She presides over coffee programs at the company’s four storefronts in Washington, D.C., Bethesda, Maryland, and Fairfax, Virginia. We met at the D.C. location near Dupont Circle on June 5, and Salisbury subsequently shared several insights about her coffee background and multi-roaster approach.
What’s the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?
I tried coffee a bunch of times as a teenager and an adult and thought it was gross until I studied abroad in Spain as an undergrad. I found that the espresso with milk thing was pretty great, though I still asked for the biggest cup and put sugar in it. When I got back to the States, I tried Starbucks and a few other places to re-capture that experience, but gave up looking. I was confused and thought maybe Europeans just knew what was up. Until I was hired at Dolcezza, I never even know that specialty coffee was a thing that even existed. When I had my first cup of pour-over coffee during training, I was totally blown away! Eric Barth, who worked for us for a good while, made me the House Blend from Intelligentsia (a pretty straightforward, balanced cup) and I was so shocked by my first sip that I blurted out, “Oh my God!—This coffee doesn’t suck!” He and my training partner probably thought I was nuts, but it was a true “a-ha!” moment!
At what point did you know you’d work with coffee for a living? Also, what were you doing for a living leading up to coffee?
The decision to stick with coffee for good didn’t come until pretty recently. I had been trying to finish up my Master’s thesis for a good while with the intention of getting a PhD in art history, but there really aren’t any tenure track jobs to be had in the field these days. Academic burnout and worrying about racking up even more student loan debt was making me miserable. Making coffee made me happier than anything I’d done in my life for a good while, so the progression was largely natural. I reached a point where I realized all I wanted to do or talk about was coffee 24/7, so decided to go with my gut and do what was most fulfilling for me.
How did the opportunity come about with Dolcezza?
I was originally hired only as a gelato scooper and cashier two years ago, but begged to be a barista, then for more bar shifts and classes at Counter Culture’s D.C. location. As senior baristas left, I started to train new folks. It was pretty informal, but eventually I saw a need for a more rigorous training program, set baristas standards, and a single person choosing and ordering coffees, so I pitched the idea of a “Head of Coffee Program” to our owners. I wrote beginner coffee training labs, duties for the position, goals for the program, and a whole plan to improve the coffee side of our business all around, which they loved. I became the Director of Coffee one week before going off to the SCAA for more training and the BGA level 1 exam. Right now we’re all impatiently waiting for our production facility next to the new Union Market space to open. Once that happens, we’ll have our own fully customized espresso and V60 bar dedicated specifically to staff training and public coffee events, which is super exciting!
What does a coffee have to be for you to brew it at Dolcezza?