You could say coffee is Laila Ghambari’s blood. The longtime coffee pro grew up visiting the Seattle cafés owed by her father’s coffee company, went on to compete in the 2012 United States Barista Competition and now works as Caffe Ladro’s Director of Education (she has also recently been elected to serve a two-year term as an Executive Council Member for the Barista Guild of America). Recently I was fortunate to enough to catch up with Laila and she shared her love of coffee and education.
What’s the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?
Since my father owns a coffee company, Cherry Street Coffee House, I’ve been around coffee pretty much my whole life. I remember going into his cafes when I was about 10 years old and the baristas would make me these super amazing sugary drinks. I think like a hazelnut caramel mocha with tons of whip cream and chocolate sprinkles!
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?
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. Before I started working full time in coffee I was going to school for education. When I saw the potential for an educational role within this industry I knew it was where I wanted to be.
What motivated you to become a Director of Education?
My original plan was to teach pre-school children but I’m currently teaching people who are often in their infancy stage of coffee knowledge, so I guess I didn’t stray too far.
If you could teach people one thing (or major concept) about coffee, what would it be?
That coffee is the seed of a tropical fruit! I drink beautiful cups of floral, sweet, fruity, delicious coffee every day that you can pick up at almost any cafe or grocery store. If the coffee you are currently drinking requires the addition of cream or sugar to taste good to you, just know, it is very easy to find something that you can enjoy all by itself!
What would you say are some of the characteristics that distinguish Caffe Ladro?
I believe we serve coffees that are approachable and consumer-friendly. We tend to have sweet and balanced coffees on our menu. Neither the flavors nor the prices are too extreme.
What’s your favorite aspect of working in the coffee world?