Interview: Take Flight Coffee founder Deaton PigotPhoto of Deaton Pigot taken at Suke Quto Farm in Sidama, Ethiopia
Australia native Deaton Pigot is a longtime coffee professional who roasted for leading companies like Intelligentsia Coffee and Toby’s Estate Coffee. In 2016, he relocated to L.A. and launched Take Flight Coffee, contract roasting and wholesaling while actively looking for a cafe space in L.A. Learn more about Pigot’s connection to coffee.
Josh Lurie: What’s the very first cup of coffee you ever remember drinking?
Deaton Pigot: Growing up in Australia we only had access to espresso based beverages and at that time coffees were pretty much nameless other then the name of the coffee company. I do however remember eating the chocolate powdered foam off my mother’s cappuccino as a young boy. So I would have to say my first coffee beverage was a cappuccino.
JL: At what point did you know you’d work with coffee for a living? Did you consider any other careers?
DP: I remember on my 24th birthday I was walking to a birthday brunch to meet my friends at a cafe that I worked at. I lived near the beach and as the sun was reflecting off the Pacific Ocean it dawned on me. Not sure why it happened on my 24th birthday. I guess I was feeling “old” and needed a career, I loved coffee, I loved working in hospitality so why not just do it.
I considered every career, I had my first job at 15 as a barista in my hometown, dropped out of school to become a chef and when that did not work out for me I went through so many jobs trying to find the right fit. Whilst doing this I always has a job as a barista to keep me afloat. I tried security guard, working in RSL clubs, travel agent, went to University at 19 to study a Bachelor of Business in Accountancy. Those early years were pretty rough, haha.
JL: What inspired you to start Take Flight Coffee?
DP: I come from a family of small business owners, so it is in my blood that I wanted to do something on my own. The endless pursuit of coffee is what inspires me, in particular the journey I have taken to get to where I am today. I have lived abroad now for 11 years and with every new country and city I have alway learned so much. I wanted to create a coffee company that inspired wanderlust. I’ve always felt that it is not always about the destination, it’s the journey to there where the story lies. To be honest, I just want to cut the bullshit and drink good coffee 🙂
JL: Why is Los Angeles the right city for your concept?
DP: I first moved to L.A. to help Intelligentsia Coffee open up their Roastery in 2007 to 2010, I fell in love with the place. L.A. at the time felt like it was going through a renaissance, which it was. I fell in love. So after 4 winters in New York working for Toby’s Estate Coffee, I knew it was time to get back to L.A. and it’s never-ending renaissance feel. I love how L.A. seems to always be re-inventing itself somehow. It just makes for a very exciting lifestyle and a great place for a start up.
JL: Why is it important for you to have a coffee bar, and what distinguishes Take Flight Coffee’s approach from other coffee bars around the city?
DP: Opening a coffee bar is key to our vision, as a company that is already wholesaling and selling to homes online through our website, it’s important to have a flagship bar to get our coffee into peoples hands. We are still looking for the perfect cafe space and that will in a lot of ways dictate our approach to service. I really want to bring in a cafe that is focused on serving fantastic coffee with great customer service and speed of service.
JL: Where do you see the Los Angeles coffee scene in five years, and how does Take Flight Coffee fit into that vision?
Coffee in five years – well I think it is already happening at a fast pace – but a lot of cafes will start roasting their own coffee. Coffee prices will continue to rise not only because the coffee itself, but also to offset the minimum going up to $16. I’ve seen how cafes have to work in order to support those sorts of wages. In Australia, baristas can earn anywhere between $20 to $35 per hour. To handle that, cafe owners have skeleton crews, the staff have to work super fast/ efficient and more often then not, food is a huge part of the business model to help get that average price per ticket up.
Take Flight will be there for the ride. Our roastery will be set up and we will have at least two cafes and be expanding up the coast. We are dreaming big and we have only just started to scratch the surface.
JL: What motivated you to start roasting that very first time, and how did your very first batch turn out?
DP: I was in Australia working as a full time barista trainer and also was had a band (I was a singer-songwriter). As a band we decided to pack up and move to Dublin, Ireland, to join the singer-songwriter scene. I needed work and was trying to find work as a Barista Trainer. That is when I was interviewed at a company called Bewley’s Coffee and Tea. After chatting with them for a while they said that they felt that being a trainer meant you had to build great relationships with customers. They were afraid that I would leave after a year and they would have to start from scratch, so they offered me a job as a roaster instead. I was part of the quality control team back home in Australia so I was familiar with the process and thought, why the hell not! It’s funny, I remember roasting coffee and being very nervous the first time, and not much of a fuss was made of it by my coworkers so I don’t really remember what it was or how it turned out. I have always thought that was a bit of a let down, so when I train roasters these days, when they drop their first batch, I always make sure we celebrate. I want them to remember that feeling, of being scared then excited that they roasted it and will taste it the next day.
JL: What’s your favorite aspect of working in the coffee world?
DP: Going to bed thinking about what coffee I am going to drink the following morning at its most basic. Really though, it’s the people who live, work and play in coffee, the relationships I have with farmers, importers, roasters, coffee professionals, my customers and their customers, we’re all such a motley crew that work in a billion dollar industry having a blast.