Interview: coffee pro Lindsey Kiser (Peregrine Espresso)

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Coffee Washington D.C.

Photo taken by Travis Edwards

Peregrine Espresso opened in 2008, and has made an impression on Washington, D.C. coffee drinkers. One of the people who’s contributed to the coffeehouse’s success is Lindsey Kiser, a manager and accomplished barista. In February, at the South East Regional Barista Competition, she outperformed top coffee talent from D.C., Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida to capture the crown. Kiser recently shared more caffeinated insights, which hint at why she’s been successful.

Was it a given that you’d work with coffee for a living, or did you consider other careers?

Becoming a coffee professional has been more of a discovery career versus than anything else. Coffee found me. Just after graduating from university I worked on a U.S. Senatorial campaign. That is how I came to live in Washington, D.C. I did the political thing in the Senate for three years. I did my job well and the work was definitely intriguing, but I wouldn’t say it was an environment that I thrived in. I up and left the Senate and moved to Canada to attend Rosewood Studio, School of Fine Furniture Making. I pursued fine woodworking for another three years. In the summer of 2008, I returned to D.C. after a 9 month stint in Ottawa. I needed a job that could keep me afloat and was directed to apply at a new coffee shop that was opening. I have been a full-time employee for Peregrine Espresso ever since.

Do you have a first coffee memory, good or bad?

Late night study sessions at Denny’s could never be a good memory.

What was your very first day like working behind a coffee bar, and where was it?

My first day was opening day for Peregrine Espresso back in August 2008. Peregrine has an extensive education and training program, so I wasn’t allowed on the espresso machine yet. I remember feeling excited yet anxious–wanting to serve customers excellent coffee but self-aware with how much more I needed to learn.

How did the opportunity come about with Peregrine Espresso?

A couple of friends of mine knew the owners, Ryan and Jill Jensen. They figured it would be a nice side job with plenty of time to pursue my woodworking endeavors. Little did they know that it would soon gain my full and undivided attention. I have every intention of getting back into my woodworking passion, but specialty coffee has captivated me, and I am thoroughly enjoying this coffee journey and living within the Peregrine community.

Would you consider anybody a coffee mentor? If so, what did they teach you that was so valuable?

Jeremy Sterner, a 15 year coffee professional and coworker at Peregrine Espresso. Jeremy’s enthusiasm and desire for coffee knowledge is contagious. By just being himself, he continually challenges me to be a better barista and explore the depths that coffee has to offer.

Walk me through a typical coffee consumption day for you. What would that be like, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed?

I typically enjoy 1-2 cups of coffee before noon–nothing crazy. If I am working or around Peregrine, I love a double shot of espresso in the afternoon. On the days that I end up being tied to the espresso machine, it is common for me to consume 4-8 shots over the course of that shift.

What’s your preferred brewing method at home, and how come?

French press. A dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful French Press that I cherish using.

If you could travel to any city in the world right now, primarily to drink coffee, what would it be and why?

I would love to drink coffee with the pickers and sorters on the Baroida estate in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. I have spent so much time getting to know the coffee beans from this estate. It would blow my mind to drink coffee on the land with the people to whom have cared and toiled for this crop.

If you could only have one more shot of espresso, and you couldn’t pull the shot, who would pull it for you?

It is easier for me to enjoy an espresso not having been the one who made it. When this is the case I don’t try to critique it, but enjoy what has been given to me. Knowing this, I would gladly take a shot from any skilled barista.

Address: 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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