Even with the recent wage-fixing scandal (ain’t no shame in Silicon Valley’s recruiting game), it appears there’s no end in sight for how far tech companies will go to ensnare their next round of engineering ingénues. From complimentary massages, haircuts and mobile veterinary services to professional ping-pong training, gym reimbursements, and gourmet restaurants on site; tech giants will do whatever it takes to win over talent. But are any of these extras really all they’re cracked up to be?
IMHO the best perk is what’s percolating in the break room. Yup! You can try to sell me on a bunch of shiny trinkets that I’ll grow bored with or be too busy to use; or you can supply me with espresso! And we’re talking the good stuff.
King of consumer generated content, San Francisco based Yelp seems to have its finger on the pulse of percolation. With an in-house coffee bar, their full-time barista babes (Camille Broome and Corey Genochio) are serving up the best in local liquid gold like drug dealers pushing crack to coders in need of a caffeine fix, account managers searching for energy, and sales reps jolting for more cold call courage. Don’t get me wrong, from what I could tell walking the halls of the corporate headquarters, the staff loves the fully stocked kitchens, schwag hoodies and additional fringe benefits they get from Yelp—voted one of the coolest places to work for the past few years—but the high quality java is key. Besides, with the staff saving all that moola on coffee, they’re able to venture out into the hustle and bustle of downtown San Francisco for their meals, manis, and mid-day massages; allowing Yelpers to fulfill their mission “to connect people with local businesses.” Hmmmm I bet the Mountain View taqueria is scratching its head as to why it’s not busier with several thousand Googlers just a few blocks away…I’m just saying.
We sat down with barista babes Camille and Corey to chat about boys, beans, and everything in between.
EPJ: Where did you grow up and what brought you to San Francisco? In other words, how did you become one of the most loved, important, and respected employees at Yelp? ; )
Camille: I grew up in the Sunnyvale, smack dab in the middle of the tech boom we all know and love ;). I worked my way through college with barista gigs, and about 2 years ago I was recruited by the company Corey and I currently work for (Imagine Culinary Group). I was brought into another account to help dial in a mobile air-pot set-up, and was invited to stay on as a full time barista. Last September I interviewed for the supervisor position here at Yelp Cafe, and the rest is history!
Corey: I am a San Francisco native, my love for coffee developed when I landed my first catering gig at Zynga’s headquarters. That’s when I learned the importance of the quality of the things we consume, and where it came from; that’s where I met Camille. Yelp is just lucky to have us… jk.
EPJ: What do you like most about being a barista and how long have you been churning out delicious java based drinks?
Camille: I’ve been a barista since I was 17. (Ten years now!) I’ve worked everywhere, from mom and pop shops to Starbucks, to 3rd wave artisanal roasters.
Corey: I’ve been a barista for about 3 years now. I can honestly say the best thing about my job, aside from the free coffee, is that I am able to put my creativity in each drink I make… oh yes and all the wonderful people I meet day-to-day.
EPJ: I’m the guy who goes into Philz Coffee and orders a macchiato by mistake and gets yelled at because they only make coffee beverages (a la’ the Soup Nazi). Can you give us a quick rundown of what the main java beverage buckets are and how they’re different? (IE: coffee, espresso, anything else…)
Camille: So, our menu serves espresso based beverages exclusively.
Here’s the run-down:
- Latte: 12oz. 2 shots espresso, filled with steamed milk.
- Cappuccino: 8oz. 2 shots of espresso, filled with slightly foamier steamed milk.
- Gibraltar: 4.5oz. 2 shots of espresso, filled with steamed milk, served in the glass it’s named after .
- Macchiato: 3oz. 2 shots of espresso, 1oz steamed milk
- Mocha: Same as Latte, but add TCHO ganache.
- Espresso: 2 shots of delicious espresso!
- Americano: 8oz. 2 shots of espresso floated on top of hot h20. (This is the closest thing on our menu to drip coffee.)
EPJ: Have you ever competed, or considered competing, in the World Barista Championship (WBC) or any of the US Coffee championships?
Camille: I’ve participated in smaller Latte Art throw-downs, but never in the big leagues! I’d love to try my hand at it however! I think it’d be amazing to see some of my mentors do their thing!
Corey: I think that the world barista cup is awesome… but it’s not for me… you know I wouldn’t want to embarrass anyone with my mad skills. LOL… jk those guys are sick and I have to work my way up to that level.
EPJ: Are you single? Why or why not?
Camille: Single. It’s way more fun!
Corey: Recently out of a seven year relationship… IF HE LIKED IT THEN HE SHOULDA PUT A RING ON IT!!!! LOL! So now IM ON TO THE NEXT!!!
EPJ: The Yelp coffee counter works with a different roaster every two months, serving only espresso based drinks from those beans during that period, before switching to the next roaster…..did I get that right? If so, how do you pick which coffee brands to work with and why?
Camille: We switch roasters quarterly. When I hunt for our next up-to-bat, I try to seek out roasters who care as much about the coffee as we do, but also someone who can further our knowledge in the craft. I usually select a couple at a time, and then hold tastings with not only our café staff, but also our facilities team. I think it’s important that everyone is excited about the next quarter of delicious coffee.
EPJ: What’s your favorite coffee brand that you’ve worked with thus far, in terms of ease of use, and what was nice about working with it?
Camille: AHHH! That’s so tough! We’ve been so lucky to have collaborated with so many amazing roasters. If I HAD to choose, It’d be a toss-up between Fourbarrel, and Verve. Although every roaster has given us a great product to work with, there’s A LOT to be said for feeling like part of an extended family. Both Verve and Four Barrel have been so great about hands-on training, tech support, and overall warm fuzzy feelings.
Corey: Mine is hands down Verve… not only is the coffee easy to work with, its delicious, and the staff is amazing.
EPJ: Does “soy” make you cringe? How do you feel about all these new “creamers” like oat, almond, and coconut milks? Do they detract from the quintessential coffee experience? Or do u care?
Camille: If given the choice, I’d ALWAYS choose to work with whole milk. It just steams better. Alternative options don’t make me cringe, though. Ultimately I’d like EVERYONE to be able to enjoy coffee, regardless of dietary restrictions.
Corey: If it was up to me I would go with whole, or soy, no in between, although I thinks its cool to give the people different options.
EPJ: Regardless of whether you’ve worked with their beans or not, which coffee brands do you personally like the taste of most, and why?
Camille: As previously mentioned, Verve and Fourbarrel both bust out consistently delicious espresso blends. Kuma Coffee, and Water Ave are other favorites that we haven’t hosted here at Yelp before, but I love!
Corey: My favorites are De La Paz, and Verve, cuz THEY DA BEST.
EPJ: How would you describe the perfect first date and has anyone taken you on it?
Camille: Dive bar, Burrito, roof. Typical Mission kid. And yes, of course ; )
Corey: Same as Camille! That sounds great!
EPJ: How did you get the gig at Yelp in the first place, and how long have you been there so far?
Camille: Corey and I have been at Yelp since the Café’s opening in September 2013. We interviewed for our positions prior to the launch through Imagine Culinary Group, and BAM. Here we are.
Corey: Camille and I met at Zynga, we both felt it was time to fly from the coop. We planned the entire thing… we weren’t taking no for an answer.
EPJ: What kind of a role did coffee play in your life growing up? (IE: were your parents big coffee drinkers? Was it a social thing you did with friends in high school that turned into an obsession? Etc.)
Camille: My parents were actually really big on TEA! I didn’t start actually drinking coffee until I was 18! I eventually jumped on the wagon, after a year of barista-dom.
Corey: I must admit…I drank Yuban or Folgers… so I never gave it a second thought. I was trained with Blue Bottle and it was like crack… coffee for me was never the same.
EPJ: What’s your favorite movie and why?
Camille: The Royal Tennenbaums… Because Wes Anderson. (DUH!)!
Corey: It’s not a movie, but I’m really into Game of Thrones right now.
EPJ: I’ll admit that I’m a novice when it comes to ordering my coffee or espresso drinks. Probably because I don’t always feel like ordering the same thing prepared the same way every time; which probably makes me “that customer!” What are two or three things that irritate you most about how customers like me place our orders?
Camille: Honestly, I don’t mind those people who aren’t sure of what they like yet. I think it’s rad to help someone discover a new drink that totally wows them. At Yelp we are always helping people switch it up. It’s a great feeling to watch someone walk away excited about a drink you made them.
Corey: Just know what you want when you get to the front of the line, and when in doubt trust your beautiful baristas to make you something yummy!
EPJ: What’s your favorite San Francisco moment?
Camille: Every warm night in SF ever. It’s like you’re stealing from nature or something.
Corey: Being a kid in the city; I had the most fun getting in trouble, you know kid stuff.
EPJ: I imagine the tension is palpable during the daily coffee rushes. Some customers are uncertain about what to order, others just string a series of coffee-related nouns and adjectives together and hope you can make sense of it. What advice, if any, do you have for coffee goers who lack the confidence to make a selection the caffeine junkies seem to embody? (remember, most Americans do not live in SF or Seattle where coffee culture has evolved)
Camille: If you don’t know ASK!!!! A great Barista will be able to guide you in the right direction if you’re open to suggestions. All we need is to know what you like.
EPJ: I noticed you use some really fancy equipment at the Yelp coffee counter. Can home baristas make beverages just as tasty with some less expensive equipment?
Camille: I recommend the Rancilio Silvia for at-home espresso lovers. It’s the best value as far as a quality machine goes. Honestly, your run of the mill Breville, or Black & Decker won’t produce the same quality shots, or milk texture. It may seem like a bargain, but in the end you won’t end up using it, because the results just won’t be the same! A quality burr grinder is also key, I recommend the Baratza Virtuoso.
Corey: I love drip coffee. Use an Aero Press!
EPJ: What kind of equipment do you have at home for making those extra special brews—just for you?
Camille: At home I stick to good old fashioned Chemex pour over! On the weekends I usually go OUT for coffee! I love learning from other baristas.
Corey: Compliments of Camille, I now have a Aero Press, which I love and use every day. Its lightweight and portable… so anywhere that you have hot water you’re ready to go!
EPJ: I recently Google searched photos of coffee decorations, and saw some crazy shit! Dogfaces, hearts within hearts within fish skeletons, giant squids, Batman, The Joker…blew my mind. What’s the craziest thing you’ve designed in the foam cap of a drink and did you cringe when someone slurped it into a mocha-foam-stache?
Camille: We’ve done pigs, bears, turkeys, solar systems, the Yelp Burst, swans, and more! To me, however, the most impressive latte art is free-poured rosettas and tulips. Anyone can etch in a drink with a thermometer or toothpick. It takes real talent to free-pour latte art. Our Instagram has all kinds of shots featuring the latte art we do at the café.
EPJ: I know this is a loaded question, but in your opinion, what are the two most important qualities you look for when selecting a coffee bean?
Camille: Seasonality and roast, coffee is a fruit, and different parts of the world harvest it at different times of the year. Freshness is more than how long ago the bean was roasted, it’s about how recently the crop was sourced as well! Speaking of roasting, there’s nothing worse than a burnt bean! Yuck!
EPJ: What’s your daily routine for coffee consumption? (IE: I have a shot to wake up, and a double mocha around 2pm, and then an Americana on ice before bed, etc.)
Camille: I have an espresso around 9am, (3 hours after I first wake up) and another at around 1:30. Studies show this is when cortisol levels are at their best to most efficiently benefit from the effects of caffeine!
Corey: I think I’ve gotten to the point where I tired my self out of coffee. When I first started working with coffee I was an addict…. Now I tend to drink more teas… except on those occasions where we find ice and go crazy off a quad-shot.
EPJ: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Camille: On a goat farm. Goats are the best, man.
Corey: Maybe owning my own cute little coffee shop somewhere.