Who are you and what do you do in coffee?
I am Charles Babinski, co-founder of G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger, two coffee shops in Los Angeles, CA.
How and when did you get started in the coffee business?
I got started in the industry when I was 19 as a barista in a coffee shop in Manhattan. The point at which I began considering the coffee business as my business was years later, as a barista at Intelligentsia in Chicago.
What jobs have you held in the industry?
Barista, in various shades: Barista, barista educator, owner/barista. Always making coffee.
What people and/or things inspire you, coffee-wise?
I’m inspired by any person in this industry who relishes the actual act of serving people coffee. So many folks look at coffee shop jobs as the starting place to bigger and better things (roasting, sales, green buying) and many of the most intelligent, hard-working people working in cafes have designs to get out as soon as the opportunity is afforded. I get it, but it’s still a shame. The environment of a coffee shop is unique, and its potential is mostly untapped. There are so many opportunities for industrious folks to create amazing spaces and environments, not just with design, but with continued service. The folks who are putting in this work are a special breed.
I am also inspired by all the folks who exhibit openness, kindness, and willingness to share their knowledge. Geoff Watts has always been someone I’ve looked up to in this regard.
What would you like to see change in the coffee industry?
In line with the answer to the previous question, I would love to see more people seeking to be experts in service and hospitality, instead of focusing solely on the more technical side of coffee. This seems to be happening, though, and the easier great coffee becomes to produce, the more people are going to need to separate themselves by their kindness and attention to customers’ needs.
One other thing that is changing is smaller roasters, sometimes one or two person operations, putting out better coffee than some of the more heralded larger companies that are seemingly stuck in their ways. Easier access to quality green coffee and access to real information about roasting seems to be evening the playing field somewhat. I really hope that these small operations keep getting better.
What is your favorite coffee beverage and/or brewing method?
Because I live in a world focused on the minutiae of extraction details and so on, the most exciting coffee I can imagine is the one that I know relatively nothing about, but that tastes delicious. That special moment when I get to stop being a professional and take on the role of a regular customer.
To answer the spirit of the question, though, I like paper or cloth filter pour overs mostly. A hot cup of black coffee. I also harbor a love for a classic Gibraltar, the cool, sweet, and balanced espresso drink of the west coast.
What do you consider to be your greatest contribution to coffee?
I opened up two coffee shops! They serve a lot of really great people coffee every day.
What do you think others would say is your greatest contribution to coffee?
I hope that it would be related the goodwill of folks I’ve worked with over the years. Being a good coworker, boss, friend.
What’s next for you?
Right now two shops is definitely a handful for Kyle and me, but we would definitely love to do more exciting things in 2014. We are about to remodel G&B and both shops are starting to hit their stride. Every year I think things are going to calm down, and every year is crazier than the previous. Which is totally great. I suspect 2014-2015 won’t be the exception.
Who’s the person you’d most like to see us interview next?
Brian Jones from Dear Coffee I Love You and Supersonic. I think Brian has come to coffee from an interesting trajectory, through the consumer and design side and I am really excited for all the things he has going on.