I’ve quite enjoyed my latest set of profile pieces with blogTO. They aren’t celebrities, musicians, politicians or quote-unquote big wigs. They’re baristas.

Getting a chance to know some of the city’s top espresso slingers has been both enlightening and insightful. Everyone has a story and baristas seem to have some of the best ones. But let’s let them do the talking.

DAMIEN AT CAPITAL ESPRESSO

Damien Zielinski is a pretty stand-up guy. He has a way of putting you at ease with a soft, slow nod. He nods when you walk in the door. He nods when he’s listening. He nods when he agrees with something you say. And as co-owner of Capital Espresso, that friendly joint in Parkdale that opened just a year ago in the old Vice office (they were formerly at Blondie’s), Damien damn well loves his espresso. The guy has been serving up spro (that’s their slang name for espresso) for 13 years, nearly half his life. And albeit Damien is pretty extroverted and not all that secretive, we wanted to get to know him a little better. The following is the result. Click to read the full profile.

LACHLAN AT JIMMY’S COFFEE

When I walk into Jimmy’s Coffee on an unseasonably warm December morning it’s rammed inside. There’s a warm buzz to the place. I ask for Lachlan. The barista behind the counter says he’s out front, somewhere. As I start to walk to the door, the barista asks me to also take Lachlan’s single Americano for him, as it’s now ready. Sure, why not? I walk out the front door as Lachlan turns the corner from the alleyway beside Jimmy’s. I call his name not knowing if it’s him or not and he glances back with a wry smile. “Yeah?” he responds with a slight Australian lilt. “You the writer?” We proceed to take a seat out front of the King West coffee spot so I can get to know him a little better. Click here to read the full profile.

MICHAEL AT MANIC COFFEE

Michael Cubero is one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. The guy is patient, calm, considerate and unabashedly nice. He also cares about his trade and the people he serves on a daily basis. It’s a great equation in making an adept barista, by any standards. It also doesn’t hurt that he grew up in Costa Rica, surrounded by coffee. Grabbing a couple makeshift seats in the back room at Manic, surrounded by miscellaneous bins and whatnot, we chatted about Costa Rica, caring customers, Delaware Ave. and Motown. Obviously. Click to read the full profile.

AMI AT JET FUEL

Jet Fuel has a bit of a reputation. I’ve worked in Cabbagetown, right around the corner from the coffee shop, for almost three years now. I’ve known people that have left the local cafe just about in tears. When I went in before the holidays for our scheduled interview, I was told that Ami wasn’t in. When I inquired a little further as to when she would be in, I was brushed off, coldly. The shop isn’t for everyone, but the regulars, especially cyclists, absolutely adore Jet Fuel – and for good reason. It’s a calm atmosphere with some damn good coffee. When I was able to catch up with Ami the following week, we had the following conversation in the back of Cabbagetown’s Jet Fuel. Click to read the full profile.

AERIN AT MERCURY

I met Aerin after work on a crisp Friday night. Instantly, like basically everyone at Mercury, you pick up that she’s a confident conversationalist. A natural skill that has been honed by slinging espresso it would seem. She’s assertive yet patient. Reserved yet engaged. She also has a subtle flirtatious-streak side, though not in any overt way — just faintly on the periphery. With her tied-up black and blonde hair, quick responses and a table in the middle of Mercury, we had the following discussion about life as a barista. Click to read the full profile.

—RYAN BOLTON

Written by Ryan Bolton

Ryan is a Toronto-based writer and photographer that likes to break the rules. His work has taken him around the world to do what he truly loves—storytelling. And drinking cold beer.