10 Minutes With Nik Virrey

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Nik Virrey
Owner, Co-Lead Liquid Consultant
Matte&Gloss LLC
&
Director of Education
Slate Coffee Roasters

&
Lead Bartender
Liberty Bar

All in Seattle, Washington

 What other coffee jobs have you had?

Barista from 2005–09
Starbucks
Temecula, California & Seattle, Washington

Director of Education from 2009–11
Zoka Coffee Roasters
Seattle, Washington

Besides working for specialty roaster Slate Coffee, and the celebrated Liberty Bar, Nik is the co-owner of Matte&Gloss, a Seattle-based beverage consulting business.

Besides working for specialty roaster Slate Coffee, and the celebrated Liberty Bar, Nik is the co-owner of Matte&Gloss, a Seattle-based beverage consulting business.

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

The primary reason I love coffee is that in every context you have to have a qualifying word. Think about the enormity of the question, “What is coffee?” Are we asking what is brewed coffee, ground coffee, coffee the plant or seed or fruit, coffee house, shop, or bar? Coffee as an international industry? The multi-dimensional complexity of coffee is what is so enticing to me. The classic situation of the more you know, the more you know you don’t know. The potential for the next generation of coffee professionals is endless, as well. I am of the perspective that the majority of the first 30 years of specialty coffee, the wealth of knowledge was hard fought for, respectively; but now the new guard is creating and discovering information at an exponential rate opposed to the comparitively arithmatic amassing of foundational knowledge that our mentors sweated for. There is also an absolutely necessary trend of revisiting and renovating ‘tribal knowledge’ that was assumed to be true only because a figure head presented it. I love that what i knew five years ago is now irrelevant and the things I’ll learn in five years will probably negate things I know presently. Professional growth is sexy and it keeps you on your toes! I could literally go on for hours on this question so I’m gonna go ahead and stop here. If anyone wishes to ask me more on the topic, just email me!

From left, Chelsey Walker-Watson, Brandon, and Nik during the America's Best Coffeehouse Competition at Cofefe Fest Seattle in 2013. They were Team Slate, and they won first place!

From left, Chelsey Walker-Watson, Brandon, and Nik during the America’s Best Coffeehouse Competition at Cofefe Fest Seattle in 2013. They were Team Slate, and they won first place!

 Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

Ten years, eh? That is a heavy question. Luckily, I’m a pretty confident guy, so here we go. I plan on Slate Coffee becoming an international leader in the specialty scene with a few championships (USBC) under our belts and leading the way in regards to innovation et al.

With Matte&Gloss, there are huge plans. It will be a central hub for many business approaches regarding all things liquids. M&G will have a major hand in both the coffee and liquor industries with a sturdy resume of professionally executed plans, ideas, and events. There are also many surprises on the way as well! Stay tuned. #HeavyHustle

Nick is the lead bartender at Liberty Bar, which is regarded as one of the most progressive cocktail bars in the country.

Nick is the lead bartender at Liberty Bar, which is regarded as one of the most progressive cocktail bars in the country.

 Who and what inspires you?

• My Pops, Oscar Virrey, and Ma, Susan Virrey, first and foremost. There are too many reasons to list, of course, so I will sum it up in the three rules i live by that were handed down to me. 1) Know who you are. 2) Know who you are with. 3) Know where you are. Simple. They are seared into my skull and are demonstrated by my actions.

• Amanda, Chris, Matthew, and Becca Virrey. My first crew. My brothers and sisters. Too many things to mention. They are stuck with this guy forever.

• Brandon Paul Weaver. My business partner and best friend. He is brilliant and a smartass. He has had the most influence on me professionally, and has taught me a lot about being a decent human, too. There you go, bro—now you have at least a little public proof that I think you’re an OK guy.

Nik and his best buddy, Brandon.

Nik and his best buddy, Brandon.

• Greg Cymbalski. The third owner and piece of the Matte&Gloss crew. He is my primary business mentor and purveyor of  perspectives that are so different from Brandon and I, they are highly beneficial professionally and personally in life. He is also hilarious. He goes by Handsome Greg, so when you meet him, refer to him accordingly. Ha!

Matte&Gloss co-owners, Nik, Brandon, and Greg.

Matte&Gloss co-owners, Nik, Brandon, and Greg.

• Keith Waldbauer. My bartender father-figure. The man has shaped so much of how I operate professionally and is responsible for a number of my accomplishments. Also, he is just a solid human.

• Andrew Friedman. Owner of Liberty Bar and a large part of putting Seattle on the map as far as the cocktail scene is concerned. He has sharpened me in ways that were necessary, albeit rough, that I am in debt to him for. He also made Baby Bowie, and she is like my favorite creature.

• Tupac Shakur. For obvious reasons.

• Lil Wayne. Same.

• James Hoffmann. I shared a flask with him in Portland [Oregon] and the most pressing thing I remember him relaying was that we as an industry have “done serious to death.” I haven’t stopped having fun since.

• Peter Guiliano. Obvious, again.

Nik is the Director of Education for Seattle's Slate Coffee Roasters.

Nik is the Director of Education for Seattle’s Slate Coffee Roasters.

 What are you drinking right now? 

Mezcal. Always. It competes with coffee as my favorite liquid. Dixeebe!

Crazy coffee experience you’d like to share? 

There are probably a thousand insane things I have done in my time, but one of my favorites was when I Uber’d a limousine for Brandon last year after USBC Boston because I was so damn proud of him. It was after the police shut down the after party and everybody was on the sidewalk making plans for the next bar and it just rolled up and all I said was, “Congrats, homie. Let’s go!”

 

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.