10 Minutes With Jesse Harriott

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Jesse Harriott
Roaster/Shop Operations Manager/Barista
Sunergos Coffee
Louisville, Kentucky

What other coffee jobs have you had?

Roaster/Barista Trainer/Barista
La Vida Java, Louisville, Kentucky

Barista
Highland Coffee, Louisville, Kentucky

Front of House Manager/Barista
Carriage House Cafe, Ithaca, NY

Also, I started out working on a dairy farm at age 13 as a farm hand and continuing that job through college in the summers. And I started cooking in restaurants when I was age 15. Cooking and farm work were a great prep for working in specialty coffee.

Jesse and his company, Sunergos, win America's Best Espresso Competition. From left: Lydia Huested, Jill Andres of Sunergos, Jesse, Samuel Demisse (Keffa Coffee), Aaron Kicklighter (Sunergos), Molly, Kenny

Jesse and his company, Sunergos, win America’s Best Espresso Competition. From left: Lydia Huested, Jill Andres of Sunergos, Jesse, Samuel Demisse (Keffa Coffee), Aaron Kicklighter (Sunergos), Molly Soeder, Kenny Smith

What’s your favorite part about working in coffee?

My favorite part about working in coffee is working with coffee and then sharing it. Learning about a new producer and selecting their coffee to sample. Opening up a fresh bag of green coffee and sticking my nose in there. Watching and waiting for the coffee to go through all of those glorious reactions in the roaster. Getting that first dry fragrance of a new freshly ground coffee sample. Smelling the first wet aroma, while I watch the ground coffee bloom with prism-like crystals. Then we taste. Coffee is a phenomenal seed that sacrifices its right to reproduce and is instead subjected to heat and hot water for our enjoyment. Our enjoyment. Sharing with others. And that is what I love to do. Work with coffee, then share that coffee with others while I tell them the story of how it got there in their cup.

Where do you ideally see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally, I see myself in 10 years finally beating Kenny Smith in a throwdown, perfecting my Grandma Edith’s Polish Golumpki recipe, and growing 3 or 4 varietals of coffee in a climate-controlled greenhouse somewhere near the Continental Divide.

But pragmatically, I hope to be sourcing, roasting, brewing, and serving specialty coffee to the best of my ability.  I also want to assist and cultivate others in their talents, skills, and interest within the context of community and in the spirit of hospitality.

When he's not making coffee, Jesse designs and builds beautiful pour over stands.

When he’s not making coffee, Jesse designs and builds beautiful pour over stands.

Who and what inspires you?

My children. They are so full of life, and seeing them develop in their talents and interests simply moves me to grow. The people I work with everyday at Sunergos. Family, friends, food, and drink inspire. Hard-working, talented people inspire.  Success and failure inspire. I am also very inspired by creating and listening to music. I try to keep my original score going all day long (those that work with me are unfortunately aware of this). Danny Meyer and Charlie Trotter are a huge influence. OK, so I can really keep going and going here, especially when it comes to coffee professionals that have and continue to inspire me. But I only have 10 minutes. How about the next time we meet, let’s take a few minutes and talk?

What are you drinking right now? 

I am really excited about this Ecuador sample I’m tasting. More info to come as we haven’t released it yet.

Jesse with his wife and kids. He's a big time family man.

Jesse with his wife and kids. He’s a big time family man.

Crazy/memorable coffee experience you’d like to share?

In 2007, I went to my first Coffee Fest in Chicago. It was February. Because of a cancelled flight, I arrived very late Thursday night in snowy Chicago via rental car. The next morning, I took an hour train ride in and got off about nine blocks from Navy Pier. The cold and wind, and the snowy streets were very generous to the Crocs-and-socks lifestyle that I avowed to back then. Right before entering Navy Pier, I emptied out the ice and water from my Crocs, took off my socks and walked into the best experience of my coffee life. Everyone was there! It was so warm! Except for my feet. I was so energized to see all these coffee folks that I had read about. And get this, they were nice people that were willing to talk awhile about their lives. This was my first introduction to the greater specialty coffee community and that was a crazy coffee experience.

Jesse competing in the Southeast Regional Barista Competition in 2011.

Jesse competing in the Southeast Regional Barista Competition in 2011.

What do you do when you’re not doing coffee?

Learning to love those around me, especially my family. Playing my bass. Inventing. Trying new recipes in the kitchen, currently on a cabbage streak.

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.