Coffee Gift for Tacoma's North End

Hailey Gift understands coffee

By Kristin Kendle on July 17, 2013

Not all baristas are created equal. Some are just naturally endowed with a little bit of extra barista awesomeness. Tucked into a neighborhood café called Café Brosseau is one such barista. At just 18 years old, Hailey Gift is already on the path to barista awesomeness overload.

Gift just about literally has coffee in her blood - her family has been in the coffee business for years. Because of this, Gift scored some bonus exposure to the trade early in her life, and at 16 she officially became a barista. Before starting at Café Brosseau earlier this year, she spent some time pulling espressos at local coffee joints, including Frog n Kiwi Café and Gibson's Frozen Yogurt Shoppe at Westgate.

And while you may think a cup of coffee is a cup of coffee, turns out that's not the case. There's a lot that goes into your morning joe that you might be completely oblivious to - how the coffee is stored, the humidity in the room, even whether the barista is wearing perfume. A good barista doesn't just brew coffee - she understands coffee. She is one with the coffee.

"You really have to put so much focus and energy into pulling that perfect shot," Gift said. "You have to make sure your dosage is correct, you have to make sure you're pulling the shot in between 20 and 30 seconds. At Café Brosseau, our ideal shot is within 23 to 24 seconds. If I pull it too short, it's going to taste sour. If I pull it too long, it's going to get that burnt taste that you get with a lot of coffee."

How does a barista know if she's doing things right? Gift said more people will order straight up espressos and Americanos rather than drinks all hopped up on flavors and sugar.

Gift loves working in a coffee scene that's in touch with all things local. She loves working with Madrona, a Tacoma roaster that supplies Café Brosseau, and that coffee shops throughout the area are increasingly pairing up with local businesses, from Madrona to Valhalla to Bluebeard, as well as stocking treats from the likes of Corina Bakery and Mad Hat Tea.

"It's all about that community vibe," she said. "I know my roasters. They can tell me if they want to try something out, they can tell me what's in the roast. It's about that relationship with the roaster. With companies that have thousands of accounts, you're not going to have that personal relationship. If you have a personal relationship with your roaster, it's going to translate over to your customers."

For her dedication to her beverage of choice, Gift has received some attention. In March, she was anonymously nominated to take part in the Northwest Barista Classic competition in Seattle. She doesn't know who nominated her - if you know who did it, she would like you to stop by the café and tell her! She plans to take part in the competition later this year, as well as Coffee Fest in September. To further hone her espresso excellence, she plans to compete locally in Thursday Night Throwdowns and other smaller competitions.

Keep an eye on her. She hopes to run her own coffee business someday, and the way things are going so far, it's going to rock.

CAFÉ BROSSEAU, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, 2716 N. 21st St., Tacoma, 253.327.1306