Illinois’ muscular Chicago is a capital for culture and industry in the Mid-West of America and now home to barista Luis Toriz, pouring at Brew Brew Coffee & Tea. Luis started his coffee career in Mexico City before moving to the States to participate in the emerging third-wave coffee scene. In this interview, he outlines his journey in coffee, providing learners with English and Spanish resources and dietary tips to learn the technical side of being a barista.

When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
In 2005, I started my first job at this small experimental café in Mexico City. We worked on one of the busiest and most important avenues in the whole city, selling coffee to the passing cars during each red light opportunity. My passion for the coffee industry wouldn’t come until a few years later when I began working for Cielito Querido Café, a national-level coffee chain, when they agreed to sponsor me in my first National Barista Championship in 2012.

What’s the status of specialty coffee in Chicago?
Thanks to the expansion of third-wave coffee shops, you can find a wide variety of places throughout the city with exemplary customer service and quality of coffee. Competing daily alongside brands such as Intelligentsia and Counter Culture forces us small businesses to invest more time and education into our craft, which in turn helps us offer a truly unique experience in the Windy City. As a Mexican, understanding the history of coffee production and discovering where my coffee comes from is an important factor in bringing each cup of coffee I serve closer to our roots, while at the same time having the opportunity to provide my clients with quality international coffee.

What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
Diversity is the advantage that the industry has; there’s no specific “type” of person meant to work in a café. As long as one is mindful that it’s a job that can allow us to make a decent living, I say that anyone can step behind a coffee bar.

If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
I would recommend that they start reducing/eliminating their sugar intake slowly over time. They should also check out coffee shops that offer pour overs and try to detect the different coffee profiles made with a V60. Many people are surprised to find out that coffee in reality doesn’t always taste like “coffee”.

Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
Barista Magazine, Café de especialdad (podcast in Spanish), courses offered through Counter Culture, and I follow the SCA on their social platforms.

What’s next for your career? What’s on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
Coming into contact with coffee producers from my own country has opened the avenues of opportunity to work directly with them and seriously consider returning to Mexico in order to bring the experience of specialty coffee right to the same hands that produced it. Bringing that organoleptic pride to those who are unaware of treasures found on their land is one of my short/long-term plans for the future.

Follow Luis on Instagram via @baristachilango