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Drink Up: Uncovering the life of a barista with the Café Cà Phê team

Café Cà Phê is Kansas City’s first Vietnamese-owned coffee shop — and it has two brick and mortar locations. The shop team has grown in the last two years, so we decided to sit down with three baristas and chat about life behind the counter, their favorite drinks, and their side hustles.

Cafe Caphe Drink KCtoday

Handcrafted with love by a Café Cà Phê barista.

Photo by KCtoday

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One could recognize an iconic Café Cà Phê latte anywhere — but what about the people who make them? We sat down with three of the Vietnamese-owned shop’s baristas to chat about life behind the counter, their favorite drinks, and their side hustles + passion projects. Cheers.

Enter: Kaitlin Opermeyer, Ashley Ellerman, and Erika Sakata.

Tell us about your barista journey

“I have always been a coffee drinker. My first job was a barista so I’ve always loved it. I moved to Kansas City a few years ago and met them because I’m an illustrator and have been doing pop-ups around town. I was popping up with Café Cà Phê all summer last year before the brick-and-mortar, which is how I met Jackie (owner) and everyone who works here. I came on opening day and saw how busy it was and asked ‘Do you need another barista?’ I started that day,” Kaitlyn told us.

“I have been a barista for about five years now, but I started working at Café Cà Phê on Halloween last year. I kind of bounced around different coffee shops throughout the city. For a while I was doing pop-ups with Jackie and selling prints, and then became a regular after the brick-and-mortar opened up. I was looking for something new, so I started reaching out about barista openings. The stars aligned and I have been here ever since,” Ashley shared.

“I started my journey in coffee as a barista about four years ago. I always loved coffee and it is an essential part of my day. I thought it would be cool to be able to create it and make my own drinks. The coffee industry is full of cool people and creatives. It’s a good community to be a part of. I haven’t left the industry because of that,” Erika said.

What is your view of the relationship between Kansas City and Café Cà Phê?

“I think that, as far as the impact of the shop itself goes, I think it is heavily impactful — especially for minority communities. I think it provides a safe space for everyone. Working here is really freeing [...] you can have any color hair you want and wear what you want. " Ashley said.

“I feel like the Asian community didn’t have a hub in the Kansas City area in a long time, especially when I was in high school and middle school here. I feel like Café Cà Phê has created something for the Asian community here that didn’t exist before. It’s a welcoming ground for everyone to feel safe in their alternative life, whatever that is,” Erika shared.

“Everybody in Kansas City is so welcoming, and so ready to do whatever they can to help you. Working here has just impacted me in so many ways that you then see with the rest of our team and the customers. It has helped me find so much about my own culture, which has been huge,” Kaitlyn said.

What’s your favorite drink to make? What about your favorite to sip?

“My favorite drink is a Saigon, I am actually drinking it right now. My favorite drink to make is probably the Paris By Night. I really like doing latte art and it has chocolate syrup in it, as well as espresso, so it’s a bit more fun,” Ashley said.

“I drink a Pumpkin Saigon, three pumps of pumpkin. Usually hot with half oat milk and half Saigon because I like it a little bit less intense,” Kaitlyn shared.

“I like drinks with a lot of colors. The Asian Pear Tree is very cool looking. It has lemonade, pear syrup, apple syrup, we put mixed berry tea on top — it’s a cool color combo, very summery. I make a latte every day here that is just oat milk, salted egg yolk syrup, condensed milk, and a shot of espresso,” Erika said.

Share your side hustle, small biz, or passion project

“Café Cà Phê is awesome because Jackie is really supportive of all our side hustles. I’m an artist so I do a lot of pop-ups. I sell illustrations, stickers, custom lighters, screen print shirts. Working here I have still been able to do pop-ups every weekend and curate my craft,” Erika said.

“As of right now, I am a couple months into a tattoo apprenticeship at Surreal Tattoo Studio on 39th. It’s been a pretty quick process and I’m now accepting clients,” Ashley said.

“My business is called The Mad Menagerie. I started out mostly illustrating animals, but now I just illustrate whatever I want. I do a lot of commissions which is fun, a lot of painting commissions as well,” Kaitlyn said.

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