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Coffee College

A Vista school trains aspiring baristas and future café owners in the fine art of serving caffeine


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Ivy League Barista Academy

It’s not Harvard or Princeton—and in fact, it’s in Vista—but the Ivy League Barista Academy is graduating more than your average Starbucks worker. It’s one of a growing group of training programs in places like Portland and Seattle, where students are schooled in everything from business management to the intricacies of a vanilla latte.

On a day in late January, a group of 10 students gathers in the academy’s nondescript warehouse for the weeklong course. They are tucked in a back room—past a 45-kilo coffee roaster and a giant garage where coffee carts are made—that looks a bit like a Food Network kitchen, with a big counter up front covered with bowls of coffee beans. Around the edges of the kitchen are barista stations, complete with espresso grinders, milk frothers, and flavor pump bottles. A fake coffee drink menu hangs on the wall.

The first two days of school focus on business development and management, but by days three and four, the future baristas of America move on to macchiatos, cappuccinos, and more.


Nick Parreco, a dirt excavator from Maryland who is considering a career change, prepares to make a caramel latte for his classmate, Rosemarie Amzallag of Brooklyn, New York. Instructor Stephanie Garden stands at a front counter and gives instructions.

“Your noise sounds really good right there, nice and soft,” she says as Parreco foams the milk for his latte. “You don’t want a lot of bubbles.”

With blonde curly hair and tight jeans tucked into brown boots, Garden looks more like a San Diego coffee server than the tatted and black-clad baristas you’d find in Seattle or Portland. She and her husband, Tim Langdon, started Ivy League Barista Academy in 2008. They also make and sell coffee carts, design coffee shops, and roast their own coffee beans to sell, all under the umbrella company Coffee Shop Experts.

Experts indeed. The company was a natural next step for their business, which began with a local coffee shop chain Better Buzz, says marketing director Danielle Lipski. The couple couldn’t find quality coffee carts, so they built their own. They also couldn’t find quality coffee, so they made their own, roasting in small batches according to geographic region and flavor.

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