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July 24, 2017 On the record

Meet Coffee By Design's new director of training: Nathan Hann, a barista with a film studies degree

Photo / Jim Neuger Nathan Hann, director of training at Coffee By Design, says he can train people in coffee, but baristas first need skills in customer service and being good team members.

Nathan Hann, the new director of training for Portland-based Coffee By Design, can tell you all about coffee's fascinating taste nuances using the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and recently updated. He uses the colorful graphic, and a handful of espresso machines, to train aspiring baristas as well as wholesale customers on the art and craft of brewing.

Hann's coffee career began at Starbucks, where he worked as a barista for two years before going to Providence-based Blue State Coffee, where he oversaw buying and roasting as well as training and quality control. The 33-year-old Connecticut native with a film studies degree from Hofstra University started at Coffee By Design in August 2015; the company, which employs more than 60 people at five locations, expects revenues to top $7 million in 2017.

Mainebiz: How did you come to work in the coffee business?

Nathan Hann: I needed a job, so I started working at Starbucks. I happened to be working for a manager that actually cared about coffee and really wanted to train people on coffee rather than just push people out the door and get more customers in the building. He took me under his wing and I learned a lot. That sparked my journey in finding the rabbit hole that is coffee.

MB: What are your main training responsibilities at CBD?

NH: Making sure that everyone is on the same page and consistent. Right now nothing's been launched, we're revisiting our previous training program and developing a new program that will fit with the needs of the business. We just went through a rebranding and transition to B Corp status. It's part of our 2017 initiative to make sure we're always current, always moving forward.

MB: On the retail side, what's the first thing you teach people?

NH: It's still a work in progress, but right now we're doing the espresso fundamentals class. It's a three-hour class where they're introduced to the machine and overall cleanliness and upkeep. Then we migrate into espresso and milk texturing and then constructing of the drink. We do that for wholesale accounts as well. It's a long process that goes for weeks to make sure they're ready.

MB: What would you say is the most important skill for store employees?

NH: Someone who knows how to work as a team to provide good customer service. I can train people in coffee, I can make them the best barista they can possibly be, but they need to be able to first provide that good customer service and be a good team member. Everything else will come after.

MB: In your other role as the company's IT manager, what are your responsibilities?

NH: When I first got into the position it was basically taking a look at all of the current technology we're working with and making sure that everything is up to date. I helped us make the switch into the new point-of-sale system. We also recently moved into a new music platform that we're hoping is a better fit. We're going to try and create a schedule of music for each store, because each is different and we like to embrace that.

MB: What's the most significant change you've seen in the industry recently?

NH: We're super-focused on educating the customer on where the coffee comes from and the meticulous care and pride that goes into each step. Coffee is not like wine, it's not like beer, where one person does everything. It's many different hands, and when we as a barista or roaster get that coffee, we need to treat it with the same care.

MB: Have you ever thought about starting your own business?

NH: I can't say it's never crossed my mind. Right now I'm one of those people who's always just looking at the near future. There's so much to be done here that I'm very much enjoying my job, so not yet.

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