A Renaissance Coffee Man
When Caleb Donhowe arrives at work each morning, the smell of coffee welcomes him. It’s a smell he’s loved for years, not just because of his love of coffee itself but also because of what a coffee shop represents to him—which is a respite from the grind of daily life, a place to just press pause and relax if only for a few minutes. Now, working as a barista at Denver’s Jubilee Roasting, Caleb tries to help every customer find this satisfaction in each cup, conversation, and interaction.
“For me, the smell of coffee just
conveys enjoyment, whether that's
the actual coffee itself or just
being in a setting that I really
enjoy,” he says. “Even working in
coffee I'm able to get that sense
of enjoyment just walking into the
Over the course of his three years at Jubilee, and six years in the industry, Caleb’s built deep relationships with people that started out as just that few minutes per day interaction. He enjoys these short moments and thinks that this kind of relationship building is unique to this particular area of the hospitality industry.
“You can really just pack in a ton of energy or a ton of effort just in that short period of time, and you can view it as a quick sprint,” he says. “There’s definitely a role you get to play as a barista, and I think it's a pretty fun one. I’ve slowly gotten better at it over time and have learned how to better read people and interact with people in that short five minute period.”
These interactions are part of a showmanship element of the coffee business that Caleb has grown to love, one that is exemplified in the craft of latte art, which he views as a finishing touch that can make someone’s day feel special. He’s always experimenting with everything from different techniques to different consistencies of steamed milk in order to improve his technique.
“As a barista, [latte art] is such a fun avenue of the job to continue to get better at and explore and try different things with, whether that's pouring with different pitchers or just trying to make different designs and get better at them,” he says. “Honestly, at the end of the day, it's just a fun little way to show off and try and make someone's experience just a little bit better.”
Whether it’s latte art or the other aspects of his life, Caleb is committed to learning, improving, and carving out his own unique approach. For instance, he builds furniture in the Japanese tradition, using only wood joinery and glue rather than using screws or nails. This interest stemmed from a previous construction job he had in the house flipping business. While he decided that flipping houses wasn’t his life’s work, it’s what introduced him to the tools and materials of woodworking. This interest in Japanese-style woodworking coincides with an interest in Japanese culture—he’s even taking classes to learn the Japanese language.
He’s also into cooking, and Jubilee’s desire to create a food menu led Caleb down the path of trying to create the perfect ramen. All the time he’s making and testing new batches of ramen, tweaking here and there in a never-ending quest for perfection. It’s the same all-in approach he brings to everything else in his life. He’s a renaissance man, and with that comes trial and error, risk and reward, and sometimes failure. A few years ago Caleb and some friends put together a business plan and set out to open their own coffee shop. The plan fell through, but through that failure Caleb learned valuable lessons and befriended a lot of people in the coffee industry.
His coffee shop dream might still become a reality,
but right now he’s applying to law schools, planning
his wedding, and preparing for a big trip to Japan
next year. He’s also doing innovative things with
coffee beans, like freezing them to extend their
shelf life and build out an extensive coffee menu
similar to a restaurant’s wine menu. Finally, he’s
going to work every day in an environment he loves,
trying to add some enjoyment to people’s daily lives,
and smelling those delicious
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