Barista Spotlight: Nate De la Cruz

By Emmy A. Yates

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Anodyne Coffee. Photo by Emmy Yates.

Anodyne Coffee is tucked away in the 5th ward/ Walkers Point area of Milwaukee. It rests on 224 Bruce St. outside the hustle of downtown. It’s hard to believe you’re entering a coffee shop when you walk indoors because of the beautiful aged oak flooring that reaches past the exposed brick walls onto the old wooden ceiling. This Anodyne location also acts as the roasting factory for the three coffee shops that rest in Milwaukee, so it has it’s own scent that’s rich with old wood and espresso beans: a perfect aroma for relaxing indoors.

The long wooden bar in this remodeled factory gives one the sensation of an old parlor or something out of a older film. Vintage radios adorn the dimly lit walls next to a broad concrete stage that usually has a standup piano tucked into its corner. The coffee shop also acts as a live music venue on selected weekends for those of you who want to watch some blue grass bands and make your coffee Irish.

The only obstacle? Picking which of their large cedar tables to set up base, whether that be for studying, meetings, being a loner or socializing on a date.

Latte Art of the Week: Tulip

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The Tulip. Photo by Emmy Yates.

Barista Buzz

Meet Nate De la Cruz. Not just your typical barista, but an artist who’s finished masterpiece is but a mere a fading image inside a ceramic mug. Latte art is a form of caffeinated poetry that is more in demand now than ever before.Captivating for only a few minutes, but ultimately the most satisfying art because it’s something uniquely created for one sole person with a caffeine craving.

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Nate De la Cruz. Photo by Emmy Yates.

What is your idea of a perfect afternoon/ does it involve coffee?

For me, the idea of a perfect afternoon involves being out in nature in the quiet middle of nowhere with a thermos full of tasty coffee and a snack in my backpack, walking around taking pictures.

What is your go-to morning beverage?

Water then espresso.

What is your go-to evening beverage?

Water and sometimes tea.

What does being a latte artist mean to you?

I don’t consider myself a latte artist. I mean, I do latte art the same as 90 percent of baristas in specialty coffee, but I look at it like plating: it makes the beverage more appealing.

How long have you been a barista?

3 years? Ish.

How did you learn to master the art of it?

Of being a barista? Geeze you never master it, it’s a constant learning curve. I’ve been trained by some of the best baristas in the nation and they in turn are still learning. Coffee is so in depth that it can be studied for years and not totally mastered.

What is your favorite latte art to create?

I like pouring hearts, they’re simple and fun and can be flirty.

How do you see your art developing?

I have no idea, maybe being more symmetrical?

What is your current state of mind?

Oh man. Well, I try to stay optimistic on most things, but I’m always looking to improve myself .

Who is your favorite writer?

It changes a lot, but lately I’ve been digging Sir Rudyard Kipling. I like how The Jungle Books and his other works dive into the British colonialism and oppression of India.

What is currently your favorite album?

Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska if I’m driving, or Chet Baker’s Chet Baker Sings if I’m sitting at home.

You’re familiar with barista competitions. During these events, how do you respond to your competitors? Is it usually high tension?

I love every one of my competitors. When I tell them I hope they nail it, I genuinely mean it. I get so psyched and inspired seeing motivated people do what they’re passionate about. If there’s tension I don’t feel it, everyone is pretty much in great spirits.

How long have you worked at Anodyne Coffee?

Just over a year.

Why did you choose to work here and how is it different than other coffee you’ve worked at?

I liked the quality of coffee they were buying and roasting and I knew they were expanding and I really respected them and their vision and I wanted to be a part of that. Every coffee shop is different, I just felt Anodyne’s down to earth blue collar feel fit me more.

What is a quality you most like in a customer?

Just friendly and talkative and acknowledges when a barista says hello or asks how their day is.

What is a quality you most dislike in a customer?

Dismissive people who don’t have the common decency to say hello or acknowledge a hello.

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

I think life may be. It sounds like a lame answer, but I love life. I love this world and all its crazy and terrible and beautiful things. I get upset that there’s so much stuff I probably won’t get to enjoy before I die.

What do you value most about the coffee business?

It’s one of the great equalizers in the world, almost every country drinks coffee and it’s a way to communicate.

What do you dislike most about the coffee business?

The same as any kind of business there are bad days when i don’t want to be at work or everyone annoys me but that passes pretty easily. The misconceptions tend to get annoying too IE bolder or darker coffee is better or dark roasts have more caffeine or that putting coffee in the freezer keeps it fresh (all false)

What is one tip you would pass down to an aspiring latte artist?

Practice, practice, and most of all, have fun.

If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one beverage (coffee related or not) what would it be?

Entwash from Lord of the Rings!

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Nate De la Cruz crafting a Tulip. Photo by Emmy Yates.
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De la Cruz puts on the finishing touches. Photo by Emmy Yates.

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