On the Road: Travels of a Barista Dirt Bag, Part I – Barista Parlor

Day 1: 10/6/ 2013

On the Road

Editor’s note: Travels of a Barista Dirt Bag is an ongoing series of dispatches from barista/ guest blogger Zach Hester. The search for a delicious cup of coffee is taking Zach from his native Kentucky bluegrass, down the Mississippi Delta, across the Southwest to the shining Pacific Ocean. Tune in each day for a fresh update.

On The Road

We took off a day and several hours past what we had originally planned. By “we,” I mean myself and long time friend and vagabond, Ian Herrick, who has just made his way back stateside from a long stay over in Costa Rica as a hired hand on a sustainable farm. His latest addendum to his diverse CV: planting a banana orchard. It’s no wonder we’ve left Louisville with something to be desired in the department of punctuality, although I am mainly to blame for this. It’s October 6th and sometime around three in the afternoon. We’re driving south on 65 and still some miles north of Nashville. Tropical Storm Karen’s rains are very much present in the atmosphere. Everything has cooled over the last 24 hours and our field of view comes in and out with the rhythms of windshield wipers. We’re listening to the Beta Band, loudly. 

Two things await me here in Nashville: First, a close and dear friend, Mr. William Nathan Burns Kremer, who has been in and out of the country sporadically over the last year on tour with his band, The Delta Saints. Check them out people, they sound like gravel and voodoo.

Barista Parlor

The second thing, and more apt to the story, the shop we all know and revere: the one with beautiful vintage motorcycles, clean Not Neutrals, and one of them fancy three group head Slayers to sling espresso from, Barista Parlor. It’s gloomy out and it could just as easily be dusk at this point, though I know it’s well earlier than that. I’m not totally sure on the time, but the sky’s telling me it’s nearing that point in a Sunday where naps tend to happen. We’re in need of good caffeine.

barista parlor slayer
For as long as I’ve been in coffee and as often as I’ve heard about this particular destination for the weary, caffeine deprived pilgrim, I’ve never made the journey. Which is unfortunate, for the moment I walked in, I was smitten. I should preface my experience with Barista Parlor with this disclaimer: I have an affinity for all coffee shops. I’m well underway in working for my third coffee shop, of three different cities, and on the weekends I am often found at the Louisville Fair and Expo center, dialing in and pulling shots for the Louisville Coffee Company and whatever conventions happen to be in town on that particular day. Suffice it to say, if you deal coffee, no matter what the quality or end goal, I have a reverence for you and your craft and what you do on a daily basis as a barista.

barista parlor espresso not neutral

Adhering to the Craft

Some shops shoot for the quirk, some for precision, others for décor, some for customers and some, those rare ones, for adhering to the highest form of our craft. Barista Parlor seems to hit all of these targets dead on the mark. When I walked in weary, tired, and damp, I was greeted by Ryan Adam’s “29,” a full bar of single origin chocolates, and a framed menu with an assortment of who’s who coffee roasters. Ian wasn’t quite sure of what he was walking into while in the parking lot, but he quickly understood once through the doors.  “Those aprons are phenomenal.” Yes, they are.

After ordering a cup of the Ethiopia Biloya from Counter Culture (and quickly devouring the cup of delicious fruits), I was warmly greeted by Mr. Lee Sill, formerly of Louisville’s own Prima. It seems us Kentucky baristas are all over, carrying on the torch wherever we go. As expected from a fellow barista from the bluegrass, he was most kind and even more down to earth. I have friend and fellow barista Alex Meece to thank for the introduction (of 9 Bar Coffee Consulting out of Denver).

Moving On

After a short talk, a couple good stretches, and a disgruntled message from that musician we were supposed to be picking up, we were off. I wasn’t able to spend much time there, but that’s okay. I left there fully satisfied, on several fronts. In that half hour I had managed to dry off, sing along with Ryan Adams a bit, and happily observe the seamless bar flow—which would make sense, as I soon realized Mr. Sill’s partner in crime that day was none other than Emily Sill, his wife and former manager of the New Albany Quills.

Barista Parlor coffee shop view
Soon we walked out in the drab weather again, both Ian and myself grinning from the experience. We had stayed a bit longer than we had intended, I had promised him we could get it to go, but I think he understood once we had walked into Barista Parlor, that it was a place to sit with for a while. Back in the car and fully zooted, I realized, the crux of this trip won’t be the getting; it’ll prove to be the going. I told myself going in it’s the moments between places and the places between destinations that I need to be mindful of. Barista Parlor, the beautiful pour over I was able to imbibe from them, and the atmosphere helped me realize this.

Next stop, New Orleans… but first, we gotta grab one more dirt bag for the road.

  • To continue hearing about Zach’s amazing experience touring the United States through the lens of our favorite beverage and more, sign up for our email address below or follow along with Zach as we listen to the Barista Dirtbag Saga.
  • For more information on Barista Parlor, and our original review, please visit here: Barista Parlor: Anchoring Nashville’s Coffee Scene

Photography by the Creative Commons License and Brian Moats Photography.

About Zach Hester

Zach Hester and his beautiful family

Currently on the road. When not on the road, Zach finds places to brew coffee and enjoy long talks. When not brewing coffee or enjoying long talks, you might find Zach doing just about anything… His compass may be taking him many places but his needle will always tend towards his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

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