A trip to Honduras with the College of Charleston Microfinance Club inspired a unique career path for Brianna Berry ’11. From the experience studying abroad, Berry cultivated a deep interest in all things coffee — a major export of the Central American country.
“At first, like most youngsters, I didn’t understand why people imbibed the bitter beverage,” says the business administration major. “In my teenage years, it intrigued me and I wanted to own a café after pursuing other things in life … like it was the ‘dessert’ to my career.”
After working with coffee farmers in Honduras, though, she came to respect the product more than ever.
In 2011, Berry trained for barista basics with Starbucks. After that, she moved on to a position within the Intelligentsia coffee café at the Grand Bohemian hotel in downtown Charleston, and then she scored her current position as coffee director at the new Westside eatery Harold’s Cabin.
Caffeine fans have already discovered Berry’s sumptious ice coffee with a hint of smoke and spice and “The Jackalope” made with espresso, ginger beer, basil, honey, and orange peel. This barista puts as much thought into your cup of joe as the kitchen at Harold’s Cabin puts into the food.
“I think a lot of people unintentionally undervalue the hard work that goes into one single cup of coffee — and I’m talking from seed to cup and all the hands that it required,” says Berry. “Quality coffee is something that we should probably pay a lot more for, even though we all want it at a very low price.”
With new cafes opening almost weekly in Charleston, the competition for the best coffee in town is stiff. The menu at Harold’s Cabin stands out because of Berry’s ability to think beyond the normal lattes and drip pours. Her creativity and thoughtfulness are part of why she was named a “30 Under 30, Rock Stars Redefining the Industry” by culinary publication Zagat. She’s one of only two coffee professionals listed among the chefs, bartenders, bakers, brewers and farmers.
Asked how her time at CofC helped prepare her for this career path, Berry says, “My studies prepared me for managerial roles and for several projects dealing in and also outside of coffee. I know that coursework has played a vital role in my foundations. I still reference some of my old textbooks from time to time. Not to mention that experience with the Microfinance Club building interest in coffee and providing me with the best cup of my life.”