Meet Route 1’s Favorite Barista

Photo courtesy of Diane Contreras.

Diane Contreras would have moved back to California if it weren’t for Vigilante Coffee.

A few years ago she moved to the D.C. area from Los Angeles and got a job teaching in Brookland. Her brother introduced her to Vigilante, but she rarely could stop by except on snow days when she didn’t have to teach.

During the summer she left teaching and planned to move back home, but on a whim she applied for a weekend job at her favorite coffee shop. Since then, she’s moved up the ranks and is now director of training, handling all the coffee-related education for internal staff and wholesale accounts in the D.C. Metro area.

This summer, she was voted “Best Barista” in the first ever Hyattsville Wire Best of Route 1 readers poll.

We caught up with her recently for a Q&A:

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Orange County and Los Angeles in California.

What brought you to the area?

My brother moved to Hyattsville for a job and when my family came to visit him and his family I realized I wanted to live here.  It reminded me of a few small towns outside of Los Angeles such as Culver City.  I was attracted to things like the small town community feel in Hyattsville, its location just outside of D.C., and its growing culture of art, music, community and specialty focuses like coffee and beer.

How did you start working at Vigilante?

My brother was a huge fan of Vigilante Coffee as soon as they opened.  In fact the Roastery opened on July 24th and I arrived July 25th.  That first week we walked in and I wasn’t sure what to make of it because there wasn’t a lot of furniture, but it reminded me of how little underground spots in Seattle got started.  Later in the year, I had the chance to go on a snow day.  I was a teacher in Brookland and didn’t realize you didn’t have to go to work when it snowed.

That year we had nine snow days and I went to the shop on each one of those days that I had off.  They closed at four at the time so I was never able to make it after work.  Finally the last snow day came and I was sad that I wouldn’t be able to come to the shop anymore.  My weekends were packed with family, East Coast excursions and prepping for my classroom.  So I wrote a card to the staff at Vigilante thanking them for the atmosphere and authentic hospitality.

I was on the verge of moving back to California that summer when at the last second I decided to apply to work as a barista on the weekends, and the rest is history. I left teaching that summer and went full time with Vigilante Coffee as the wholesale representative and cafe manager in training at the time.  Now I am the director of training and conduct all training as well as coffee education for our internal staff and wholesale accounts in the DMV area.

How long have you been working at Vigilante? 

I have been working here for two-and-a-half years, going on three this April.

What’s been your most inspiring trip on the job?

When we went to Colombia and stayed on one of the farms we work closely with, Finca El Ocaso.  We had the chance to pick coffee cherries with the farmers, hike up a the most beautiful forest full of palm trees called Cocoro, and eat with the family of farmers everyday.  The food reminded me of my own grandmother’s food and the family that runs the farm was so loving and kind to us.

And of course we bonded as a crew and came back with so many ideas for the future of the company. Just recently the son of the owner of the farm came to stay with Chris and Ashley at their house for a week. It was kind of like having a study abroad coffee student and felt so good to connect again with the farm in that way.

What’s your favorite coffee? 

My favorite coffee right now is about to be released. I remember it when we were cupping it prior to being officially launched. And it has a beautiful name, named after the woman who owns the farm: Gloria Carazosa. This particular coffee is extremely silky and delicate.  It immediately tastes like strawberries and lingers in that juicy way that a strawberry makes your mouth salivate. It’s from Mexico.

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