The baristas

Nicole Smith and Amber Ratcliff

Photo By Tom Gascoyne

When the search for two women dressed as the Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam while standing outside a temporary income tax service on Mangrove Avenue proved fruitless, I pulled into C&R Beans coffee kiosk at Mangrove and Tenth Avenue for caffeinated pick-me-up. There I met Nicole Smith, right, and Amber Ratcliff, both of whom expressed a desire to be in this 15 Minutes. I explained that if that were the case, I could only give them 71/2 minutes each. They said they understood.

Do you drink coffee?

Nicole: Yes I do.

What is the most complicated drink to make?

Probably a Cable Car Chiller. It’s half chocolate chiller and half vanilla chiller; has caramel in it; has whipped cream and caramel on top.

When is your peak business?

Week mornings, especially Friday mornings between 7 and 9 o’clock. We have one person on each window in here and we have a barista and we have a greeter who stands outside and greets the cars.

What kind of training do you need to become a barista?

You have to be working here for a certain amount of time and then there is a training where you have to practice your drinks and practice your time.

Do you get a certificate?

You get to wear a green apron like Amber has on. We’re the closing shift, and she is the advanced member.

Did you have any coffee experience before you worked here?

Amber: I did. I worked at a coffee shop down in Ridgecrest (just south of Bakersfield) for about three years.

What’s the key to brewing a good cup of coffee?

Well, if you have espresso, the key is the type of machine you are using, and you usually have to go to the higher-quality machines because it is all about pressure when you’re brewing espresso shots.

What is the hardest drink to make?

Probably cappuccino because to make a good cappuccino you have to make the foam, and it is all about the consistency of the foam. My best drink is cappuccinos. I’ve been in the business a long time, and I can get that foam going pretty good.

Do you have regulars that you know by name?

A lot of them we can identify by car or drink. So, you know, say the guy with the red truck. There are people who come here and get the same thing every single day, so we’ll see them in line and we’ll put it through and pour and already have their drink made for them.