We talk with the Houndstooth Coffee barista about discovering coffee, working during the pandemic, and much more.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of Phillip White-Jackson
Phillip White-Jackson was working at an insurance company in Dallas when he discovered that coffee could taste much more palatable than what was being served at his office. Fast-forward to now, and Phillip has been working for a year and a half as a barista at Houndstooth Coffee in Dallas, crafting beautiful coffee drinks and sharing them with Houndstooth’s customers. We talked to Phillip about adjusting coffee service during the pandemic, bikes, kitties, and more.
Chris Ryan: Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from? Where did you grow up, and what did you study / plan to pursue professionally before you got interested in coffee? How did you get started in the coffee world?
Phillip White-Jackson: I am from New Orleans; I moved to Dallas during high school due to Hurricane Katrina. I would say that I spent a large portion of my childhood in New Orleans and kind of stretched between NOLA and Dallas during high school.
Professionally, I didn’t really have anything that I was particularly focused on pursuing before coffee. Immediately before I got into coffee I was working at State Farm insurance company and also working as a part-time bike mechanic on the weekends.
I started learning how to make coffee of my own as a sort of home/office barista. The coffee in my building was not only gross but it cost around $4 a cup, which was ridiculous. I was already slightly interested in coffee, but knowing how bad the coffee was in that office forced me to do better for my mouth.
I slowly became more and more curious about the inner workings of coffee shops and how they made coffee differently from how I made it at home. Coffee shops have always historically been a sort of social equalizer—spaces where anybody can connect with anybody through one common thing, coffee. It’s the thing I like the most about coffee and coffee culture.
How long have you worked with Houndstooth Coffee? What are your roles and responsibilities there?
Including the quarantine/lockdown portion of the year, I have been at Houndstooth Coffee for nearly one and half years. I am a barista there, and my responsibilities are those of any typical barista role: make the coffee, “host” our guests … pre-pandemic, we hosted cuppings on Wednesdays.
Can you talk a bit about how Houndstooth has adapted to the pandemic?
During the pandemic, the location I was at closed for about three months or so. When we reopened at first we had a walk-up-window type of setup, but with temperatures peaking into the 100s on a regular basis, we opened up the shop, but in half. We have bifurcated the shop with some of our larger tables. On the tables we have a plexiglass “wall” with a small cutout for drinks separating the baristas from the customers. I personally feel very safe behind the wall. It does require a bit more effort to provide good customer service, but it’s worth it to keep staff and baristas safe.
Right now there are no immediate plans to open the shop up for seating indoors, but we are discussing moving our wall back a little bit in order to safely accommodate more guests during the colder seasons.
Finally, what do you enjoy doing outside the world of coffee?
Outside of coffee I enjoy racing road bicycles, cats, photography, and streetwear, in that order. On good weeks I spend about 12-15 hours on my bike training or just enjoying the weather.
A lot of time, my energy and money all goes into cycling. It’s definitely something that’s been around and helped me through a lot of the last eight or nine years. As for cats, I have two right now: Annabelle (8) and Bertholdt Hoover (1). They are both very sweet cats; Bertholdt is a little scaredy cat at times but still very sweet nonetheless. They are my babies; I wish I could bring them to work every day.