Selina Viguera on Blue Bottle Studio, Being a Barista, and More

We continue our conversation from the ‘One on One’ feature in Barista Magazine’s current issue with veteran coffee pro Selina Viguera, café leader at Blue Bottle Coffee’s Abbot Kinney location in Los Angeles.


Photos courtesy of Selina Viguera

In the current issue of Barista Magazine, we sit down with Selina Viguera, café leader at Blue Bottle Coffee’s Abbot Kinney café in Los Angeles. Selina is an impressive coffee professional, with a leadership style in the café dedicated to lifting up her co-workers, and a long resume of volunteer experiences that includes almost a decade running the Barista Guild’s annual pop-up coffee shop at the Specialty Coffee Expo.

Check out the current interview with Selina, then enjoy a bit more from our interview that we didn’t have space for in the print article, including Selina’s recent experience with Blue Bottle Studio, her thoughts on the barista profession, and more.

Barista Magazine: Can you talk a bit about why you love being a barista? 

Selina Viguera: I have a lot of pride and find a lot of joy in working on bar; I think what keeps me in the café space is knowing the responsibility we have to continue to connect people with coffee, and coaching/role modeling that with my team. Throughout my career I’ve met a lot of coffee producers, and they often stress how important the barista’s role is in the industry. Even though the barista role is very much seen as an entry-level job, it’s a lot more than giving change and making drinks. I think that part of my subconscious mission is to get people to enjoy being a barista, take pride in their craft, share the joy of connecting with guests through hospitality, and connect people with specialty-coffee experiences. 

Selina, shown here working at Blue Bottle Coffee’s Ferry Building location in San Francisco, takes immense pride in representing coffee as a barista.

As a café leader, the main focus of my role is on people/development, and I find a lot of purpose in what I do—I make an impact on everyone around me, every day. I have this community that I have been building for the past nine and a half years at Abbot Kinney, and everyday I come in to work, my team and guests are always excited to see me, and it’s such a lovely way to start my day. There’s a lot of variety in my day-to-day: a couple hours on bar, taking care of business, one-on-ones, education, or post-shift meetings. This isn’t an office job where I dread coming in to work, sitting alone in a stall, typing away on a keyboard, and not interacting with anybody. I am the best version of myself when I am at work. <3

In the fall of 2023, Blue Bottle launched Blue Bottle Studio, an omakase-style coffee tasting from founder James Freeman to creatively showcase coffees. Can you talk about your involvement in that experience?

I was picked to be the café leader for Blue Bottle Studio LA, and what was special about the Studio experience for me was being tasked with bringing James’ idea of a “pinnacle Blue Bottle experience“ to life—which was both an honor but also a terrifying responsibility :). We auditioned internal team members and selected six baristas for Studio, half of whom I was meeting for the first time. We had a week of training and a second week for mock service. Studio was designed to be the exact opposite of a café experience, where people are in and out. We did three seatings of eight per day, and 60-90 minutes to share coffees in a special way, connecting guests to an experience rather than just a variety of coffee preparations. 

Selina with Blue Bottle Coffee founder, James Freeman, during Blue Bottle Studio, which Selina helped run.

With the goal of ”finding the simple truth behind coffee, water, and filtration,” James and Ben (Ben Brewer, our head of innovation) put together a drink menu following this concept. For the first course we served three teas made from the parts of the coffee plant that typically get discarded—two teas made from the coffee leaf and the coffee flower, and a special coffee cherry ferment we did with a proprietary natural coffee yeast (from Nestle). The second course was a soluble coffee from Yemen, where we were able to highlight the sentiment that just because something is “instant“ doesn’t mean it can’t be “specialty.“ The third course was a coffee flight that told a story: a coffee from Yemen, the oldest coffee-growing region, and a coffee from California, one of the newest; we also had a special coffee from Panama—known for popularizing the Gesha variety—that was processed in a unique way (a proprietary processing method called “interstellar”). It was really fun to talk about the story behind the selection of these three coffees, while serving them in a unique, almost meditative way. For the Short Cup and Au Lait courses, we brewed a highly concentrated coffee using a Nel Drip, traditionally seen in kissaten culture in Japan and typically with darker-roasted coffees; at Studio we wanted to highlight a small lot, lighter roasted Colombia Wush Wush—intense, but fascinating!

You grew up partially in the Philippines and have spoken about how meaningful it is to you that Blue Bottle now offers coffee from the country. There are also more Asian flavors showing up in the U.S. food and coffee scenes; what do you think of that trend, and do you observe it in L.A.?

It’s been fun to see the creative ways people have been fusing coffee flavors together with these ingredients to make really fun, interesting beverages. I’m not a big cold-brew drinker, but Kindness & Mischief a couple years ago made a cold brew with pandan whipped cream, and I was so obsessed with it. That was the first time I probably ever drank a whole cold brew all the way down to the last drop, and it was because of how delicious the pandan was in the whipped cream! There’s a nostalgia that comes with seeing these flavors become more popularized—coconut, ube, pandan, etc. Personally, I enjoy drinking pure coffee—pourovers are my beverage of choice—because my enjoyment of coffee has to do with the exploration of all the different flavors coffee has to offer. With that said, coffee is such a personal experience and is enjoyed by many in so many different ways, so it’s great that these flavors are becoming more mainstream and can make coffee more approachable to everyone. 

Selina behind the bar managing the Barista Guild’s pop-up café—a role she has occupied for nearly 10 years.

Finally, so much of your identity is centered around leadership in coffee, but what do you like to do outside of work?

To be honest, since the pandemic I’ve been very work- and home-focused, and have been trying to break out of that cycle. I love basketball and I love tennis, and so even though I’m trying to come up with a workout routine and focus on my health, I’m really recognizing that the best way for me to do it is to go out and play. The older I’m getting, the more I’m recognizing the need to unplug and enjoy quiet time, or listen to podcasts and focus on self-improvement. 

I’m also trying to be better about spending time with my 11-year-old mini schnauzer, Rocky. I’d like to get my passport renewed so I can start traveling again—I love Japan!—and miss my mom and the Philippines. So currently my state of mind is just really trying to appreciate life.

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About Chris Ryan 259 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.