Coffee Expert Kayla Gagne '12 Talks Trends, Flavors and Brews With Students

Kayla Gagne fills students in on the coffee industry's latest trends.

Coffee — one of the most outwardly beloved beverages of all time. People love it, people desire it, some people need it. Then, there are some people who make careers out of it. Kayla Gagne ’12, a Johnson & Wales alum, works as a customer service representative, barista, trainer, and in quality control at the coffee powerhouse Downeast Coffee Roasters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Gagne was kind enough to return to her old stomping ground and give a presentation on coffee to Associate Professor Brian Van Gyzen’s Beverage Appreciation class. She shared her expertise with the students and outlined the different kinds of beans, roasting procedures, brewing methods and characteristics of coffees. Gagne also mentioned that climate change and weather can affect coffee bean crops. She discussed how coffee is grown and produced in different countries, and that Brazil, Kenya, Guatemala and Kona, Hawaii, are headliners when it comes to producing coffee. “African coffee is absolutely my favorite,” says Gagne.

Coffee tasting.

The hot topics in the coffee industry are the new and constantly growing trends — what’s the latest thing on the market and what are coffee lovers hungry for. Micro-lots are one of those up–and–coming trends, thanks to their exclusive nature. A micro–lot is a one–of–a–kind bean that comes from one crop, and one crop only. Micro–lot beans are known to have incredible flavor profiles that are never the same twice. They depend on a number of factors, including where the beans are grown, how hot or cold the climate was and how much rain the crop received. This randomized system creates the exciting concept that micro-lot coffee is one of a kind and can draw a high price tag.

Other rising trends are cold brew and nitro pours. These dark beauties give drinkers 35 percent more caffeine than a typical cup of coffee. Each brew extracts all the flavor of the coffee, but minimizes its acidity, giving it a smooth, flavorful pour. With nitro pour, the coffee is expertly infused with nitrogen to create an even smoother sensation, and coffee lovers just can’t get enough.

Kayla Gagne during lecture.

Gagne mentioned some of the struggles the coffee business faces today, and says the industry is forced to stay up–to–date and modern at all times. It’s important to focus on specialty coffees to stay in the running with the competition, she says, and demand is high right now for coffee to be bottled and sold in stores — so the different brands are always jumping on this trend train. The hope is that with so many students taking an interest in the industry, new talent will be drawn into the market and continue to make the industry innovative.

After Gagne’s presentation, Van Gyzen and Gagne brewed some coffee for students to sample and report on. Each student sipped the black coffee and described its appearance, smell, taste, mouthfeel and flavor. One by one, the students talked about their take on the pressed coffee. “Everyone’s experience is different” Van Gyzen stated. “We all have different taste buds, so there are no wrong answers.”