A glimpse of a Wandering Goat barista

BY KALIE WILBURN

Kai Walling pours a latte to the soulful melodies of Johnny Cash playing in the shadowy Wandering Goat Coffee Company, located at 268 Madison Street in the Whiteaker neighborhood of Eugene. 

Sunlight pours through the blinds hung above the windows and leaves stripes of light and darkness on the floor. A window is open, and the rush of a nearby train fills the coffeehouse. A moment later the train is gone, and Wandering Goat is left to its usual quiet ambiance. The bike racks outside the shop are full and customers start locking their bikes to nearby poles and signposts. Inside the shop are countless Macbooks aglow with paper-writing and other homework-related tasks. One customer has set up a craft workspace at his table, while another leans against the wall and reads a book. 

“Twelve ounce soy mocha,” calls out Walling.

Walling, 31, recently moved out of the Whiteaker, where he previously lived for some time. Now he resides outside of the quirky neighborhood in a starkly different area of Eugene on River Road. While happy with his new

He makes the rounds throughout the shop, picking up tubs of dirty dishes and wiping down any table that empties, before it fills up again. He has been a Wandering Goat employee since January 2009 and though he does everything, he says making drinks is his favorite part of the job. As Walling makes his way back to the counter, he stops to interact and talk with some of his customers. 

Back at the counter, Walling hands a customer her latte as the foamy rosetta and golden orange crema spill over the edge of the mug. His brown, disheveled hair and sparse facial hair match the appearance of many of the Wandering Goat’s customers.

“Twelve ounce caramel soy latte? For here?” Walling asks.

“Yes please,” answers the customer.

“Just $3.75 then,” says Walling. 

Between the funky beats of the coffee shop’s jazzy music and the deep howl of the espresso machine’s steam wand, Walling simultaneously takes new drink orders from customers and calls out finished drinks. 

 “Lattes are probably my favorite drink to make,” Walling says when he finds a lull in between a steady flow of customers. His favorite drink to drink, however, is the cold-water extract coffee that has recently been gaining popularity. 

When asked if there was any where else he would consider buying coffee in Eugene, Walling was stumped.

“Man, I never really buy coffee anywhere else,” says Walling. “I’m always here.”

“We can’t afford to either!” says a co-worker to laughter from the other employees.

 

 

 

 

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