Bean There, Done That

A barista tells her story about her journey to Eugene, Oregon

By Rachel Davidson

The smell of freshly ground coffee fills the room. Four people wait in line, a cash register ‘clinks’ close, a machine whistles, and lined glass bottles filled with different syrups sit on a counter top. Behind an iridescent glass case filled with fresh bagels and pastries Starr Amrit greets early morning coffee-deprived customers with a huge smile.

Amrit is a barista at Perk Espresso and Coffee, a funky hole in the wall coffee shop in downtown Eugene. Amrit’s  low-pitched laugh echoes off the red painted brick and mismatched scattered patio furniture outside rumbling down Willamette Street towards the heart of downtown Eugene. Sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and a vintage hipster-clothing store, Perk’s large Didot font bubble letters spell out the word ‘espresso’, a contrast to the fire engine red exterior. The enormous oak trees on the sidewalk shade Perk, covering guests from the early morning heat rays.

Inside, there are a wide variety of customers. A white haired man with round rimmed glasses sits in the corner reading the Eugene Weekly, a young couple bounces a giggling baby girl on their laps, while a guide dog with purple glitter painted toenails licks crumbs off the ground.

IMAG0461

The mocha is a customer favorite, using intense dark chocolate.

Amrit mingles with customers talking with them about the Dalai Lama’s visit while managing multiple, complex orders for a mocha with no whip cream, an iced coffee, and a toasted poppy seed bagel. As she grinds espresso beans and steadily whisks warmed milk into a paper to-go cup, Amrit laughs about how her worst coffee nightmare was during her first week when she was scooping espresso beans and accidentally spilled the whole twenty pound bag on to the floor.

Amrit’s curly brown hair is constrained by a lavender hair clip in a messy bun at the back of her head with some bangs framing her angular face. Somewhat alternative, Amrit’s style lends perfectly with the hipster coffee scene at Perk. She wears a dark blue jeans, a pink and white  collared shirt rolled up to her elbows, with a black half apron tied around her waist.

“There are truly good people in the Eugene community,” Amrit says. Amrit moved from Madison, Wisconsin to Eugene three years ago because of her husband’s then-new job at University of Oregon. Amrit says that she loves Eugene and doesn’t see herself living anywhere else; she loves the weather as well as the community and thinks it is perfect area for her two children to grow up in.

After graduating from Scripps College, Amrit received a special yearlong fellowship to learn about midwifing and birth practices in southern India. Amrit says that while in India she became more aware and found peace with herself and her surroundings. After that, Amrit knew that she wanted to experience more cultures as well as visit other countries. Amrit said, “It’s great learning about different cultures and what other people are like.” After her year in India, Amrit came back with a whole new perspective on life.She reflects how traveling is an essential for everyone and says, “It is worth it.”

Several years after she came back to the states, Starr Amrit has found a home at Perk Espresso and Coffee. Aaron Chester, the young, laid-back owner of Perk playfully jokes with Amrit during her shift; whether a quick wink, smile, or sarcastic punch line. Customers have long conversations with her about Eugene life in between double-shot espresso orders. Amrit asks customers about their day or the weather, and she even remembers one customer’s dog’s name.

Amrit is unsure about what she’ll want to do in future. “I have always been the kind of person who wants to move somewhere else,” she says, “but since I have been here, I have been really happy to just be here. I have no plans of moving just yet.”

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