Today at Berkeley Lab

Berkeley Lab Baristas Help Fuel Science

Brittney Harris (left) and Marie Daugherty. (Credit: Marilyn Chung/Berkeley Lab)

By Keri Troutman

It’s a family affair at the Lab’s coffee shop. With their warm personalities and cheerful delivery of caffeine to hundreds on the Hill every day, the two friendly baristas – who happen to be sisters-in-law – have built friendships that go beyond the coffee counter.

“I love my job, but it’s really the customers who motivate me to come in every day,” says Brittney Harris. “It’s such an interactive job, and being involved with customers all day long builds friendships – I get invited out to eat with my customers, to barbecues at their homes, to their children’s birthday parties.”

Harris’s brother is married to her fellow barista, Marie Daugherty. The two have been working side-by-side for years, starting at Taste of Mediterranean near campus. After it closed a few years ago, Daugherty landed a job at the Lab cafeteria and then recruited Harris to come up the Hill as well. They both started off “behind the scenes” working in the cafeteria kitchen, but expressed an interest in learning to “barista” at the coffee counter. Since making the switch, they both agree there’s no going back. They both work at the coffee shop and also cater for Lab events and meetings.

“Before I started working here I didn’t know much about all the different blends of coffee; now I’m pretty well-versed,” says Harris. “I didn’t even drink coffee before I started here, but now I’m particular about how my coffee drinks are prepared!”

Harris and Daugherty learned the tools of the trade from their predecessors and from the Peet’s Coffee representative who comes to call every few months. “I really like that we’re serving coffee from a Berkeley-based coffee company,” says Harris. “Plus, it’s the best coffee around, in my opinion.”

Outside of work, Daugherty lives the busy life of a mother of two. So she says she especially enjoys the pace of working in the coffee shop. “I get a chance to talk with customers a lot more than when I was working in the kitchen,” she says. “I can have a conversation with someone while I make their drinks.”

“It’s gotten to the point where I think I know about 90 percent of my customers’ orders as they walk in,” she adds. Harris says that she can sometimes tell what kind of day her customers are having by their drink orders. “Those extra shots of espresso can really help some people make it through the day,” she says.

It’s this reliance on coffee drinks from the shop that makes it pretty nerve-wracking for the baristas when the espresso machine breaks down, which does happen from time to time. “It’s like ripping their souls out as each customer comes up and hears that there’s no espresso,” says Harris jokingly. “When we call Peet’s to get a repair person up here, we make sure to tell them we need someone within hours, not days!”

Both women say they’ve learned more than they ever expected about scientific topics since starting at the coffee shop. The cafeteria frequently hosts meetings and presentations, so it’s been a nice added benefit. Daugherty says even her 7-year-old daughter has benefited; she’s come to the Lab with her mom multiple times over the years and now says she wants to be a scientist when she grows up.

As for Daugherty, she says she’s enjoyed working at the coffee shop so much that she’s thinking about opening her own café one day. First she’ll save some money and finish up her degree; she plans to go back to school this fall and wants to study psychology. “I’ve always been really interested in psychology,” Daugherty says. “Maybe that’s why I so enjoy all my coffee counter conversations!”

Outside of work, Harris loves to travel, camp, and hike in nature especially. She also spends a lot of time with her nieces and Daugherty outside of work. “She’s such a great auntie,” Daugherty says. “She spoils my girls rotten.”

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  1. You two rock and picking up my morning coffee is one of the highlights of my day!

  2. Great article about two wonderful women. As a former barista myself, I request that all of us make sure we tip well when we get our coffee 😉

  3. Jennifer Dylan says:

    These women are amazing! Happy to have them around!

  4. Lena T. says:

    Marie and Brittney are amazing! <3

  5. Kristen says:

    Wonderful ladies and very friendly! Amazing customer service!! Go girls!

  6. Betsy MacGowan says:

    Love the cafeteria in general and Brittany in particular! She is often at the register with a smile. Great article.

  7. Allison H. says:

    Wonderful article! Both of these ladies are so sweet, they really make your day! Thank you Marie and Brittney for all of your hard work!

  8. Gaby Fuentes-Creollo says:

    This article is amazing, I do not go often to the cafeteria, but when I go I love their welcoming smiles!!!!

  9. Great article, they deserve it!

  10. Kymba A'Hearn says:

    Hurrah! Thank you for recognizing those who keep us all going!

  11. Kat Wentworth says:

    Thank you for celebrating Marie and Britteny in this article! Both of them bring such caring to each customer interaction. I truly appreciate their contributions to my mornings and to the Lab.

  12. Amanda Krieger says:

    I am so glad that you invited Marie and Brittney into the Lab community. They belong as much a part of our workforce as anyone on the hill. I especially appreciate that connection you can have during the day that is personal and casual–it can help to break up the professional work stress that we all experience from time to time.

    Peace+Love to you two,

  13. Thank you for this article! Brittney and Marie always make me smile and I am proud to be one of the 90% of coffee orders they know by heart (small half-caff/half de-caff latte, non-fat). So glad that they are part of our Lab community.

  14. Greg Leventis says:

    Marie and Brittany are great! I love seeing them every time I go to get coffee. And Marie is right: she knows what I’m going to order every time.

  15. Ashley Head says:

    These women make my day! They are always smiling and hardworking. I am glad to see them recognized with this article.

  16. Mr. Small Americano says:

    What a great article. These two women are a bright spot in the day for so many Lab employees. Thank you for sharing their story.

  17. Caroline H. says:

    I work off-site, but every time I come up Marie is there and her service is amazing, super friendly every time! Thank you both for all your hard work 🙂

  18. Deb Troxell says:

    What a great article about two great ladies!! Always smiling and ready to help. Thank You!

  19. Karyn Houston says:

    Great article! The staff at the Bistro is amazing!

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