Creativity Counts: Andy Boodhoo

images by dan Karram + Dave imber | story by michelle Hopper

Andy Boodhoo is the Head Barista at The Salty Donut. "Coffee" might not be in the name of the shop, but that doesn't mean it's any less than an incredible specialty coffee shop. Serving Intelligentsia Coffee, Andy has developed a strong coffee program with a traditional coffee menu complemented by a creative signature beverage menu designed to pair with the shop's nationally celebrated donuts. Although we didn't know each other well, spending the afternoon with Andy was like having coffee and donuts with an old friend. Andy and his teammates welcomed us into the shop as if it were their home; showing us so much kindness and hospitality. As he shared his story, we were captivated by his creativity combined with his passion for excellence. (Not to mention we all enjoyed nerd-ing out on ratios, bar flow, and flavor profiles.)

Dose Magazine_The Salty Donut

On your coffee journey…

My journey to coffee was actually kind of an accident, I guess you could say. I started at Starbucks when I was 17, or 18 at the time. I worked there for about 4 years. I was a barista, then supervisor, I kinda just moved up the ladder, and then it just wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. I felt like I didn’t get to truly appreciate the coffee; it’s so mass produced; the connection just wasn’t there.
I thought it was time to pursue something different, so I left and had no plans of staying in coffee. I didn’t end up finding a job right after and then I saw this ad for a Barista at The Salty Donut. At the time they were just a pop-up, open three days a week. It was a completely different ball game, coffee-wise. So I didn’t know where I was headed, but then after I learned more about the process (of specialty coffee) - I came from a place with a machine where I just pressed a button to get a double shot - and then I came here and I’m weighing every shot, timing it - I was like “this is crazy, where was this the whole time I was at Starbucks?” And a lot of it had to do with Andy, the owner of Salty Donut. He really took the time out to teach me what I’m supposed to taste in the espresso, how to pull a shot, how to clean a portafilter, how to clean the group head, the little details.

On making the transition to Head Barista…

There was a point where I didn’t know where I was going. At the time it was only a three day (a week) job and I was like “Is this going to work out for me?” We ended up opening a (second) pop-up in Miami Beach at The Confidente and Andy took me over there with him. Prior to that, I was working under someone, so I felt like I got out of the shadow a bit and was able to show that I was able to handle it. At that time, I was at the beach by myself and when it came time to come back, the guy I was under was leaving and so Andy was like “You can be the Head Barista” and I think it goes back to how I was trained, good procedures, how to dial in.  

"I would never have thought I’d be where I am today,
it was an accidental dream."

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on your daily coffee routine...

I get to the store around 6:15 am. We brew a batch for our kitchen staff everyday, so I do that. I’ll check to see if there is anything I can do around the store, and then I’ll start dialing in. I’ll drain cold brew from the night before. The biggest part of my morning will be the dial in, I like to stay within the same parameters for pulling shots with Black Cat. We like to stay 18.2-18.5 in with 32-35 out at around 25 seconds.

The beautiful part about working at the Salty Donut and having a boss that loves coffee is that there is always good coffee to drink around the store. I’ve been sticking to Rayos del Sol, Peru lately, it tastes like you’re biting into an apple, a red apple. I’ll usually do a pour over of that… it never gets old.

On cultivating a creative coffee program...

It’s really hard, will tell you that. I try to play off the donuts, like the white chocolate tres leches latte, that was definitely inspired by the donut. There is a certain level of creativity that goes into our donuts and I feel like to be a successful coffee shop and donut shop, you have to put out a coffee that’s equally as enticing as the donuts you see. My process is really just a lot of testing things, experimenting, and getting a lot of drinks thrown back at me by Andy, the owner. He’s our R&D department, with an amazing palate, he’s my “benchmark” you could say. I really try to make things fun. You’re having a really great donut, why not have a really great coffee? The drinks like the cocopuffs latte and the cinnamon toast crunch latte aren’t drinks you’d find anywhere else and I find that really cool.

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on your favorite donut...

You have to find this balance and self control because you’ll go crazy if you eat a donut everyday. I limit myself to whenever we get new donuts and I justify it by saying “Oh I gotta try it for the customers.”  But if I do want to sit back and enjoy a donut, I’ll get a cup of the house blend and have a traditional donut, same thing with the brown butter donut.

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On quality control in a high volume shop...

Typically on the weekend, we’ll see lines out to the sidewalk. But it’s really tricky because you’ll see the line out to the sidewalk, but you’ll only see one or two coffee orders come in. We kinda stick to our routine, which is, I always have two baristas. One person is pulling shots, after the morning dial in there isn’t much time to dial in again, you just never get a break. The other person is doing milks, prepping ice drinks, serving cold brews. It’s always a two man show. It gets really crazy.

on the menu at The salty donut...

The White Chocolate Tres Leches Latte is the same tres leches syrup we use in the doughnut, minus the rum, 24hr steeped vanilla milk, and Black Cat espresso. It’s only served hot, just cause I didn’t like the way it translated over ice. I feel like the flavors are much more rich when it’s steamed, the vanilla milk especially.

The Matcha Made in Heaven: I was messing with matcha for awhile with Orteas Matcha a local Miami matcha vendor. One day the owner’s wife came by and we talked about it and she was like “Oh, try it with lemonade”. Initially I wanted to do a mint simple syrup but it turned out too sweet so I dropped that and did the mint on top. So the drink is Matcha, Lemonade with two slaps of mint on top. I say “slaps” because I literally slap it and put it on top. It's super refreshing, super cool, especially for the Miami weather. I try to keep the drinks weather appropriate.

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The Coco Puffs Latte is always going to be my favorite, just cause it was my first. Right after I got promoted I was like “I need to do something to justify this.” I went into the kitchen and shadowed the process they use to make the cinnamon toast crunch, I replicated it with the coco puffs, toasting it, blending it. I got a recipe down and ran with it and it just kinda stuck. At the time we didn’t have any chocolate options on the menu, and I’m really not a fan of mocha drinks or anything like that, so I wanted to do something really different. You’ll notice that we don’t do any vanilla syrup, cinnamon. In addition a traditional espresso menu we serve only signature beverages. We offer simple syrup and cream, but that’s it.

on your favorite restaurant in miami...

Niayara, It’s Asain and has the best tuna. Chef b is amazing at what he does, whether it's the crispy bok choi, the spicy tuna salad or my person favorite the Spanish octopus I've never had a bad time there. Also, the atmosphere is absolutely amazing. 

on what your future in coffee holds...

I don’t find anything enticing about the competitive side of coffee, I just love making creative drinks for people to enjoy as they knock back their donuts. I’d love to take my talents to the education side, but that’s something way down the line for me, I still have so much to learn. I’ve been in coffee for about a year. As far as I’ve come, I still feel like there’s so much to learn… I definitely hope to grow with the Salty Donut and build up a really great program.
In a place like Miami, man, it’s so hard to break people from the cuban coffee, the Bustelo. It’s tricky to get someone to say “Hey, I’d like to try a pour over” and not have them go over a put cream and sugar in it. We get the rare customers like Andy Giambarba for example, that come in and you’re just so excited to see him because you can have a 10 minute conversation about the espresso you just served. He’ll just sit there and talk about the Peru or whatever coffee he’s enjoying at the time. It’s a really cool thing, but I feel like there needs to be more of it. And that goes hand in hand with educating people.