WILTON, Conn. — When Jason Varga was looking to grow his coffee career, he turned to the Internet to find a new position.
He just happened upon a small coffee and gelato house named Tusk & Cup about to open up in Ridgefield. He responded to the ad, which turned out to be a perfect fit.
Varga, one of Tusk & Cup’s original employees, is now the company’s coffee director. And he has watched the company grow from a single location in Ridgefield to a second one in Wilton, which recently opened.
“It’s been an incredible experience at both stores,” Varga said. “Both towns have really embraced the culture of the coffee … and also what we’re trying to do. They’ve helped us grow to where we are now.”
Unlike large chains, Tusk & Cup makes a handcrafted product that relies on the skill of the person who is making the beverage. So Varga trains the staff well.
Varga starts off by teaching staff members the basics of pulling an espresso shot. But then he throws a few curveballs. He'll change the settings on the machine before training now and then, so the new staff learns to make adjustments.
It’s a pivotal skill because espresso is volatile. “Every day, the espresso will change all day so you have to adjust the grind, the timing of the shot to try to get that balanced flavor out of it.”
Varga said that in the business of coffee, many have the drive to pull that perfect shot. “It can drive you crazy, but it really pushes you,” he said. But Varga said the effort doesn't go unnoticed.
“If you try to get a perfect cup every single time, that’s going to show in the quality of the drink and you’re going to taste that,” Varga said. “If I don’t hear from a customer that this isn’t the best cup of the coffee they’ve ever had, I know that I have to work to get that next cup — to try to get that perfect cup.”
As for the beans, Varga equated their consistency to the grapes that make up wine. Each is vintage is unique and no two vintages are exactly the same. “Same with coffee — once that crop is gone, it’s gone.”
So Varga will monitor the consistency and may even choose to use a different bean if a particular crop doesn’t make the cut. It's all in a day's work for Varga, a resident of South Salem, N.Y.
Having worked for five years at Tusk & Cup, the coffee and gelato shop has taken on a special meaning for him. “I really feel like Tusk is a home to me now,” Varga said.