PUBLISHED: 9:48 AM on Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Sewell has a piercing passion for coffee making

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Shane Sewell with his signature Jamaican Jazz Latte at Valentine's in Juneau.
Shane Sewell has been steaming up a passion for coffee for years.

Sewell, who serves up specialty drinks at Valentine's, began working at Heritage Coffee four years ago. He said he saw co-workers make art with lattes and wanted to learn the craft for himself.

"I had made coffee before that, but it wasn't as articulate," Sewell said. "It kind of happened on accident. I would see a design in a drink and then pay attention to how I did it. It's in the texture of the milk. I'm always looking for that better texture."

Sewell competed in the United States Barista Competition in Boston in 2003, finishing in 22 place.

He had 45 minutes to set up, make four espressos, four cappuccinos and four specialty drinks in front of an audience and cameras.

To take away the pressure, Sewell said he turned up heavy rock music.

"It's so hard to remember everything. You don't want the espresso to sit too long or it will lose its flavor, but you're doing all these things at the same time. I get nervous anyway, but when I'm up there, I get all shaky and sick," Sewell said. "Once my music goes on, I can tune everyone out. I'd get in a rhythm and just go."

For a specialty drink, he made a Jamaican Jazz Latte, that he now serves at Valentine's. He said he enjoys making people happy by using coffee a form of art.

"I'd rather have a huge line of people waiting for drinks instead of a crowd of people watching me in a competition," Sewell said. "I like making customers smile when they see that leaf or heart on their coffee."

Sewell's art isn't limited to coffee.

He started doing body piercings about four years ago and now works at Pair-A-Dice Tattoos.

"The first earlobes I pierced was a really fun experience," Sewell said.

"You have to be calm. The customer is excited and nervous, and you want them to be in the calmest place possible."

Sewell said whether he's piercing or making a specialty coffee drink, he enjoys helping people.

"The more they appreciate something I've done, makes me feel good," Sewell said.

"I'll go out of my way to make someone happy."