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SMU theatre graduate, barista explains details behind latte art

Coffee artist, Parker Gray Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield

Coffee shops are headquarters for college students to cram for tests, a place for business professionals to meet with clients, or a location to have personal down time. I used to choose coffee shops for their convenience, but the discovery of latte art changed my personal preference. Dallas is consumed with hundreds of shops that are known for their art of coffee, but one hole-in-the-wall shop stands out in Uptown.

Crooked Tree Coffeehouse is a shop that blends in with the atmosphere. The outside appearance replicates a house but the inside is filled with an environment that makes if feel like home. The barista and recent SMU graduate, Parker Gray, explained what it is like working at a coffee shop.

“It is pretty nice in the mornings. I am pretty tired, but I am surrounded by what will help me keep going,” Gray said.

Parker Gray
Coffee artist, Parker Gray Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield

Back in May, Gray graduated from the SMU theatre program. Besides working at the coffee shop, he also works at a management firm and tries to be in as many shows as possible. For my visit, Gray made me a mocha latte, and the art definitely made it more exciting to drink and made my experience more thrilling.

I asked Gray what it is like making coffee all day long. “I have a job in customer service, but working here doesn’t feel like that. I am not just serving coffee, but I serve the people. I’ve been with Crooked Tree for over a year now, and I’m not too worried about quality, but making sure our customers are happy,” Gray said.

In Uptown, there are almost 20 coffee shops in walking distance of each other. In a small area, it is difficult for shops to have customer traffic throughout the day. Gray said their shop differs by saying it stands out compared to others.

“The vibe here is very different compared to other shops. Other places like commercial shops are about getting customers in and out. There’s one shop where they have their bar in the middle and customers go around it, get their coffee, and then leave. Here, we have outlets everywhere because we want people to stay and feel welcomed,” Gray said.

Throughout the day, the environment at the shop changes depending on the spirit of the workers and the customers.

“In the mornings, chill and jazzy music fills the atmosphere. As the day progresses, it does get louder and more lively,” Gray said.

Besides making great coffee, Gray also contributes to the shop by restocking coffee beans, cleaning the shop and training new employees. I got to talk with a new employee Elise McClure about how she likes working with Gray.

“Parker works very hard and loves being a barista at Crooked Tree. The relationships he makes with the customers are amazing and overall he makes excellent coffee,” McClure said.

Coffee shops all over Dallas are distinct because of their atmosphere and especially because of the quality of their coffee. Latte art is a huge influencer when choosing which shop to visit. Yet, the story behind the art is interesting to know. Coffee artists, such as Parker Gray, come from all different backgrounds, and their story and coffee warms the soul.

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