(Cafe Latte by David Chapman, 2017 Best Barista of Durham. Photo by Jim Reklis)

My friend John and I have been taking a tour of local independently owned coffee shops. Our most recent journey took us to Bean Traders in South Durham. We watched our heavily tattooed barista create 12 oz lattes when John lit up and exclaimed, “ This guy is good, he knows what he is doing.”

As we picked up our mugs we both stopped and admired what we were receiving, an incredible work of art, crafted by a pro. Our lattes were the best combination of a perfectly pulled shot and rich creamy steamed milk with a pristine rosetta design. I thought back to a latte I had the week before from the brand with a mermaid. There was just no comparison. One was a coffee beverage produced in assembly line fashion. This was a hand crafted coffee creation that delighted my senses.

Thinking back on this experience, I realized work can be and should be art. Work is meant to reflect our values and skills in the service of others. We’re paid for work because it brings something of benefit to others. Giving them our best is what gives our work significance. I decided I needed to interview this barista who served such delicious caffeine nectar. And I discovered a powerful and purpose filled story.

David started brewing and roasting beans over 17 years ago. He found his passion; creating great coffee in a coffee shop culture. Soon David met another passion of his life, Christy. To be with her he moved to Durham and joined her in a coffee shop adventure. Together they formed a formidable team that allowed them to spend their life together and pursue and perfect their trade; David as a true professional artisan of coffee and Christy running a successful business.

As co-owners, husband and wife, and parents of two, David and Christy have created a viable landmark coffee house in Durham. I asked David to define the vision for their coffee business: “people from all walks of life come to meet in a common place for all kinds of purposes around the ritual of coffee drinking.” No wonder they have needed to expand twice and have hundreds of customers that call Bean Traders their coffee shop.

After our interview, I learned that David received Durham’s 2017 Best Barista award. This is not surprising as he clearly sees his work as his art. Here are some insights in how this is expressed in the culture and business at Bean Traders.

Making Work Your Art

We love what we do– running this business is not just a job or a way to make money. David is at work at 5am to serve the best coffee to his customers.


We love serving people– “customers as the reason for our success.” Stories are created here because people have this place to meet, share life, do business, become friends, over coffee.


Get better at what you do– everyone can become better and pursue being great at their art/work.


Be connected to everything you produce- every bean of coffee is roasted, brewed and served with care and the desire to be the best.


Give your employees a living wage– David and Christy are proud that people can come work with them long term.


Serve your community– giving back is part of loving the community where they live and serve.


Congratulations to David and Christy! You deserve the barista award! Thank you for using your passion in art and hard work to create this excellent space for gathering.

My visit and interview has provoked me to see my work as art; to give this kind of attention and care to what I produce and serve to others. I believe that anyone can apply this to the work they do.

What about you? How can your work also be art that brings delight to those you serve?

4 thoughts on “Discovering The Art of Work

  1. Exceptional article, telling the absolute truth. Anyone who does this quality work, with this feeling is a true leader. All of us should want to get up each morning with this vision of our purpose.

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