John Pyle, 31, has lived all over the Southeast but calls Nashville home.
Growing up in Nashville, John arrived back in the city for college.
Graduating from Lipscomb University in 2008, John went on to Richmond, Virginia where he worked at a coffee roasting company and as a youth minister. He was there briefly before returning to the place he calls home.
Once he returned, and by a way of a few other jobs, John joined the team at The Well Coffee House.
“I get the best of both worlds in a way,” he said. “I have a theology degree from Lipscomb. I have an opportunity to work within the nonprofit Christian atmosphere of The Well, but then I also have a passion and a desire for coffee.”
John said his passions collided in the best possible way.
In college, John interned with a local youth ministry where he met Rob Touchstone, one of the co-founders of The Well.
“He had this idea for a coffee shop, and I liked coffee and had worked in the coffee industry, so I pursued it that way,” he said.
John is the only original non-board member at The Well and has been with the nonprofit organization since they first opened on Granny White near Lipscomb in July 2012.
“I’ve been here since day one. I started as a barista who was passionate about our mission and continued to grow in the business,” he said.
The Well is a nonprofit organization that sponsors the building of wells for those in need of clean water. They’ve created a hub of nonprofits like Thistle Farms, Living Water Project, OneLess, Exile International and other to share that same mission.
Now, John is the manager of the Granny White location and is also the director of education. He teaches classes for the public and in-house training for staff.
“Coffee in Nashville has exploded.”
He said when he was at Lipscomb, he was a big coffee drinker. He picked up a few shifts here and there at Lipscomb’s campus café but also found himself at places like Fido, Café Coco, and Portland Brew.
“I guess around my senior year, Crema opened. It made coffee a little bit different in Nashville. They opened up the door for the specialty coffee market so, in the last eight or nine years, coffee has just exploded here,” he said.
NASHVILLE’S COFFEE CULTURE
John said the city as a whole has understood and supported the local coffee industry over the years. When The Well first opened John stated that they, along with places like Crema and Barista Parlor, were on the cutting edge of pour-overs and other techniques to brew coffee.
“At first, there was a lot of education that went on with people not knowing what a pour-over was or not knowing why a cup of coffee was four or five dollars,” he said. “Now, the community as a whole has embraced coffee, so I do a lot less education to the public and more interaction with customers on an normal level.”
John said the biggest advancement in the coffee community and with people using coffee shops is the idea that Nashville is a city of creatives.
“Whether it’s singer/songwriters, photographer or entrepreneurs, all of those people need a space and a community place where people can meet over a cup of coffee and edit photos or have a writing session. I think that’s what’s beautiful about Nashville,” he said.
He said as coffee is grown it is then picked by hand it is then processed at a separate location. He explained that the beans are then stored, exported or imported, and roasted.
“Then it’s handed to me,” he said. “It’s my jobs as the barista, the coffee educator, the manager to make sure that all the 10 to 12 hands who’ve touched this process – that all of their hard work is set by itself, so I can elevate. I have the ability of really screwing this up or I have the potential to highlight this product.”
John said at the end of the day he is trying to give the farmer and the pickers and everyone who was involved in the process a voice. He said coffee of one of the most intricate beverages with nuances in each cup.
In what he calls the “God up experience,” John wants someone to take a sip of coffee and realize it’s entirely different from anything else they might have had before.
John also works with the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) and travels around the country educating coffee industry baristas about coffee. He holds levels one and two barista certification and is a lead instructor certified to teach those classes.
“What’s fascinating about Nashville is that creative side and the energy that comes from the fact that we’re growing, we’re young, and we’re an exciting place.”
For John, a community is that personal relationship that people have in promixity of each other. John said he has a connection to the East Nashville community but also to the community at The Well.
He said the biggest part of being involved in a community is being active in one.
“Community means being vocal and letting people know that you’re there.”
He feels as though it is not truly reaping the benefits of a community if someone associating themselves with it but do not know anyone.
“Being a part of a community is establishing yourself and getting your hands a little dirty, so when things happen in that community, good or bad, you’re going to be there to work through it with others.”
John said he tells people all the time that Nashville is the largest small town in the world. Whether he’s on the west side or in East Nashville, one of his favorite things is he running into people he knows.
A current resident of East Nashville, John’s grandfather used to live next to Five Points when he was a kid.
“Growing up we weren’t allowed to go outside at night time because it was shady,” he said. “The fact that I live over in that same area, and I’m safe, I’m not as excited about communities coming in and pushing people out. When I think about East Nashville I think about how there isn’t any affordable housing for people anymore.”
Being here for about a decade, there are a lot of changes that John likes and some he doesn’t.
John said there’s a significant lack of public transportation. He said he has a fear that as the city grows that it’ll start to become more like Atlanta with a congested commute system.
“My biggest concern would be to try to fix a broken transportation system that has failed.”
John recently got married in January. Along with more coffee in his future he wants to grow the culture surrounding it and also grow personal within his family. He said The Well has an expansion model in place for two or three new locations.
“We want to grow and expand as the city grows and expands,” he said.
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