Mark Campbell cultivates passion for coffee through Burgie’s position

Mark Campbell, a barista at Burgie’s, takes a sip of coffee while looking out the window. 

Sierra Hoeger

It’s rush hour at a local coffee shop in North Ames. Cars bleed into the Lowe’s parking lot that sits across from Burgie’s. Mark Campbell, a barista, could be taking your order, or making the coffee that could be in your hands in record time. 

“It does take a certain level of grit,” Campbell said. “We’ve had people come in that didn’t really know anything, they’ve never touched an espresso machine, didn’t even know the first thing about coffee and now they’re really knowledgeable. They’ve learned how to be fast behind the bar, which is really hard to do. I think it doesn’t take a certain type of person, just someone who wants to learn.” 

Campbell is a fifth-year dietetics student at Iowa State University from Bondurant, Iowa, who spends his mornings behind the “bar” at Burgie’s. He would describe himself as an iced americano drink, not a mocha, because while mochas are “punch-you-in-the-face,” iced americanos are more delicate, which is how Campbell likes to think he approaches things. 

“I had a high school job in food service at a pretty fast-paced restaurant and when I applied here, the owner was like ‘yeah, it’s pretty fast-paced.’ And I was like, ‘oh, I’ve got it.’ And it’s way faster than I could’ve ever imagined,” Campbell said. 

The staff at Burgie’s make the seemingly never-ending rush hours filled with backed up cars worth it. 

“During the Saturday morning rush, we’re all just in this together and we’re all learning alongside each other as well, like how to do things better, how to serve better in the community,” Campbell said. 

To Campbell, coffee is more than a part-time job that pays the bills. It’s a science that he has come to appreciate through his dietetics studies. 

“I’m a little bit of a science geek, so learning about coffee as a substance and how it interacts at a scientific level was always really intriguing,” Campbell said. “It has deepened my love for my job as well as just getting to interact with people and serve them something that I’m passionate about.”

Speaking of passion, Campbell was quick to defend his coffee of choice-12 ounces of black coffee. To some, it may seem like a simple order, but to coffee connoisseurs, black coffee has many complexities. 

“Since I’ve worked here I’ve learned how to taste coffee and know the difference between a light roast and a dark roast and look at the tasting notes and be able to pick those out in a cup,” Campbell said.  “For me, the most exciting coffee drink that I could choose would be plain, black coffee. There’s been a few times I’ve tried to experiment, add a little bit of sugar with my coffee and I just can’t do it.”

After he earns his degree this May, Campbell will work for Windmill Coffee, a coffee roasting company based in Ames. Windmill supplies coffee to Burgie’s, as well. Campbell will travel across the state of Iowa repairing espresso machines. In the future, Campbell hopes to either own a coffeeshop or roasting company. 

“I don’t know where it’s going to take me,” Campbell said. “I just love both coffee as a product and what the coffee industry stands for, community, accepting everyone into it.”