Kate has been making coffee professionally since 2002, when she started as a “temporary” team member at College Hill Coffee in Winfield, Kansas. She quickly fell in love with coffee and connecting with customers at College Hill, and she has worked in coffee off and on since then. She remembers the orders of some of her favorite customers even today.
Her career in public radio took her to the coffee mecca of Portland, Oregon, in 2009. She would spend her days off drinking coffee at Water Avenue Coffee, writing at Case Study, or going to free coffee cuppings at Stumptown Coffee Roasters. While working for Oregon Public Broadcasting there, she also met her first mobile coffee vendor. Bruce with Pony Espresso would soon inspire her to create a café…on wheels. She came back to Kansas in 2012 to start building her coffee truck, a place where she could bring the coffee house experience to customers where they worked and lived.
Sunflower’s maiden voyage was on April 25, 2015, at an art and craft market where attendance was more than double what the organizers planned, and where Kate and Ben at times ran out of water and coffee, and to which the bus had to be towed because of mechanical problems. But they made it though that day with flying colors, and have learned so much and met so many wonderful people since then. Kate loves making coffee for Wichita with her excellent team, and is so grateful to be a part of the local family of food trucks. Each day with Sunflower Espresso has been an adventure, and Kate looks forward to many more down the road.
When Kate is not working on the coffee bus, you can hear her moonlighting as a host on KMUW, or find her testing the limits of her library card.
Cece has been a barista with Sunflower Espresso since 2016. Coffee has been a huge part of her life for as long as she can remember. When she was growing up, her mom ran a beauty shop in their house and so owned a small espresso machine. By the time Cece was 8, she was making cappuccinos for her mom’s customers. Her dad, on the other hand, would make a fresh cup of Turkish coffee for friends and visitors.
Cece has so many favorite beverages, she often switches it up from day to day. Sometimes, she’ll want a decadent lavender mocha; other days, a black coffee.
When she’s not making coffee on the bus, Cece is performing in the local jazz/funk/cosmic band, Crisis Casanova.
Tyler’s love of coffee began when his band, Carrie Nation & The Speakeasy, started touring in Europe. After a night of music and dancing, the band would enjoy single shots of espresso before loading out in the morning. When he came home, he wanted to learn more about coffee. He loves tinkering around during his shift to pull the best possible shot of espresso.
In fact, espresso is still his favorite drink. We’ve also discovered that he’s the maximum height a barista can be on the bus without having to perpetually duck. When he’s not pulling shots on the bus or playing with Carrie Nation, Tyler enjoys exploring the trails of Oak Park with his doggo, Norma Jean. Tyler loves volunteering for the events that are in some way unique whether the locale is crazy and far away, or we have a large number of customers to serve in a short amount of time.
Audra has been making coffee at cafés around the U.S. Since 2001! She got her start at a Barnes & Noble Café in Anchorage, Alaska, and has enjoyed it ever since. Her favorite beverages vary, but she always goes back to her true loves, a coffee with cream or a dirty chai. Ask Audra about the science of what goes into your drink. Not only does she know, but she’ll explain it well!
Though she’s lived in many places, Audra says her love for Wichita snuck up on her. She says Wichita is surprising and helpful and beautifully quirky. When she’s not making coffee, she loves to study geology and to hang out with a good book at the public library.
Miss Heather is one of the OG Sunflower baristas, and she still contributes her barista skills from time to time. Heather and Kate first met in 2007 when they were both baby radio hosts at KMUW, and they’ve been friends in radio and coffee ever since. Heather loves a good coffee with cream, but she also treats herself to a Bekkah Bell (a cold brew with lavender and cream) every so often.
When she’s not making lattes at cafés around town or caring for the city’s pets with Dream Dog Cafe, she and Tyler are taking care of their own doggo, Sunflower mascot Norma Jean Eden Grubb.
Brianna ‘Ray of Sunshine” Grace has been a Sunflower barista from the beginning. In fact, she’s the first employee Kate ever let to take the coffee bus out without her! Brianna has been helping coffee shops grow and thrive for decades. She’s helped start a several coffee shops, including Mead’s Corner in Wichita and a café in Bolivia.
Brianna spends most of her time being a social working superstar in Wichita these days. However, sometimes we are able to convince her to help out on the coffee bus, like a magical espresso fairy. Baristas and customers alike love her cheerfulness, empathy, and genuine love for a job well done.
Michelle brings a lot of heart and soul to her work at Sunflower Espresso. You’ll not only see her pouring lovely lattes on the bus, but she also is the bus baker and web administrator! That lovely loaf of pumpkin bread you see in the pastry case window? She made it.
Her favorite drink varies, but lately, she’s been enjoying a honey latte with a dusting of cinnamon.