Bartenders & Baristas: The enigmatic Xoe at Fair Trade Café

By Wynter Holden

Who is Fair Trade Café barista Xoë McAleece? Go back a few years and there's no record of her existing at all. No birth certificate. No high school records. No trace of her before she turned eighteen. We caught up with the mysterious Xoë (pronounced zoh-ee) and she revealed how a Midwest girl trapped in a vanilla life changed her name in tribute to a pagan goddess and found happiness in the big city with a baby, a boy and lots of coffee.

Chow Bella: How long have you been a barista? Xoë McAleece: About five years. I started making coffee at this awful little coffee shop and I think I made the worst drinks in the city. Now I work at Fair Trade and I have people tell me I make the best drinks in the city.

CB: Do you drink coffee? XM: I’m a coffee whore! I will drink coffee all day, every day. Coffee is an addiction. It’s one of the only legal narcotics left. Coffee and smoking.

I’ve been getting free coffee for basically five years because I’ve been working as a barista. Then I had my daughter and I was on maternity leave for nine months. I had no idea how much of one’s income could go to coffee!

CB: Hey, aren’t pregnant women supposed to avoid coffee? XM: Shh…It was totally decaf. Actually, because I was an eight cup a day kind of girl, my doctor said that if I [quit] completely it would send my baby into withdrawal. So I cut down to one cup a day.

CB: So why is your coffee the best in town? XM: I’m a geek. I’ve spent a lot of time tweaking coffee, trying to figure out how to pull the best shot of espresso and asking expert after expert. I’ve looked up all of the international standards. I personally hate bad coffee. If I go to a coffee shop and get bad coffee it ruins my whole day. I know that’s ridiculous, but hey, everyone has their weird passions. This is mine.

CB: Ok, where’d you get the name Xoë? XM: I’m named after an Aztec earth goddess. I decided that Xochiquetzal would be ridiculous to write on all my application forms and driver’s license and stuff, so I shortened it to Xoë. People get really annoyed with the spelling. Telemarketers won’t even say it. They just spell it. They’re like, “is X-O-E there?”

My middle name is the Gaelic word for "strong woman." But I realized after changing it that it’s also the word for "phallus." So my name’s like Mother Earth Penis McAleece.

CB: What kind of weird things have you seen on the job? XM: We have a homeless guy who comes in here. One day he came in and his whole face was busted up and bruised, like he had just come from a fight. Little tiny guy, but with really old eyes; one of those guys you just don’t want to mess with.

Then he leaned in really close and motioned us to him. And he whispers, “You’re going to the death chamber…”

The next time he came in, I said I’d call the cops. He goes, “That’s fine. You can call my Aunt Millie for all you want, but she won’t answer the phone. She’s strapped to a board after what I did to her.”