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ALEX WHIGHAM

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

This month we sat down for a chat with Alex Whigham, barista at My Kingdom for a Horse in Adelaide and a finalist in the 2018 Breezey Masters. 

Latte art!

How new it is. You come to a latte art competition in Sydney and everyone’s pouring roses. I think there’s a lower standard in Adelaide, baristas have to join the regional competitions for Perth and SA. I think I like being part of the emergence of that scene in Adelaide.

It doesn’t curdle as much. Other almond milk congeals into like, a biscuit… Barista Blend has a better texture and consistency, and it’s always a little vanilla-y. And it’s got no sugar! That helps.

I like pouring the butterfly. Something about the feeling of pouring it is really cool. I’ve also created one of my own designs, it’s a crab… I’ve noticed people always do animals.

I think it’ll get a little more automated in terms of your pot pressers and your jugglers. Someone was even telling me about one machine that spits out steamed milk straight away. I’m not worried about robots stealing my job, though. Going forward, I hope the scene is moving more towards specialty. Less paddle grinders and more volumetrics, gravimetrics, things like that. I also hope the quality of coffee increases and we’ll start getting less kind of commercial grade coffee.

TROY LY

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

This month we spoke to Troy, who works as the cafe and restaurant manager at Son of a Pizzaiolo in Melbourne. With a passion for latte art, Troy competed in this year’s Almond Breeze Latte Art Video Challenge, coming top of the public vote leaderboard for Australia.

My first job as a barista was at Michel’s Patisserie. It was here that I met Anthony, who is the barista trainer for the company, and found my passion that inspired me with some of very first pours with latte art. I was lucky enough to be chosen to represent the store to compete at the Latte Art Championships as part of the Retail Food Group. It was such a great experience, I got to learn so much and meet so many experts in the industry. Since then, I have met lots of friends who have the same passion. We have created a group called the Melbourne Coffee Network where we keep in touch with other baristas in Melbourne to share our experiences in the coffee industry and practicing latte art.

It was a great experience to join in the Almond Breeze Latte Art Challenge. I could see there were so many talented baristas competing from all around the world, with unbelievable skills being showcased in every single video clip that was posted up on the page. Public audiences were judging the vote for the patterns, which made it more challenging and encouraged me to be more creative when submitting patterns to really make an impression with my skills.

I would say Almond Breeze Barista Blend stands out as the milk alternative. I get such good feedback from my customers about it. It tastes great, has natural ingredients, is gluten free and vegan friendly and more. Also, for me as a barista, it is so much easier to use than other non-dairy milk alternatives, frothing perfectly to give great texture. Most of our customers who prefer almond milk love the nutty taste and the way it extends the coffee flavour compared to other milks. Also, it’s great for creating latte art.

My favourite thing about being a barista is just simply that I am getting to know the regulars and what their favourite drinks or roast is. It feels so heartwarming getting to know new people that come in for coffee every single morning. Just a small conversation before they get their coffee, as well as after the first sip, when I hear them say, “it makes my day” or “you save me”. I love my job, simply as it is.

I can see the demand and the choices for consumers expand and the industry getting larger. There are so many alternatives for cows milk than ever before and they are tasty in the blend. Moreover, white coffee is not the only choice when you step into a Melbourne cafe. So many specialty cafes offer many different black coffees in different brew methods. I believe that the people who enjoy coffee come along with the knowledge about it.

ISAAC KIM

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

This month, we had a chat with Isaac Kim, head barista and manager at ONA Marrickville, the first venue by ONA Coffee outside of Canberra, where they have four other hugely popular cafés. As well as the successful cafés, ONA supply exceptional, locally-roasted coffee to over one hundred more. Isaac is also a past barista competitor and is currently active in Brewers Cup competitions.

Image credit: Chanho Hong, Normcore Coffee Roasters

I mostly learned on the job. I started working in restaurants as a waiter and kitchen hand as a teen and picked up some bartending and coffee skills. Then I developed an interest in latte art for a few years, so I learned from watching videos on YouTube for latte art (we all go through that phase!). I’m now lucky enough to work very closely with the personalities that inspired me in the first place.

For me, a good cup of coffee is honest. It should be balanced and openly expressing the characteristics of the coffee. You should be able to taste the terroir, process, and even the varietal without distractions. What I think makes a good coffee experience is a whole different answer on its own.

Something that has been getting me really excited recently is the idea that baristas have the power to influence consumer behaviour in a big way. We might all feel like small cogs in the multi-billion dollar machine that is the coffee industry, but we as baristas can shape how our customers view coffee and in turn shape what specialty coffee looks like in the future.

I think it is absolutely crucial for coffee shops to have sustainability as one of the core values. We are afforded the privilege of having a voice to tell the story of each coffee and the hands responsible behind each experience. Sharing amazing flavour at the same time only serves to amplify our storytelling!

How do I personally enhance someone’s coffee experience? I believe customer service is the only thing that brings together all of the hard work that’s taken place all through the production chain – the farmers, pickers, producers, roasters, and baristas. We know more about how to treat coffee better at every step of the way, more than we ever have, but only the barista’s customer service can bring all of that together into one single experience for the customer. My motto recently has been: “specialty service for specialty coffee.” Our customers have the right to know why a coffee is regarded as special.

I like to constantly remind myself of the power of a simple smile. Ultimately, we are in the hospitality industry and service with a smile speaks volumes louder than the best quality coffee.

EDDIE INOSTROZA

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

In this month’s edition, we spoke to Eddie, who has been living, breathing and frothing coffee in his home city of Melbourne for the best part of fourteen years. He told us what’s unique about Melbourne’s special relationship with coffee and where he sees the future heading for this ever-evolving industry.

 

My love affair with coffee began fourteen years ago at one of my first cafe jobs (Red Door Corner Store). I started out as a waiter and a dishy at cafes and restaurants around Melbourne and quickly became enchanted by the buttons, the levers, paddles and wands that coffee machines have. Not only that, but I loved watching milk being textured and the look of espresso dripping out of machines, it’s beautiful! And of course, the latte art. I was hooked after the head barista at the cafe let me have a go on the machine.

The industry nowadays, at least in Melbourne, is a community of like-minded people, open and willing to share knowledge and experiences. This excites me as it hasn’t always been the case, so it’s been great to see this aspect of the industry evolve over the years.

Innovation and design in the coffee industry also gets me frothing. There are so many beautifully designed coffee machines, grinders and accessories with amazing new functionality hitting the market. I just want to get my hands on all of it!

I think the uniqueness of the Melbourne coffee scene is the standard we have. It’s kind of hard to get a crap cup of coffee in Melbourne and I’d put that down to the depth and quality of coffee shops and the amazing coffee professionals this city has produced.

At the moment I own a mobile coffee business called Roadshow Coffee where we specialise in pop-up cafes, coffee carts and mobile coffee shops for a wide range of functions and events. I’ve just started out in this new venture and I’m eager to find ways to innovate in this space. Having owned a cafe in the past, I’m excited to explore the world of mobile coffee and how we can improve on what’s already out there. Five years from now I’d love to have achieved significant growth in my business, to have established strong relationships with festivals and venues all around Australia, and of course all around the world.

With regards to the industry, I think that automation in coffee will change the role of the barista. The barista’s role will probably be less labour-intensive, with the focus being shifted towards providing an experience. Don’t ask me how, but I think that’s where it’s going.

Don’t be afraid to approach people in the industry and ask for help and direction in what you’d like to achieve from the industry.
Don’t let cowboy operators take advantage of you.
Take advantage of the resources that are out there on the internet.
Cup a lot of coffees.
If you’re going to buy a cafe or set one up, get a job at a coffee shop first.
Never lose sight of what gets you frothing. Froth hard and passionately or don’t froth at all.
Follow me on insta and get in touch if you need advice or coffee at your next event:
@eddie_the_barista
@roadshowcoffee

EMILY COUMBIS

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

In this month’s edition, we invited 2017 Australian Speciality Coffee Association Queensland winner, Emily Coumbis, to comment on where she thinks latte art is heading and why her right-sided brain is the key to her amazing latte art patterns.

I’d be lying if I didn’t put latte art at the top of my list as to what gets me frothing. The challenge of forever perfecting the new, and often complicated latte art patterns keeps me on my toes and frothing everyday!
Having worked in the hospitality industry for almost a decade, it was six years ago my passion for all things coffee came to light. I’m a complete right side of the brain individual, so naturally I stemmed towards latte art as it gets my creative juices overflowing!

From the start of my latte art career, I have been self-taught. It’s amazing to think back at how far I’ve come and how much latte art has changed. At the start, pre-Instagram (can you believe there was a time) I watched lots of how-to YouTube videos on how to create basic patterns, like rosetta’s and tulips. This was a definite trial and error way of doing things, but because I was so passionate about latte art and most importantly, enjoyed it, it was something I loved challenging myself to do.

Fast-forward a few years, and the eruption of social media. Instagram has become an amazing tool for latte artists to share their work, see what other artists are creating and what they could achieve. The amazing thing about latte art is that the possibilities are endless, so I was completely hooked from the get go.

Today, I’m working as head barista at Piggyback Café, Brisbane. Here, we’ve taken latte art one step further and introduced colour to our coffees – something which I am obsessed with. Originally, latte art was done as a bit of fun as all my colleagues loved creating it, but then we noticed customers would specially request it and the next thing we knew, my rainbow latte art Instagram videos were going viral – it’s been amazing. The most requested patterns are normally the good old trusty ones, like the swan or ‘Happy Birthday’ – I get that one a lot!

Latte art may seem simple to some, but it brings people together, and creates joy for lots of people that normally wouldn’t be coffee drinkers. I’ve been lucky enough to meet people from all walks of life through latte art.

The future of latte art is something, if I’m being honest, I’m not to sure about. We’ve seen colour in coffee, 3D art all the way to Korea with a café doing Crème Art and painting Van Gogh on top of the cup. There are so many creative individuals out there and I’m constantly seeing new patterns and ideas that inspire me to try out new things, which is very exciting for me.

When it comes to pouring latte art, my biggest advice would be “don’t be afraid of a pattern that you think looks to difficult”. The more difficult patterns are normally just a combo of the basics rolled out into one anyway. Once you’ve mastered the ‘basic’ pattern, like the heart or the tulip, set yourself a goal and after a day on the tools, you’ll be pouring your pattern in no time.

As well as latte art, another trend that has hit cafes, is the use of alternative milks. As a latte artist, using anything but dairy can definitely prove a challenge, however I’ve learnt a few tricks over my time, which makes it easier to pour great patterns.

For almond milk, the brand plays a big role in how well you will be able to pour latte art with it. My favourite brand is Almond Breeze Barista Blend as it acts almost like using dairy and doesn’t curdle if it overheats, perfect for latte art! The trick when using almond milk is to not pour too fast! It glides a lot quicker into the coffee than dairy, so you want to pour slowly so you have more control over where you want your pattern to go.
When using soy, let it rest for thirty seconds or so before you pour. This technique will make it a lot easier to handle and pour a great pattern, additionally don’t froth it up too much, and don’t overheat it unless you want tofu!

My final thought to all budding latte artists out there, is to never give up on something you have deemed too hard! If you failed at it today then tomorrow will always be a better latte art day, you have my word!

Inspired to get creative with latte art? Why not enter our Breezey Masters – https://breezeymasters.baristasforbaristas.com/

JOSHUA RIVERS

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

In this month’s edition, we speak to Breezey Master 2017 SA winner Joshua Rivers on why coffee and food get him frothing. Through a crazy accident on a scooter, Joshua left his job as a bartender, entered the world of coffee and the rest is history. He currently runs CREAM in Brighton and is considered one of the best in the business.

What gets me frothing, other than my three group volumetric Synesso Hyrda on a Sunday arvo when CREAM will do a modest 15kgs? A whole bunch of things to be honest, but for the sake of the article I will keep it to one of my obsessions, food and experimenting with food. I’m even more passionate when food is complimented with a cup of extremely good coffee; cue breakfast at CREAM.

When I first started CREAM, I had my first opportunity to create and write my own menu, a daunting task but a challenge I was up to. When I wrote the menu I kept two things in mind: 1) it had to compliment my other passion, coffee; 2) it was food that I had to enjoy eating and let me tell you this much… I don’t count my macros!!

I knew I had to incorporate some items for the everyday café goer but I wanted to encourage customers to step out of their comfort zone. Adelaide is notorious for being a conservative state, and I banned some food items to prevent the rest of the menu from stagnating. On the ban list are: Eggs Benedict, the use of rocket as a garnish or in a salad, any style of slider, and bowls of chips.

I create new menu items I know will be flavoursome and have the right aesthetic to ensure continuous social media engagement (which becomes our main source of advertising). If it’s not ‘grammable’ how will people know about you? After all did you even eat it, if you didn’t photograph it? You’ve got to make it easy for people to take images others will froth over to drive people down to your café. I won’t go into the entire menu but, I will discuss two of our most famous dishes, the Donut Breakfast Sandwich and our Hotcake Stacks.

Let’s take an ordinary breakfast sandwich and turn it to 11. Replace every basic ingredient with something high end and get the local bakery on board to bake fresh savoury donuts every morning. The Donut Breakfast Sandwich is born and in all its glory, sweeps Adelaide’s social media scene.

Next up we gave the waffles and chicken concept a face lift. We replaced the waffles with American style THICC hotcakes and after months of perfecting the recipe, they’re a real crowd favourite. Thick, golden, fluffy hotcakes, topped with fried chicken and maple bacon… perfect for your Instastory and your cheat day.

I added Wu-Tang references throughout CREAM’s menu and included messages that we believe in. There is a spiel on our efforts to lower our carbon footprint by using biodegradable packaging, not using lamb or beef, and not serving straws with beverages. This further engages the customer in what we are about and brings about a sense of environmental responsibility.

Eat indulgent food, drink quality coffee, and bop your head to some hip-hop… profanities and all. All in all, it’s a winning formula.

So there you have it; how I created one of Adelaide’s favourite menus. My challenge now is the café has reached cult status, so writing a new menu is difficult because customers will be disappointed if their favourite item is taken off. It’s a good problem to have. The solution? Maybe we’ll just open a second venue. Joshua Rivers

LUCKY C. SALVADOR

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the coffee industry forward and in this series we meet the people who are leading the charge.

In this month’s edition, we speak to Breezey Master 2017 winner Lucky C. Salvador on what gets him frothing in the world of design. Lucky has been in the coffee industry for 10 years and has moved from the Philippines, to Melbourne and now to Singapore where he trains future baristas.
Over to you, Lucky.

This is tough! I pretty much like a cafe with any kind of personality or genre. I think in general, what makes cafe look great, is not only having a beautiful interior design and furniture, but making sure it has a warm and inviting atmosphere, quality coffee and food – it’s all about creating a special, intimate experience. I love that feeling of being welcomed by a café like coming into a good friends home.

Whenever I walk into a cafe, the first thing that my eyes will look for is the coffee bar set up. Like a lot of customers I look at the machines, equipment, the brand of coffee and the type of milk they use. Basically, I like to see what is on offer – more often than not if I see something new, I’ll want to try it and it’s always good to learn and educate customers as coffee is continuously growing. It’s important for our industry.

My advice is to have a bar set up that makes a statement and enables you to stand out.

It’s not only getting better, it’s getting crazier. Latte art nowadays is unbelievable, and honestly, only few latte artist baristas can pull off those kinds of wild designs, not even myself (although I’ll keep practicing).

In terms of what baristas can do to stand out, I would say there’s more to our role than latte art. Learn everything and be good at it, like the ability to deliver unique coffee knowledge, to taste, to make insanely delicious coffee and to change someone’s perception. Most importantly, deliver exceptional customer service – that’s where you’ll truly stand out as a barista.

To make a brand stand out, you need to be unique. Whether that’s in your product offering, how you taste, or how you look.

As I said before, coffee culture is cool and if you want to be part of an impressive bar set up, the way your product looks is very important. I’ve been really impressed with the redesign from Almond Breeze Barista Blend, not only is the new packaging fresh, it listened to the people who use it in order to decide what it should look like. If that doesn’t show dedication to the industry and grab people’s attention, I don’t know what will.

RAIHAAN ESAT

Almond Breeze Barista Blend is dedicated to pushing the industry forward and in this series; we are profiling the people who are leading the charge.

First up, we meet Raihaan Esat

Raihaan Esat is an economics and finance graduate from QUT and has been in the Coffee industry for over 10 years.

Raihaan considers himself a student of knowledge in roast profiling, quality control systems, blending, competition preparations and barista training.

Raihaan is proud to join the ICT team and is looking to work with coffee roasters of all shapes and sizes to make them unique!

Coffee has become such a diverse industry so when it comes to talking about what excites me, the question is, where do I start? I’m going to start from the beginning, by honouring the people at the origin of coffee, the farmers; without them where would we be?

Over the past year, I have had the incredible fortune of been involved in sourcing coffee from some truly progressive farmers. Their insistence on producing quality comes from the desire to share their love for the land and the coffee that springs from it!

I wish I could give a simple answer to this question and say that technology improved five fold, or that farming techniques improved 10 fold. However, although these may be true, I feel as though I would be doing the industry a disservice if I did not mention the apparent shift in perspective that I have noticed over the past year.

There was a time where the small and the artisanal businesses were regarded as the only true representation of coffee, and large corporate structures were seen as the enemy to progressive ideas. Things, however, are changing. In my hometown at least, I have seen nothing but love and respect flow to anyone involved in coffee, the corporate giants coexist in harmony with the micro coffee artisans. One cannot exist without the other; it’s a symbiotic relationship.

One word ‘differentiation’. I feel as though in the last five years we have been building up to something, something beautiful. We have spent endless amounts of time and energy improving our skills in farming, roasting and coffee preparation and information on all of this is no longer held on to by the elite minority, but is shared freely. The result of this?

Where once the industry seemed to be moving in a homogenous direction, now businesses are finding it increasingly easy to try something new, different and adventurous. Take for instance the alternative milk products. In the blink of an eye we have seen the emergence of a great variety of options, each with its own uniqueness that is only matched with its unashamed acceptance of it!

This is hard to say, but the sad truth is, climate change is a challenge for coffee growers. For us on the service side of the industry, it’s in our best interest to safeguard our future by contributing to research into new and sustainable agricultural exercises, new coffee varieties and ethical practices. This is probably the industry’s most immediate concern. I have no doubt that with the continued effort of coffee producers, supported by collaborations with roasting professionals; we will overcome these challenges in the not too distant future!

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