Tag Archives: Barista

An Interview with Colton Rempel

There is no doubt that the coffee scene in Manitoba is experiencing a growth spurt.Colton_Jonnys_Java
There are a good handful of great shops already supporting the ever-growing specialty coffee customer and more popping up all the time. 

It was a real pleasure to host the Prairie Regional Barista Championships (PRBC) in Winnipeg this year and is another way Jonny’s Java has proved to be a mover in the Canadian coffee scene.
Andy Wiebe and Megan Hiebert of Jonny’s, as well as Vanessa Stachiw of Little Sister Coffee are to thank for bringing the PRBC to Manitoba this year. 

We’ve had staff at Jonny’s representing at the PRBC for a few years now but we’ve never had a competitor as our own until this year. We are very excited and so so proud of Colton for stepping up and taking on the challenge to compete at this years competition. 
Colton and I are thousands of kilometres away from each other at the moment but we were able to align a phone meeting this week and I wanted to ask him a bit of how he felt the competition went as well as advice for people who are looking to compete for the first time. 

Enter Colton

So Colton, what was the progression from working bar at the cafe to competing this year at PRBC?
Well as you know I’ve been following coffee for a while and last year I volunteered at the National Barista Championships to get a bit more hands on and experience of that area and this year I decided to throw my hat in and try it out.

What do you think was the biggest surprise going from spectator to competitor?
It is a lot more demanding than I could have imagined. There are so many things to learn and the more time you can take to prepare the better. You’ll encounter a lot of hiccups. 

Can you tell us some hiccups you experienced in prep and in comp?
Learning the rules and structure is time-consuming and coming up with a theme and a fluid flow was very difficult to do. I was pretty sure of the coffee I wanted to use, but to build a signature drink and theme around it was tough. As far as in competition goes; I’ve never competed before so there were so many things I did not know! haha. I didn’t understand what the prep time and was for before my routine, so I didn’t pull any practice shots or anything, then when actual performance time came, my dose was a little off and had to do some purging, put they worked out after that haha. That messed my routine up a bit though. I also got a little freaked out that I was running out of time, so I called “time” with about a minute left and hadn’t cleaned my work station or properly served my signature beverage. 

What was your routine about?
My routine was about showcasing the up-and-coming coffee scene in Mexico and how it related to Manitoba. Manitoba’s coffee scene is booming uncontrollably and Mexican coffees are getting better and better all the time, it is really impressive how far their attention to quality has come. 

What was your favourite part about the weekend aside from competing?
Probably the tasting session that was facilitated by Josh Hockin from Transcend Coffee in Edmonton.  He talked about tasting coffee varietals and regions. This kind of has to do with competing but my most favourite part was reprising Other Brother Coffee Roasters (OBR). OBR is a fairly new coffee roasters in Manitoba and in all honesty I had my doubts about using their coffee but it was amazing! Not only was the coffee great but the support from them was equally as incredible. Sam, one of the owners, would text me almost daily to see how the coffee was settling and how they could improve it for next batch. Getting to work with Sam was really humbling and all the support I got from OBR was overwhelming. 

So what’s next in coffee for you?
I just took on a management position and will be helping to open a new cafe in Winnipeg called Brothers Doughnuts. I’ll be running their coffee program there and I’m really excited about learning more about the business side of coffee. In the future I’d like to get into roasting as well. 

What’s next for you unrelated to coffee?
Well finding a place to live in Winnipeg is next. Adjusting to new life, work and circle of friends is a transition that will take some time. Being able to work in coffee is a safe place for me, it’s a comfortable place, because even if I’m hundred miles from home, I’m still at home making coffee. 

Any last words?
I can’t stress enough how much Andy and Megan’s support meant to me, they were so valuable. They are the reason I believe I did as well as I did, pretty much everything that I could have done better was my fault. Andy and Megan are both great judges and teachers, so every time I’d have a bar shift with Andy, he’d be watching my tamping, grooming and fall times, constantly encouraging me and pointing out things I could improve on.

Also… Andreas Adams is a great beatboxer! Colton_Jonnys_Java




4 steps to perfecting your pour-over.

Are you one of the thousands of people that have upped their home brewing coffee game? coffee brewerPour overs, Aeropress and so many other single cup brew methods have invaded kitchens across Canada.

Recently we did a post about how to have a better coffee experience. This was more about getting you into a mental state prior to cupping or drinking coffee.

Today I want to talk more about the technical side of how to brew a quality pour-over at home consistently.

However you approach your brewing, you want to make sure it is replicable. When you’re playing with variables, make sure your consistent with what variable you are changing.

Here are the top 4 steps to monitor:

Agitation – are you pulsating your water doses as you get to your desired weight? If so, how much and how often?

Stirring – are you stirring the coffee at the bloom or once you’ve hit your water weight?

Particle size – Are you adjusting your coffee particle size according to the amount of coffee you’re brewing? Are you keeping it consistent?

Temperature – have you played around with brewing your coffee one or two degrees hotter or cooler?

Isolating variables will help you pin point how an action affects outcome and if it was a desirable outcome or not. By isolating the variables you can replicate the results next time you brew.

I hope this helps you get a better cup every morning and give you a better day every week.

Spanish Coffee Company Creates a Barista Competition for People with Down Syndrome

Baristas competed in teams, each tema member tasked with a job that fell into his area if expertise.

On September 15, at the historical Pazo de Lestrove hotel in Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, the second Galician Down Barista Championship, 21 baristas with Down syndrome (DS) competed in a very special barista competition. It was the first barista contest of its kind in the world.

Twenty-one baristas participated in this exciting competition, which offered participants fve days of training time prior to the event.

Twenty-one baristas participated in this exciting competition, which offered participants five days of training time prior to the event.

“A couple of years ago, we started training people with Down syndrome as baristas, and the experience was amazing for everyone who was involved,” says Carolina Otero, championship organizer and marketing manager of Cafento, one of the largest coffee companies in Spain. “Our baristas found a lot of satisfaction in working with Down syndrome people, and realized that they really enjoyed preparing great coffee, they were fast learners and that, with a few days of good training, they would be capable to perform like professionals. So we decided to take a step forward.”

The first championship for baristas with DS was an informal affair held in Valencia in 2011. The popularity of the event was such that Carolina and her colleagues immediately got to work on the more structured Galician Down Syndrome Barista Championship, which meets the official barista competition requirements, save a few adaptations.

Baristas competed in teams, each tema member tasked with a job that fell into his area if expertise.

Baristas competed in teams, each tema member tasked with a job that fell into his area if expertise.

The championship event began a week before the actual day of competition, giving the competitors five days to train. Four teams were formed, two from the Down Compostela Foundation, in the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela, where the famous Way of St. James ends; and two from the Association Down Vigo, a coastal city with the same name, Vigo, in the south of the Spanish autonomous region.

“They—the apprentices—all wanted to make cappuccinos because latte art was what they liked the most,” says Diego López, a Cafento barista who trained the Compostela teams. “But the classic latte art drawings were not enough for them! One of them drew a soccer field and even Neymar’s silhouette!” Neymar is an acclaimed Brazilian soccer player who plays at F. C. Barcelona.

This was the second time Cafe has hosted this special competition. The first was more informal, but with the success of this year's more structured affair, it will continue and grow in years to come.

This was the second time Cafento has hosted this special competition. The first was more informal, but with the success of this year’s more structured affair, it will continue and grow in years to come.

Víctor Couto, the other Cafento coach, working with Vigo teams, says that “teaching people with Down syndrome is easier than I thought. There are no big differences than with any other kind of person. They come each day really eager to learn and practice.”

When asked about the actual skills these barista apprentices gain during the training lessons, Couto says, “Many experienced coffee shop owners and restaurant workers are not able to do some of the things these guys have learned to do during the training week. They are developing true barista skills.”

Barista mentors from Cafento trained the competitors for five days before the competition.

Barista mentors from Cafento trained the competitors for five days before the competition.

This is why Cafento and the other organizers—Down Compostela, Down Vigo, Pousadas de Compostela, and the Businessmen Association of Hotel and Catering of Santiago de Compostela—chose to give the competition winners a job opportunity and a chance to continue improving their professional skills.

The prize for the two best teams consisted of a period of real practice in some of the best hotels in Compostela and Vigo. This is the way AC Palacio del Carmen, A Tafona do Peregrino, Hostal dos Reis Católicos, NH Obradoiro, Puerta del Camino, San Lorenzo and Tryp Santiago in Compostela, and Gran Hotel Nagari, Hesperia Vigo, NH Palacio de Vigo, Pazo los Escudos or Tryp Los Galeones, in Vigo, got involved and supported the second edition of this initiative.

The competition on September 15 drew a large and excited audience.

The competition on September 15 drew a large and excited audience.

On September 15, a full audience packed the competition hall to watch each team’s performance. The four groups decided previously that the role of each barista should be on display during the show: there were the espresso specialists, latte art experts, and even cocktail authorities. There was a speaker, too, who was in charge of explaining every step his teammates were going through for the duration of the competition.

Each barista team included a speaker, who explained to the audience what was going on on stage throughout his team's performance.

Each barista team included a speaker, who explained to the audience what was going on on stage throughout his team’s performance.

The teams were tasked with preparing two espressos, two cappuccinos, and two coffee cocktailsfor the two official barista judges. It was determined that Café Molido, one of the Vigo teams, was the best, followed by the Latte Art team, from Compostela. But the feeling among the public and organizers was that, in the end, all the 21 new baristas were winners.

Judges carefully deliberated to determine which team was the winner.

Judges carefully deliberated to determine which team was the winner.

The Galician Down Barista Championship will have a third edition next year, and Cafento is creating similar competitions in other parts of Spain.

Disclaimer: I came across this blog on Barista Magazines blog. This blog was NOT written by me, but I found it so awesome that I wanted to share it with our readers. Barista Magazine has been contacted and it is being used with their permission. If you’d like to see the original post, please click here.

Coffee Cupping. Are We Doing Our Part?

Do you ever find yourself looking at coffee scores and feeling lost as to where they came from?Screen Shot 2013-09-07 at 10.10.02 PM Perhaps you have cupped an 87 point coffee but you can’t seem to find out how they ever came to that conclusion.

How much time are we spending at our shops with our employees or customers cupping and evaluating coffees?    

How can we assure accurate cupping scores?
Can we be that consistent and calibrated to each other?
How can we assure our cupping scores are valid?

Well unless you cup frequently. We’re talking like 3 times a week, there is a very good chance that your cupping scores are not going to be all that valid.

 There are 3 things to work on to get your sensory skill set sharpened;

1) Ability.
2) Repeatability.
3) Calibration.

Can you be at least 85% accurate on a triangulation test? To practice or test yourself, select 4 similar coffees and have a friend set up a triangulation table with 6 stations of 3 cups.  Two cups in each set should be the same coffee. Go around and do your cupping and see how you fair.

Like a thermometer, can you read accurate results consistently?
A good test for this is to blindly cup the same roast sample twice in the same day and compare notes. It is expected that your total point score with the blind same day cupping shouldn’t vary more than 1.5 points, and our descriptors should be fairly similar as well.

You could then go through the same triangulation process as in the “ability” section and see if you get consistent readings from the same coffees.
This is a great way to reassure accuracy between your cuppings.

How do we assure that what I’m cupping and scoring a coffee is going to be similar to the café down the street or a city over?

After a cupper can prove that they are consistent, a calibrated cupper can be defined as one who has the repeated ability to match the results of an established group of cuppers. So how close is close enough? Every cupper should be within one or two point maximum deviation. It is suggested that you calibrate to the coffee roaster. If you are going to become a coffee buyer, they are after all the ones that are going to be purchasing from you, if they like the coffees your selling. If you work at a café they are the ones you trust with the purchasing decisions and roast profiles they decide to go with.

Professional cuppers should be cupping at least 3 times a week to keep their skills up. Much like practicing a musical instrument, you lose your touch after two weeks. You might not have forgotten the notes, but it takes a bit longer for your fingers to get into position.

Roaster, Barista and Customer; Deciphering The Code

Coffee roasting profiles can often be confusing and the tasting notes on bags misleading. As Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 2.53.50 PMyou develop your coffee pallet you’ll depend less on written descriptions and trust your own sense of taste.

The most common way I hear customers describe a coffee roasts profile are light, medium and dark; Only 3 descriptions for an enormous amount of possibilities.

What do these mean, and how can we help customers find what they are actually looking for?

In the roasting world there are many ways that we attempt to capture the roast more accurately and consistently; The SCAA has color tiles with numerical correspondents, lots of roasters use Agtron (a device that uses infrared light to analyze color and gives out a roast score with a numerical value.) Other still, go by measuring the bean temperature at the termination of roast. (or all 3.)

All this to help us recreate a great roast and deliver a consistent product.

This is just a little peak behind the veil on the science and intuition that goes into roasting. Keep in mind we’re not even touching on the subject of profiling.

As baristas (baristi) we want to provide the customer with exactly what they’re looking for, and sometimes that means trying to read between the lines.

More often than not, someone looking for dark roast is looking for “quality” and that’s what they associate with it. Sometimes they just want something with a heavier mouth feel, but rarely are they looking for a charred and mystical third crack.

So trust your barista intuition and always give your customers the best experience you can, while propelling our industry forward.

Interview w/ Jeremy Ho – 2012 Canadian Barista Champion

Jeremy Ho, a longtime baristas at Phil & Sebastian in Calgary took 1st place in the Canadian Jeremy nationalsNational Barista Championship which makes him the first Calgarian to represent Canada on the world stage in Melbourne, Australia for the World Barista Championships where he took 9th place.

I recently had the pleasure to chat with Jeremy about competition and leadership.

First off, congratulations again on winning the national championship and the 9th place finish at worlds!
It has been a few years since Canada has cracked top 10 hasn’t it?
It was 2010 since Canada cracked the top 10 with a 7th place finish by Kyle Straw.

It was great to see you perform live both at regionals and nationals. Can you explain how your approach to the “ring” differs from the first two competitions to the world stage?
My approach when I am prepping backstage, rolling out the cart, and getting into the competition area actually was no different between each stage. I try to prepare as much of my wares, cart, signature drink ingredients etc. as much time in advance in order to not be rushed and to be calm when I roll out. I usually avail of my team, delegate tasks to be done to people whom you trust to ensure that you are able to get all aspects of your cart prepared properly and in advance. A helpful tip is to grab a cart as soon as you can. From there, I usually listen to a bit of music to pump myself up, perhaps go through some of my opening lines, and get extremely focused and very pumped up. I also stay very positive throughout this process (which all changes after I compete, haha), to keep the great energy up and to lower EVERYONE’s stress. It’s important to go into the actual competition time feeling as confident as possible, but to be relaxed and focused enough to be able to respond to changes. Say a prayer, roll out and execute!

In terms of preparing the actual routine, we learned firsthand at how all encompassing a world stage routine must be. It was miles ahead what any of us had presented at any stage – in/house, regionals or nationals. We also saw how important preparation and organization was, as well as preparing for technical differences depending on where you go.

But my approach to competitions has always stayed the same. Using a competitor’s fire, I always pick a coffee that I am truly passionate about, and try to present it in a way that moves the industry forward, is approachable to all, and is a little outside of the box.

Ben Put has been a huge support system as a coach, friend and co-worker, how has Ben added value to you as a barista and a competitor?
Ben has been absolutely integral to my success in the coffee industry in general, never mind competitions. He is the epitome of coffee professional and innovator. I have learned a lot working alongside Ben and am constantly amazed at his “barista intuition”, his humility, knowledge and technique. He pushes me to be better everyday, and thus we work extremely well together. As he has said before, iron sharpens iron.

He also has always been a role model for competitions for me. The amount of investment of time and energy was something I learned was necessary to be successful. He works harder than anybody and is always rewarded with success, which is no surprise given his talent level. We trained very hard together, experimented together and to have his energy focused on my routine was such a great gift.jeremy perform

On the subject of support, I have never seen a company so invested in their people as Phil & Sebastian. Phil was actually weeping at the National competition when you took 1st place and Ben 2nd! How has intentional and proactive leaders (such as Phil and Seb) influenced your career?
It is so important to have owners that invest in and believe in competition, as well as your own individual skills. They have always provided an incredible atmosphere of pursuit, innovation and passion that has fit so well for me and have contributed greatly to what I have learned.

Being intentional and proactive are great traits to learn from, as P&S projects, experiments, and directions are always purposeful and deliberate. Being proactive was another trait that I learned is integral to self-directed learning which I think is key for baristas to continuously learn and be successful in the industry. They also work extremely hard, are very smart, practical, insightful, and humble. These are intentional traits that are key to being successful and I am glad to have seen that in them.

We are constantly evolving our employee relationships and we are in the works of even documenting and clearly outlining paths where baristas can succeed in our company, which is another great example in which P&S are investing in their staff.

What was the range of emotions from after winning nationals to realizing you’ve got the world competition ahead of you?
Nationals were an incredible feeling as I was so happy for our company to be able to give them such a great result for all the hard work they put towards my routine. Finishing 1-2 was a goal that Ben and I set together, and we were ecstatic with the outcome. There was a little bittersweet as we were all rooting for Ben to win as well (given his history). Just shows you how much of a team we are. However, I believe we have a stronger team this year, and insight from worlds was invaluable for him and I cannot wait to see what he does this year.

I was never really that nervous to compete on behalf of Canada on the world stage. I saw it as a huge honor, and was very excited and thrilled to be able to represent the amazing Canadian coffee community at the world stage. When I arrived in Melbourne, and first step foot in the competition arena and grandstands, they had all the national flags displayed in the rafters. I felt very proud and pumped when I saw the Canadian flag, and it dawned that I had a great opportunity. I wanted to bring the spotlight back to Canada.

So you obviously love Ethiopian coffees, you have used them at all your competitions this year and if I remember correctly it was also what got you really into coffee in the first place. Can you tell us what it was about the Duromina cooperative you used in worlds that made you shelf the Koke region you were using at nationals?
I look for a couple things when choosing a coffee to use for competitions: taste (first and foremost) and story. A coffee purchased with a lack of transparency or traceability usually means there is little to no story involved. Coffees that have development projects, are purchased via relationship with the producers or are from partners of ours over many years usually have incredible stories that help explain why the coffee tastes so good. The Koke we had was an excellent tasting coffee, but because it was purchased through the ECX, had very little information on it. Because part of our competition philosophy is to share unique information about coffee so people can be engaged and learn, we knew we had to get a more traceable coffee from Ethiopia. During our green buying trip in February we visited a number of cooperatives that had been working with Technoserve, a developmental organization that provides business and agronomy advice to farmers, and has been instrumental in developing wet mills in West Ethiopia. When we visited and heard about Duromina’s incredible story, we knew it would be amazing to use it at Worlds. Tasting the coffee only confirmed that it was a World Barista Championship caliber coffee.

What’s next for you in the coffee world?
Lots of very cool things happening for us in the cafe. I will be taking on a more involved role at P&S, hopefully focusing on more R&D, and developing lots of events and customer experience and knowledge type work. Who knows, maybe another competition is in the works too 😉 …

What is the biggest impact or change you’d like to have made in the coffee industry through your career?
I want to bring Canadian coffee in the global spotlight and have people view us as a thriving community where coffee innovation and quality experiences exist. I want to inspire new baristas and people and raise their expectations as to what coffee can be. I want to be involved in helping people discover what we love so much about coffee, world wide. I would like to also help move forward the cafe experience and interaction component of coffee, especially in the Canadian context.

What’s your next goal to accomplish totally unrelated to coffee?
Finish my MSc in Population and Public Health, and to get my paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

I know there have been so many people that have had their fingerprint on getting you to where you are, any shout outs you’d like to make?
Obviously everyone at P&S, from Cafe to roasterie staff and everyone in between for their support. Everyone cheering me on in the Canadian coffee scene. My close friends, family and loved ones for supporting me during competition. And thank God for the opportunity given.

To Find out more about Jeremy you can follow him on twitter and instagram: @OhYmerej
and his blog here.