The Barista – Hadassah Green

Our incoming NZ Barista Guild Vice Chair has just got back from the inaugural SCAA Science Origin trip. Find out more about Hadassah and her trip here…
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
I grew up in the US, and my sister worked in a diner while she was in high school. She’s a lot older than me, and sometimes my parents had to work late, so they would drop my brothers and me off to her. I would sit in the booths and eat grilled cheese sandwiches and make stuff out of toothpicks until they could come pick me up. I think I must have been about seven or eight years old. We never had coffee in the house, but I guess one night I convinced her it was a really good idea to give me some. I remember thinking it was disgusting – thinking about diner coffee now, it probably was! I must have put about ten sugars into it, but one of my brothers had dared me to drink it all, so I did.
When / why did you first get working in coffee?
When I was fourteen I took a course through my high school to learn to make espresso. I didn’t learn very much, but it was enough to get me in the door of my first job after school, washing dishes. I sort of worked my way up from there.
What led you to becoming a barista?
I’m a terrible waiter! I’m ok behind a counter, but as soon as I get out on the floor, I start dropping things and forgetting orders and just generally making the customers unhappy. Being so bad at my job made me want to find something at work I was good at, and so I started jumping behind the machine as often as I could.
What is the best part of your job?
When someone comes into a training session with very little interest, and leaves excited to learn more about coffee. I love that moment when a person who thinks they don’t like coffee tries a well-made shot of espresso and says it’s delicious. There were a lot of really amazing baristas who inspired me with their passion and enthusiasm when I was just starting out in coffee, so I try to keep that going with new coffee makers who come to me for training.
Talk us through a typical day at work.
Sleep through my alarm and then run around the house trying to get out the door on time. Get to work and set up the training room for my first training of the day. These are typically with 1 – 3 people from the same café, and they could be beginners or seasoned pros. I don’t usually do more than two trainings in a day, so the rest of my time is spent catching up on paperwork, following up on people I have already trained to make sure they’re still on track, researching new cool coffee stuff, attending weekly cuppings, and either starting or finishing the side projects I always seem to be putting my hand up for. Lately, there’s always Guild stuff that needs doing, so that’s occupying a lot of my day as well.
What are your roles outside of making coffee?
I teach people to make better coffee. Sometimes that means starting from scratch and going over all the basic skills and theory. Sometimes that means breaking bad habits and helping a more experienced coffee maker to improve their technique or efficiency. Occasionally I get to geek out with other baristas who want to know more about the science of extraction, or how an espresso machine works, or more about roasting, growing and harvesting, or processing. They’re all rewarding in their own ways. I think it’s important to know a bit about every aspect of coffee, so even though I mainly teach espresso, I try to make sure I know something about non-pressurised brewing, and at the moment I’m trying to learn a bit more about roasting, too. I’m fortunate to work with very knowledgable, and very patient, people.
What is your favourite brew method and/or coffee origin and why?
Tough questions! I like the heat stability of siphon, but the clarity of V60. If I’m honest, I usually just make myself a plunger when I’m home alone, but my boyfriend makes the best pour overs and I can usually convince him to make one for me. If I’m going somewhere like Customs I tend to trust their recommendation on whatever brew method is best for the coffee I want to try.
Origin is a tricky one. This year has been amazing for coffee from Kenya, and it wasn’t an origin I had tried much of before, so that’s been cool. I usually find myself drawn to Ethiopian coffee, particularly Yirgacheffe.
Often I’ll think I don’t really like an origin, and then we get some coffee from a particular estate that makes me change my mind, and I get excited about the unexpectedness of it. One of the micro-lots we got from Brazil this year was what made me want to go there in the first place, because it totally changed my mind about what Brazilian coffee could taste like.
Tulip or rosetta?
Ha! I usually pour wonky apples. I’m a big fan of a nice symmetrical rosetta, but I mostly care about what a coffee tastes like. As long as there’s contrast and plenty of crema, I’m not really fussed about patterns.
Do you have a ‘coffee crush’ (person you most respect in the business)?
I have a hundred coffee crushes! From overseas, I always like what Gwilym Davies has to say. I met some incredible people on my trip to Brazil, and formed a few new coffee crushes. In particular, I love what the Barreto-Croce family are doing on FAF to improve quality and knowledge in their region.
Here in New Zealand, I have so much respect for so many of the people I work and interact with, I don’t think I could pick just one. It’s hard when sometimes the people who work the hardest, and are doing the most, are the ones who don’t really come out into the spotlight. Although he’s not in the office that much anymore, Chris Dillon is an absolute powerhouse of knowledge, and I try to pick his brains whenever we both have the time. In learning more about roasting, and heading overseas to visit farms in Brazil, I gained a lot of new respect for our roasters, Justin McArthur and Fraser Lovell.
Coffee can feel like a bit of a boy’s club sometimes, so I always have a lot of respect for women who have been in the industry for a long time – Olivia Ihimaera- Smiler, Jessica Godfrey and Emma Markland-Webster, for example.
At the WBC, I love watching Miki Suzuki’s performances. This year at the NZBC, I found it impossible to watch Chloe Zhou perform without grinning from ear to ear – her enthusiasm is completely infectious.
What is the SCAA Science Origin trip?
The SCAA Coffee Science Origin Trip is a (hopefully) yearly event, which took place in Brazil, in late October and early November of this year. It was a tour of farms, co- operatives, processing equipment manufacturers and research centers to learn more about the recent advances in growing, harvesting and processing technologies being made in Brazil.
Brazil is in a pretty unusual place within the coffee market. The economy, and by extension the cost of living and labour, are too high to continue to accept commodity prices for coffee, and yet commodity is what they have traditionally produced. The climate, altitude and style of farming doesn’t really lend itself to producing specialty coffee, yet the other side of this coin is that Brazil is one of the only coffee producing countries which can afford extensive research into coffee quality. This means the industry is having to come up with some pretty inventive and advanced ways of improving quality.
How long was the trip and what did a typical day look like?
Well, the tour was only a week, but I spent another two weeks living and working on Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza (FAF), learning more about what they do there. Supreme formed a partnership with FAF after Fraser visited in 2011. They grow coffee, but they also work with local farms to improve quality in their region, and they process and sell a lot of coffee which is grown on surrounding farms.
On the tour, our days were so full, I would have to write another twenty pages to describe them all. We had daily lectures, visits to an incredibly wide variety of locations, and a lot of cuppings.
My days at FAF were a little less structured, but no less full. Every day started at dawn, with an hour of yoga (Silvia Barreto, who owns the farm, is very enthusiastic about yoga, and encourages everyone to join her). After that came breakfast, with some of the best food I have ever eaten. The family grows all their own vegetables, and makes their own cheese and yoghurt from the cows they raise. Since one of their sons, Felipe, is a roaster, the coffee (which comes from the farm) is pretty much as fresh and local as it gets. Although they do grow coffee, their main cash crop is bananas, and their farm is incredibly diverse, so every morning in addition to bread, cereal and yoghurt, there was an entire table covered with fruit, some of which I didn’t even know existed.
Some days I would help with cleaning, sorting, roasting, cupping and evaluating coffee samples from farms in the region. Some days I would help in the kitchen, baking or jam-making. There’s always work that needs doing on a farm, and there’s always a lot to learn.
How many people were on the trip and where were they from?
There were ten of us, plus Emma Bladyka, the SCAA Science Manager who organised the tour, and Thiago Trovo from BSCA. There were roasters, baristas, trainers, q- graders, business owners and even a coffee producer from Colombia. It was an awesome group, and Iʼm still in touch with most of them – it was great to bond with people over a shared love of coffee.
What was the best thing about the trip?
Another tough question! The best part of the Science Tour was the day we spent at UFLA, with Dr. Flávio de Meira Borém, the worldʼs leading expert in coffee research. I felt honored to be able to spend the day learning about his research. Although most of his studies are still in their infancy, I believe his research into gene expression, and the environmental and genetic causes of particular flavors, will eventually lead to some incredible breakthroughs in the production of quality in coffee.
The best part of my stay on FAF was meeting so many coffee farmers. Itʼs one thing to do the research, and to know on paper, that Direct Trade is a sound, sustainable way of buying coffee, but itʼs quite another to be able to speak to farmers directly. It was awesome to meet farmers who are committed to improving quality and breaking into the specialty market.
What was the most surprising thing about Brazil?
How good and bad the coffee was. At the cuppings we attended, I tasted some incredible coffees, which to me tasted nothing like the flavours I would associate with Brazil. There were a lot of clean, juicy coffees, and I was often surprised to learn they were full naturals. On the other hand, a majority of the good stuff gets exported, so the coffee that is typically served in Brazil is terrible!
What is the one thing you would really like to communicate to the coffee and barista community in NZ after going on the trip?
There is so much more going on in coffee than what we know about in New Zealand. I remember learning about roasting and buying, and feeling like there was a whole new world of coffee knowledge beyond the espresso machine and the stuff that came in bags on supermarket shelves. I got that feeling all over again on this trip.
It’s fascinating, but also frustrating, to see so much amazing research going on in every facet of the coffee industry (research at a genetic level, soil analysis and development of new varieties, harvesting and processing, roasting, brew methods, extraction) but to see so little communication between those different branches.
It’s easy to get smug about the fact that espresso in New Zealand is quite good compared to other countries, but in reality we’re lagging behind in a lot of other areas. It’s important for us to keep learning and growing, otherwise we’ll never catch up.