Barista Guild – Steve Barrett

What was your first coffee experience? I am ashamed to say my first experience with coffee was when I was bodybuilding at age 20, I tried to drink instant, took on sip and threw out the rest of the container and moved to espresso prepared by Baristas. I needed a drink low in calories that I could enjoy that wasn’t artificial and help with energy levels. Coffee was it
How did you start working in coffee? I got my first job in Coffee in 2007 (I am a late bloomer compared to a lot of people who have worked in coffee) Having had a few jobs I was looking to find a career and a Chef friend suggested that since I had great enthusiasm for drinking good coffee in abundance that maybe look at trying to move into the industry. I was very hesitant as I remembered seeing all these really cool stylish people working and Roasteries and I thought noone would ever Hire me. Being in London at the time I stumbled across Square Mile and knew nothing about them. Anette Moldvaer was super inviting and really helpful, after making me drink 5 espressos within an hour and we talked about the flavours her and James Hoffmann helped me to get my first job working with a cafe owner who was a UKBC finalist. It wasn’t until later I found out how high profile they both were and to this day I still can’t thank them enough for being so helpful and honest and enthusiastic in helping me to get my foot in the industry door.
What led you to becoming a barista? Becoming a Barista seemed to be the starting point for a lot of people in coffee, I wanted to work with Roasteries to try and get as close to the coffee as possible. The logic for me was if I could work closely with the coffee and people who roasted it then it would be easier for e to learn more about it from all perspectives, Seed to cup, Cupping, Roasting, Varietals. For me having a rounded knowledge of coffee helps me to make a better cup for my customers and providing a better experience for them if they are wanting more information.
What is the best part of your job? Getting to taste different coffees, working on new brewing equipment and techniques. sharing knowledge and having awesome conversations with others who love coffee.
Talk us through a typical work day. A typical day hmmmmmm. I don’t really have one. But stumble into work, make a coffee, check emails, If I have roasted samples the day before I am cupping and evaluating them, If they are Espresso samples ready to run through Espresso and evaluating them.
What are your other roles outside coffee making? Other projects I am working on are Quality Assurance Protocols for our coffees from when they leave the Farm and arrive at the Roasterie for unloading right up to when they have been roasted. Roaster modifications as we have a 60kg Gothot that hasn’t had any modifications done to it since it was made in the 1960s. Roast profile experimentation and evaluation. Traning programmes for Espresso and Soft Brew Methods. Business Development modules for cafe staff and owners to help empower them to learn how they grow their business. I spend a lot of time out of work talking to other Baristas and Roasters here and overseas and researching information as much as possible, trying new coffees, Very one dimensional, but I coach climbing and surf whenever I get the chance.
What is your favourite brew method and why? Its too hard to pick one brew method or origin, I mostly drink V60 in the morning, I also think Aeropress is very underrated in New Zealand, I do enjoy making a Siphon. I still love Espresso but that is my afternoon drink (I am a bit backwards to a lot of people about when they have Espresso and Filter. Memorable coffees, Feb 2012 Red Brick Seasonal Espresso from Square Mile was incredible, I cant remember the blend, Wote Yirgacheffe from Has Bean had amazing Jasmine and Lime, Esmeralda Geisha from Seven Seeds was like tasting rock candy from dreamworld it was crazy. One that stands out the most was because it was the first time I picked out distinct Dark Chocolate flavours was a Single Origin from Monmouth Coffee in London, I almost drank the whole bag in a day! That was when I began to get really excited about what flavours you can give someone in a cup if it is really looked after and treated with respect along every part of the coffees journey
Tulip or rosetta? Both! it depends on what flow i am in that day, plus my art needs a lot of work anyway.
What would be your dream coffee experience or job? At the moment I am doing it, I am want to continue to grow my knowledge and visit farms, improve my cupping and roasting skills, and start working toward getting my Q grader qualification. I think the next few years are going to be especially busy -in a good way.
Who do you most admire in coffee? Rene Macaulay (Head Roaster Peoples Coffee) and Matt Lamason (Founder Peoples Coffee), very ethical and enthusiastic, always very keen to help others build their skills in coffee.
Anette and James (Square Mile) They have such enthusiasm and are very innovative, plus I would love to have Anette’s palate.
Marty Curtis SCAA Member and Master Roaster -He has given a lot of time and effort into growing the Specialty Coffee Industry in America but is very behind the scenes He has a great amount of skill in a lot of different areas, very cool to see.
Steve is pictured below with his home machine – a two group Wega he rebuilt.