Barista profile – Vernon Omeri

Find out more about Vernon Omeri
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
Greggs instant coffee back in the 70’s with my Samoan family at family gatherings. Coffee was great for dipping my peanut butter toasted sandwiches in to!
When / why did you first get working in coffee?
In 2006 while teaching and working in China a friend asked me to help him set up a café to help some at risk ex-addicts for good work for a living. My wife was a home economics teacher so she trained the local crew for food and I tried my best to work out how to use an espresso machine. I had Jess Godfrey’s ‘How to Make Really Good Coffee’ as my key textbook to getting the menu down and kiwi as.
What led you to becoming a barista?
After setting up this project I got really interested in coffee and came back to learn more about it. Started in hospo as a bartender doing coffee in Christchurch for a 6 months. That company handed out opportunities for PD so did a course with Piazza D’Oro and got hooked on espresso.
Moved to Wellington and although offered a job in Real Estate turned it down when Fuel Espresso boss Sanjay Panapa offered me a job in coffee as a barista. I was trained by Massimo Capellino enjoying a few years there at Fuel. The roles included a job as a regular barista, Head Barista and Barista trainer at their various sites. Stayed there from 2007 until 2010.
What is the best part of your job?
Customer interaction and building relationships over coffee. Nothing beats knowing you have made a connection with somebody and not only served them great coffee, but made their experience in coffee memorable.
Talk us through a typical work day
I usually come in earlier than my start time so that I can set up the store quickly and have more time to dial in the coffee and tinker on the machine (currently a San Marco 105 as the La Marzocco GB5 is getting serviced)! Even auto grinders need a bit of TLC and our Mazzer Robur E often needs coarsening first time up. I test shots and check volumes and meters. Standard stuff then practice a little latte art as I’m able.
I love surprising the chefs and all other staff with coffees before they ask. Being surprised by coffee makes people smile and puts them on the right side of the morning!
At 7:30am regulars are already queued up. Having remembered their orders, we’re trying to pull shots quickly and time them to be ready asap-that way our runner will get them up quick. Sometimes it’s the perception of getting it quickly that counts for good service since people feel you are being considerate of them. As orders are being taken I’m prepping shots/milk or helping run coffee/food. There can be a lot of things on the go in the mornings.
A team of us juggles the various jobs of running coffee/food, making shots/milk, cash till, cabinet food, clearing etc so that the roles are spread evenly with some key baristas brought in when things get busy.
We all get 10 min breaks as the morning pans out and 1/2hr lunches. I’ve never seen this done well in before but Addington Coffee co-op is conscious of doing a fair job with its staff and they really appreciate it.
Early starts mean early finishes so if I started at 7 then the finish time is usually around 3-3:30pm-the later the start the later the finish. The longest shift:9hrs with to 10 min breaks included and lunch.
What are your roles outside of making coffee?
I help with some training of staff at cafes we supply machines or beans to and also help with coffee at events at night when required. I’d like to keep up with other NZ education in coffee as I’ve consulted in the setting up of cafes overseas in China.
I recently set up a café in a Tibetan area in Sichuan province. They have a great machine: Nuova Simonelli Aurellia II and a Macap electronic grinder and are supplied by Greenhouse coffee in Xining, Qinghai province-a friend of mine from the US who is a Q-grader roasting and setting up cafes and a supply chain for their beans. They often ask me to consult on coffee and training for baristas etc which I love doing.
What is your favourite brew method and/or coffee origin and why?
I use a stovetop every morning as my go to regular cup of ‘joe’ because with good preparation and extraction you can get a great coffee. It’s not espresso but it revolutionized Italy and the café scene forever and has its key place in history.
I ran for Hide Kono when he participated in the 2011 NZBC and he let me have some of his Sulawesi that Crafted were running out of a small place in Indonesia. While I hadn’t been a fan of this origin because of its high acidity this coffee blew me away and I have never forgotten that taste: a mellow sweet and soury hit with wonderful balance and smooth mouth feel.
Tulip or rosetta?
Rosetta because it lends itself to other shapes. I’m working on a better Swan.
What would be your dream ‘coffee experience’?
A year or two off to study, train and get certificated as a Q grader passing all their modules and to be able to triangulate and distinguish well the many key coffees of the world!
Do you have a ‘coffee crush’?
So many people but I would say Samuel Gurel who is tearing it up in China with Greenhouse’s three cafes and all their plans for expansion in beans across that nation at this time!