Guild Member Isaac Seyb from Member company Toasted answers our questions…
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
My earliest coffee related experience was when I was 12 years old working part-time as a dishwasher in a café my Aunt was managing. The barista who was working one day offered me a hot chocolate, but to try and be a big man I said I’ll take a flat white instead. Because of my age, she was shaking in disbelief but proceeded to make it anyway. Although I was too young and inexperienced to enjoy that coffee, I do remember the moment of my first coffee clearly.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
Well, in all honesty, I never thought much about careers before the age of 14. Having worked as a dishwasher and cleaner for two years prior to that I was always around baristas and looking up to them in a certain way of admiration. One day I found an old coffee machine at home and decided to figure out how to use it. I researched a lot and practised pretty much daily. At work one day I asked the barista if I could have a try on the machine and to his surprise, I roughly knew how to make a coffee, which is very rare for someone so young. Each week following I would ask to make my own coffee. At this point, I realised I was set on becoming a barista. I landed my first full-time job as one at the age of 15. It was the first profession I ever strived to be a part of and I was a kid when I decided that. So I suppose I’ve always wanted to be a coffee professional.
When did you first get working in coffee?
I landed my first full-time job as a barista at the age of 15, working for a Sierra coffee branch in Link Drive, I soon moved on through a few more cafes before landing my job as a coffee roaster and barista with Toasted Espresso. After two years of being here, now I am the head roaster and managing the profiling and quality of our blends alongside the talented team members Joe Mac and Takahito Koyanagi.
What led you to become a barista?
I became intrigued by the culture that surrounds them. I believe that the role of the barista is the key to sculpting the wonderful atmosphere of a café and the driving force behind pushing the specialty coffee industry further in ways of innovation with equipment, improvement in service tactics and quality of green produce. The barista is one of the most important links in the chain of the industry and I’m proud to be one.
What is the best part of your job?
Apart from drinking a lot of free coffee? Well, I love to make peoples day with simple gestures. As baristas, we get to be the best part of a lot of people’s days. Simply by providing them with their morning fix of caffeine with disciplined attention to detail, quality and consistency. And yes, this is great, but there’s more to it than that for me. I love to educate people about our industry. As a barista and coffee roaster, I have found ways of convincing my customers to build trust in me. They are often happy to taste the drinks I offer them and listen to my explanation of why I believe this drink is worth sharing. Even if it is on the opposite end of the spectrum from what they are used to drinking. I love having the opportunity to further educate the community about the importance of specialty coffee, and how they can further indulge themselves in it. It’s a proud moment when I see customers who were drinking mochaccinos; order a long black, due to the education and subtle suggestions that the team and I have provided. Having the roastery on site with the café provides perfect education opportunities.
Talk us through a typical workday.
Well, it starts off with getting that grinder calibrated to match our brew recipes. At Toasted Espresso we have strict standards with our brew recipes to present our blends at the peak of their potential. I’ll check flow rate, shot time and shot weight and then taste the espresso to make sure it is performing adequately to our standards. After grinder calibration and setting up the brew bar, I pass it over to the talented team members Takahito Koyanagi and Adriana Zapien Azpeitia to manage for most of the remaining day. I then head out back to the roastery and fire up our two roasters. The STA Impianti Italian workhorses. A 30KG and a 5KG roaster. I will typically pump out three to four hundred kilos of coffee per day. Mainly consisting of our star blend AA7, although accompanied by our five origin blend ‘Toasted’ and three origins fair trade organic ‘Nude’ blend. On the 5KG roaster, I will roast our swiss water decaf and single origin coffees. After roasting all of the coffee for the day I will set up a cupping session to monitor the quality of coffee from each week. After this, I get back to the brew bar to clean it up, close it and have it prepared for another day. This is a typical workday of mine at Toasted Espresso.
What is your favourite brew method and/or coffee origin and why?
My favourite brew method is pour over. I own a blue bottle porcelain dripper from New York that I brew all my weekend brews with and it has proven to be my favourite due to the even, steady flow rate and cleanliness of flavour it produces. My favourite origin of coffee is a Kenyan, I’ll always pick it out on the cupping table as the star of the lot. I love the bold body, pleasant acidity and intense juicy flavours it has to offer.
Tulip, Rosetta or Swan?
I love a clean, balanced, well-contrasted tulip. They are so elegant and classy without the need to show off. They are fast and efficient to pump out under busy circumstances and they are just plain beautiful. I love Tulips!
What are your interests outside of coffee?
I love to play the guitar and ride my motorbike. I’m always looking for a new project to start and I love getting out for physical activities and exercise such as swimming, biking and running. I love to cook too. I try to moderate and balance my daily routines with productive leisure activities, hard work and exercise. I’m always looking to improve in not just coffee but in all aspects of my life.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. If you were to ask me the same question five years ago I wouldn’t have guessed it would be here. Truth is, this industry can throw you through some unexpected sudden turns and take you places you would never have expected. That’s what I love about it so much. Sure it’s good to plan ahead, have goals of where I want to end up and what I want to achieve, but I can never be certain of where I see myself five years from now. The main thing for me is to persevere, I love my job very much, but I’m not saying that every day is perfect, I struggle just like the rest of us, and the reason I can always see it through is because I see purpose in persevering, I have a vision of where I want this career to take me and what I want to achieve in it. I have a passion for this industry and as long as I retain that, I believe I will be happy with where I am five years from now.
How do you see the coffee industry changing in the future?
Honestly, I believe the industry has never been more incredible than it is today. And my vision for the future is a constant improvement because of the education that continues to be released and considered by not just the industry itself but by the general public. And the progression of how the general public understands this industry has the biggest impact of all since they are the widest consumer. Herding them away from franchises and traditionally cultured environments and into the more speciality-focussed environments is what I believe will be the prime factor in determining the growth of this industry. I believe further and wider spread education is the key to industrial change.
What would be your dream coffee experience?
My dream coffee experience would be having the opportunity to travel to a coffee producing origin and experience the growing, harvesting and processing of coffee first hand. I believe further education in this aspect of the industry would further develop my understanding and passion towards my career.
Do you have a coffee crush?
Several, how could I have just one in an industry filled with so many inspiring individuals. I must say Chloe Natrass, Eden Marie and Charlotte Malaval are the top of many contenders. They are very talented and inspiring. But I respect a lot of people in this industry, male and female. It is full of amazing people!
Member Profile – Isaac Seyb – Guild Member
Guild Member Isaac Seyb from Member company Toasted answers our questions…