There is nothing more exciting than meeting different folks from specialty coffee industry around the world. Specialty coffee is rapidly growing sector in the US economy today. More and more new coffee shops opening in various places of our country, more people involved in specialty coffee industry that helps to spread the knowledge and educate others what specialty coffee is about. People start noticing things different about coffee. People start to understand specific details about what farm particular coffee came from, where it was grown, at what elevation, and getting closer attention to varietals of coffee beans. As we take the first sip, our sense of taste introduces to the origin flavors of coffee from the country it came from. Coffee is not only a drink but the full science that wraps around it.
I would like to take this opportunity and talk to two different baristi from two different countries and see what is their view about specialty coffee. This time we turn our attention to Norway and Holland. What do they think about crafted quality based beverage? What is their personal affair with espresso, coffee and latte art.
Esther Maasdam, 26 is from the Netherlands and works in specialty coffee business for 8 years now. Esther makes coffee for various events and festivals across the Europe and she loves that, it is her true passion. She started in specialty coffee industry when she was looking for a job besides her study, something related to the craft. When time was passing by and still no job secured her friends started to worry about her. After months of search Esther all of sudden found an ad: “Do you want to make quality coffee for events?” Without any hesitation she decided to give a shot and the job was launched. She started to learn about specialty coffee on the spot while working on different events, talking and learning from her colleagues to gain more knowledge about what specialty coffee was about. In her own words, Esther describes her first hand experience with specialty coffee, “I was making coffee on festivals, weddings and openings. I was going from big cities to little towns. I served coffee to rich and poor, including businessman and housewives. It gave me the chance to introduce so many people to speciality coffee. I was going back home happy everyday and knew I wanted to go further with specialty coffee to achieve something more”.
Kari Janne Andersen is barista from Norway and the owner of coffee shop KaffiKari in Ulsteinvik. Kari has a huge passion for specialty coffee and she loves meeting new baristi around the world. KaffiKari opened it door to customers on November 25, 2005. It has 15 employees and started with coffee and pastries in menu. Today KaffiKari is also a restaurant with regular business hours from 11 AM to 6 PM. The concept was aimed to deliver the world’s best coffee. Before getting engage with specialty coffee, Kari had no clue what specialty coffee was about. She knew nothing about coffee at all. And from time to time she used to enjoy having mocha. Kari appreciates flavor as the most attribute in espresso. She finds espresso creama as corporated and undivided part of this very concentrated beverage and preaty appealing. From all brewing methods on the market nowadays, the Chemex is Kari’s preferred way to enjoy “clean cup” of coffee, she said. Kari pays a very particular attention to tamping, grinding, dosing and timing when it comes to achieving the appealing texture in espresso.
“And the great thing about the coffee business is making people happy with your coffee and your service. Never forget that it’s not only about sharing it with the coffee community, but with the whole community of this earth!” explains Esther Maasdam.
When we talked about coffee in general, all very important steps required to pass, before, we, coffee consumers could enjoy our favorite cup of coffee were duly noted. Esther continued: “There’s so many differtent tastes you can get in one cup, one coffee. And then you’ve got the experience of the body, the aftertaste, so much…. One coffee may be fantastic as an espresso, while the other tastes better in aeropress, or clever, and so on… You want different experiences on different times as well. Or depending on where you are. Personally I love to work with the espressomachine, because I get engage with the movement and rapidness to get multiple drinks ready in short period of time.”
Both, Esther and Karri were contestants at World Latte Art Championship that took place in Seoul, Korea early November of this year. Latte Art became part of specialty coffee industry, it is not only beautiful crafted effort barista trying to accomplish but the best approach to attract customers who appreciate your attention to details, the love you put in your job and the love that communicates with your patrons. It let people think that barista does care about this articulate profession that unravels all hidden nuances of coffee. To be proficient in latte art does take some time and a lot of practice and tremendous patience. Kari started learning about latte art by watching youtube videos at the beginning, but later on, in April 2011 she met with Stefanos Domatiotis who offered to train her for few days. By spending some time in Athens and learning everything she could about coffee and latte art her suitcase was full of knowledge about specialty coffee and techniques needed to achieve perfect latte art. 2011 World Latte Art Champion Chris Loukakis was one of her on-site trainer as well. Basically, Taf Coffee has established itself as one of the top and pragmatic coffee shop and roasters not only in Europe but around the world.
By focusing on herself, her calmness, the milk and avoid being nervous Kari is doing her best to create appealing design in latte art to please her customers, and most of them became permanent by showing loyalty to Kari and her establishment. Kari decided that Seoul was her last venue to compete in World Latte Art Championship. Why and what the reason? You will never know what is going on in barista’s mind. Maybe she was nervous or fear took over while performing in front of judges? Sometimes when you think about timing which is 6 minutes to show your best work you feel being in rush. Here how Kari explains this: “It was the worse moment in my life. I got soooo nervous when the time started!!!” Hopefully we will be able to see Kari again in 2013 Championship, who knows? Never say never.
For Esther the concept of latte art is to make people happy. “…. it’s the best way to get people outside of our coffee community involve! They don’t care about your brew temperature, or extraction time. But when you make them a beautifull latte art they are interested. Latte Art is the bridge between us, coffeegeeks and people who drink it.” said Esther.
Mikhail Sebastian: What coffee roast do you prefer, light, medium or dark?
Esther Maasdam: Also in this question it depends on the coffee and what you want to do with it. You need different roasts for that. I love to brew dripcoffee with a light roast, so you get a lot of fruity flavours, but for espresso I like light to medium, you also want to have a nice body in your espresso. And for cappuccino drinks I like a bit dark so it cuts through the milk and you can get a nice balance. Never too dark though, keep the flavours and don’t burn your beans!
Esther did not get to the finals at 2012 WLC but she did not have any regrets whatsoever, “I did what I wanted to do. I was really happy when I finished with both the artbar and the stage, no mistakes or anything. So I was, and still am happy with that. There where just a lot of fantastic people.”
Esther did not leave Seoul immediately after competition, she decided to stay for a while and enjoy some time discovering Korea, its people and culture and took time to visit various coffee shops and even volunteered behind the bar. It was the trip full of impressions and memories for Esther.
When we talked about crema as allure for espresso, Esther underlined one very important aspect of it: “The crema to me is allready something that looks beauttifull and then it’s the tool that helps you create the contrast in a latte art. They make each other stronger. Without crema you only have milk on top”.
So now Esther and Kari have all leverage needed to pursue further in specialty coffee industry. They became widely known among coffee professionals around the globe. The international bridge of coffee is never ended transparency that encompasses the idea of providing consumers information about the exact method used to process the coffee, the altitude on which it was grown, and the specific environmental practices used on the particular farm. Transparency is the mechanism that regulates specialty coffee that we all appreciate very much.
I wish a lot of success to Esther and Kari in their future journey in the field of specialty coffee. Maybe one day we get to have Special Permanent Mission for Specialty Coffee at the United Nations. Hard to predict, who knows?