Coffee is the lifeblood of many workers, but how much do we know about our coffees?
I had the rare opportunity to hear firsthand from barista trainers Tony Tang and Zann Cai from School of Coffee how to make good coffee, and share a peek at the skills that every Barista 4.0 should know.
1. Sources of coffee
Tony introduced various coffee beans from different sources, explaining the difference in their taste profile, acidity, caffeine content and sweetness.
The lesson was peppered with facts such as the source indicated on some beans like “Brazil Santos” isn’t really where the beans were grown, but beans from all over Brazil would be shipped out via Santos, a port city in Brazil.
Interestingly, although Sumatra is closer to Singapore than Brazil, Sumatran coffee beans are more expensive than Brazil coffee beans because the former is grown in volcanic soil, which is rarer.
The volcanic soil gives Sumatran coffee beans a unique taste profile that other single origins are unable to replicate. Naturally possessing a strong body and earthy note, Sumatran coffee beans are commonly used in small proportions in coffee bean blending to enhance the body of a blend.
Vietnam’s coffee beans have a vanilla aroma as vanilla essence is sprayed on the beans after they are roasted.
2. Coffee comes alive after roasting, but only for a while
We were given three different types of beans to smell and taste, before guessing how long ago the beans had been roasted.
Coffee beans come alive after they have been roasted and will start giving out gas, which contributes to its aroma. Such a process typically takes place over about a month and coffee bean freshness is attributed to this degassing stage.
Beans should also be allowed to rest 5 to 7 days after roasting before being used.
3. Ways to make coffee every Barista 4.0 should know
Tony introduced to us several ways to make coffee before he taught us how to use the espresso machine.
Both he and Zann patiently guided students on the correct sequence of operating the espresso machine and on the intricacies of the art of coffee-making, such as the right angle to froth the milk, the exactness of the timing to press the button once the portafilter is locked into the machine, and the sensitivity of the beans to environmental factors such as heat and humidity.
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