Volunteering in the Coffee Industry
We all have to start somewhere in our coffee careers and for most of us, we make our baby steps starting as a barista.
I started in Artisan nearly 2 years ago, joining them after a short stint in an independent coffee shop some time ago. I retained some coffee knowledge with me, but instead on stubbornly abiding by what I had learned–I opened and rebuilt everything I knew from the ground up. This has worked out pretty well for me (so far).
But I want to focus on something else today. This industry has a wide range of different subjects to entice and fascinate you, like brewing, workflow behind the machine, the machines themselves, latte art, roasting, training, and the list goes on! Through time, you discover your interests and what you intend to explore more–it can sound incredibly unachievable and daunting. But to explore all those areas, you have to run around and try new things, meet people and reach out.
I highly recommend going for workshops in roasteries: whether they’re in different countries, or just a different part of London. During my holiday in Berlin, I attended some workshops hosted by The Barn Roastery. Not only that, but I reached out to them for more experience and was given the chance to work on their floor and behind their machine for a couple of hours. It was a very enriching experience and well-remembered: I had never worked with a Synesso machine before and neither did I speak a word of German!
We’re lucky as the community in the coffee industry is incredibly friendly. You just have to reach out like a crazy person… no, I’m kidding (half kidding). You do have to write and ask. Nobody is going to do it for you. From my experience, it’s worth every minute. Leaving your lovely comfort zone is what makes you more confident and there are so many amazing people who can inspire you, advise you on what you want do and guide you with where to go.
A couple of months ago, I volunteered at The World of Coffee event in Amsterdam; at this time, I knew a fair bit of what I wanted to do and my strong points. I signed up for shifts behind the brew bar and the espresso bar. On the brew bar, there were 4 stations with different coffees, which were rotated and changed every 3 hours–there were a LOT of beans to try. At some point during the event, we had a German roaster as our neighbour, who was promoting his coffee: harvested and roasted in China. It was amazing and such a pleasure (maybe a little of bit of pressure) to brew his coffee in front of him. And there were all kinds of people from varying coffee backgrounds, from running champions to complete beginners.
Most recently I attended the Barista Camp in Portugal. What was really significant about this trip, apart from the awesome AST training course I received, is that I saw and caught up with some familiar faces from the WOC event back in Amsterdam. These opportunities are great for making new connections, gaining new experiences; and I would encourage everyone to attend such events and volunteer where they can.
I’m already looking forward to a next opportunity!
Senior Barista, Artisan