Hi coffee lovers and welcome to my first coffee blog! Each month I will discuss some interesting and exciting topics going into all the corners of the wonderful world of coffee.
Firstly I would like to introduce myself so that you have an idea of my background and who I really am. Let’s get to it…
My name is Dean Mackay, South African born from Durban, a chilled city in Kwa-Zulu Natal. As far as I can remember I have always enjoyed exploring new flavours and have always been interested in the food and beverage industry. I remember meeting up with some friends on a rainy day back home and relaxing in a coffee shop, fascinated with the amazing smell of coffee, I never knew it would lead me to where I am today (a Specialty Coffee Association of Europe, or SCAE qualified coffee trainer). I completed High School and went on to study for my Diploma in professional chefing. My 10 years spent in the industry were filled with passion, dedication and life long lessons that no money could buy. Just over half way through my career I got offered a position as Head Chef/ Restaurant Manager at the head quarters of Nikon South Africa, it was a big challenge but something that took me on the road of no return.
My coffee journey started one morning when my barista called me saying, “I have kidney failure and will not be able to work for you anymore”, my heart sunk. Not only did I lose an amazing talented barista but at the same time I knew absolutely nothing about coffee. It was now time for me to take this baby and make it my own, I mean how hard could it really be? My first coffee I ever made was an Americano/ Long Black….simple right? These were the steps:
- Add guesstimated amount of coffee to the portafilter
- Tamp (I don’t think it was level).
- Insert portafilter into machine.
- Run shot until the cup was full.
- Extraction time – Around 2 minutes.
Yum right??? Ah no, it was a total disaster. Customers were complaining left, right and centre. I felt disappointed because my restaurant was known for amazing coffee but this had all changed due to losing a talented barista. I went home that night and started going through every YouTube barista video that I could find! Wow, this was more complicated then I thought and I just wish an angel could walk through the doors and come to my rescue. The very next day I had my rep Matt Carter from TriBeca coffee in Johannesburg walk through the door, this was my opportunity to absorb all the information I could get from him. Over the months Matt guided and helped me to perfect my skills. It was an amazing feeling to have customers flooding in just to taste my coffee. I gained a new level of respect for the coffee industry and started getting involved with the speciality coffee industry as well as attending a lot of workshops.
The last year I was in South Africa I worked a lot with my good friend Ishan Natalie, former SA barista champion a few times over. I worked under his wing and learnt a lot while he was preparing for the 2015 WBC, this took my passion to a whole new level and left me wanting more. I decided to move to the UK and leave sunny SA behind to explore the coffee industry and see where it takes me. A friend of mine sent me a picture of an advertisement for a barista position at Artisan in SW London, I took the opportunity and emailed straight away. One day after arriving in London I went for the interview and received a phone call the next morning saying I have the job.
My journey at Artisan has been totally amazing! There is never a day that goes by that I don’t learn something. I worked as barista for the first 6 months then was promoted to senior barista. I really pushed myself to learn more, improve my skills and explore as many avenues as possible! Artisan approached me to become one of their ASTs (Authorised SCAE trainers); this was a dream come true and I jumped at the opportunity. I went through all my barista and brewing courses up to professional level and I am now at 90 points, 10 points away from my diploma. I hope in the future to complete the introduction to roasting to get my diploma and then see where the road takes me. I have a huge passion for training people, it’s such an amazing feeling to see a student come in with no knowledge at all and then watch them develop into a passionate individual.
My whole journey to coffee started as a mistake but I took the leap of faith to discover this amazing bean and I have no regrets. It is ever changing and can be explored on so many levels, leaving you wanting more and more.
So that’s a little about me, I now look forward to sharing my ideas, hot topics in the industry as well as knowledge from experts around the world through each blog. If anyone has a particular topic they would like me to cover, please email firstname.lastname@example.org – until next time, enjoy great coffee.
Bye for now!