In a couple of recent posts, I’ve shared my experiences as a novice in the wide exciting world of coffee. Today, it’s time to turn our attention to a more expert take. If you stop by John’s Coffee in the Mall of Tripla on a weekday, you are likely to encounter our lead barista, Iida.
I sat down with Iida to learn a little more about her background and her passion for coffee.
Thanks for chatting with me, Iida. First of all, what brought you to John’s Coffee?
I come from a family of coffee and tea geeks. It’s always been part of my family role, we have these machines, I’ve always done coffee related stuff. I was a home barista first, but it was always a dream to be a real barista.
After graduating and travelling, when I came back to Finland, I decided it was a good time. To learn not just to make a good cup of coffee but to be a barista. To learn the real way of doing things! I started at a store called Chocolate in Tripla. Someone from John’s Coffee saw my enthusiasm for coffee, she encouraged me to come here. So, I did.
I’ve learned a lot, made connections. I get to meet people and be part of this community. It was a lifelong dream.
Why coffee? What’s the spark for you?
As I said, I’ve just grown up around coffee. I do like the machines though. The technical part of it.
They are very shiny.
It’s one of the big reasons for wanting to be a real barista – the machines are so expensive. Even if you get one for home, they won’t be like the ones we have here. They will be smaller, with less pressure. In order to work with the big machines, you need to be in a café.
It’s true of the beans too. If you want the resources to really understand the differences, you need to be in a café.
You mentioned earlier your love of the community around coffee. I’ve watched you work and you’re obviously very good with the customers. Is that the best part of the job?
I’d say so. Well, it’s the people and the fact that we share a love for great coffee. Having a specific connection, it makes it that much more special. Yeah.
I’ve watched you work your magic for a couple of weeks now. You seem ready and able to deal with any requests. Have there ever been any specific orders in the past that have stumped even you?[laughing] No. I think I always find a way. Like, there was a customer who wanted a tonic espresso, a specific drink that needs tonic water and lime. We don’t have tonic water, but I told them, if you go to the grocery store and get some tonic water, I can make it. So she went, and I made it for her. She really liked it. There’s always a way.
There are a lot of baristas who think it’s just about the coffee. “I make the perfect espresso, and that’s it, done.” But for me, it’s also about customer service.
The customer wants their coffee in a certain way, and I want to provide it. That’s one way to learn.
I have a colleague from Peru, and he has a very different way of brewing coffee from most baristas in Finland. You know, it’s a small community, people read the same books, but Jorge has a different perspective. He’s from Latin America, from a family that grows coffee. He approaches it differently, uses different temperatures. It can be so fun to step away from the instructions in the normal books and try new things.
It’s all new to me, as you know, but I’ve seen several people here at John’s Coffee, and everybody’s approach to the craft is just a little different. It’s not a robotic thing. It’s done with love and care and attention.
It’s artisan. Something you can put your soul into. Share the love. For example, the textbooks will tell you the right water temperature for a V60 is 95 degrees. But you can use a variety of water temperatures. At 80 degrees, for example, when you drink the coffee it’s not hot. It’s milder, but it preserves fruity and floral and more delicate notes, making it syrupy. It’s delightful.
I find it fascinating. Particularly because I also know that systems are important to you. Is that an expression of your relationship with coffee?
Instead of rules, I concentrate on the result. The taste of the coffee. All the systems I have are all in place to provide the very best tasting coffee. For instance, making sure to run a little water through the machine before brewing a new espresso, that’s because there would be a little water that’s been in contact with the previous coffee and will have turned bitter. I rinse it, so this cup tastes better.
It’s a little thing, but it makes a difference. And all my systems are there to manage all of those little things.
What would you say was your overall coffee philosophy?
A lot of baristas here can get set in their ways. Abide by the rules in the books. I’ve always liked to express myself, brew the way I want to brew. I taste it, like it and stand by my coffee. It’s about having fun, enjoying it and sharing the coffee.
A great note to end on. Thanks Iida.