The REAL Barista Challenge Down Under

Five of Sydney Australia’s top baristas were recently featured in the Sydney Morning Herald. Nice guys all, with entertaining stories, but the real emotion is in the comment section. What the readers are debating comes down to coffee as entertainment vs coffee as just a drink. The author was curious about the barista persona and so she chose five typical ones to feature. (Was it because she is a woman that she picked only men?) Each was given a few lines to express the barista experience from their points of view. Dedication seems to be one common thread among them all. One, totally immersing himself in the coffee world, brews coffee as perfectly as possible in an attempt to display the strengths of everyone in the coffee process, from grower to roaster. Another fell into the vocation when working as a casual laborer in a pub, because no one else would make the coffee. He ended up opening his own shop and now obsesses over serving each coffee in its perfect cup. A third explains how many of his contemporaries were trained in the hospitality field to host the 2000 Olympics. Two of the baristas came to Australia to perfect their English. It came down to being able to make good coffee consistently under pressure and always stay ahead of the game. But many of the comments following the article thought there is too much hype over the simple act of brewing a cup of coffee which anyone can do better at home. Many complained about the high price of coffee shop brew. They thought baristas were being put on a pedestal, while in Italy, anyone can be put to work in an espresso bar and do fine. While baristas work hard to entertain and brew at the same time, many considered that unnecessary and just want a cheap cup of coffee with no frills. Entertainment and hype - or serving just a simple good cup of coffee - is the challenge facing the barista if he/she wants to please everyone. In life as in coffee, finding the right balance is always an art.

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