I love working the bar, it’s such an opportunity to be at the frontier of Speciality Coffee, serving up what you believe is an excellent beverage, watching those eyes pop when they move away from commodity to the domain where flavor isn’t just a generic coffee taint to water. To get the full da Matteo experience, I jumped on the opportunity to go for a whole week to Gothenburg, seeing the whole culture of the company.
So where would be more natural to start than the bars? Da Matteo have three outlets for coffee in the centre of Gothenburg; the first store in Viktoriapassagen, which is more of a traditional espresso bar originally, then there is Vallgatan which is the site where the Torrefazione saw its lights first. And finally, the Panetteria at Magasinsgatan, which also hosts the roastery.
The Saturday saw me work the Passagen, together with a young enthusiastic bunch of people. It’s interesting as an outsider to observe the dynamics, work flow and skill at work, finding it’s working but also big room for improvement. As someone coming from the outside, you sometimes miss out on communication, and me arriving in the middle of the night after a storm delaying all flights to Gothenburg, with just a few hours of sleep under my belt, was a bit of a slow starter. Hence me not understanding the dosing of coffee at the brew bar, serving a few really poor ones until Christian, the roaster, happened to come by to try out a Honduras roasted for espresso, sorting me out. Lesson? You can’t brew consistently great coffee without a scale.
The following day, I rushed down to the lab, to cup our latest Ninety Plus coffee, the Gesha from Panama, just roasted the day before. Still fresh, but you could clearly tell the potential! Then off to Vallgatan for some coffee making. Again, a young enthusiastic crowd to work with, in one of the busiest cafés in Sweden. I think I did pretty good, and again I locked myself to the espresso machine, pumping out those coffees.
At da Matteo recently we’ve started working with what was originally Gwilym Davies concept of espresso with milk. Matts was part of putting the espresso drinks on the map in not just Gothenburg, but Sweden. Somewhat problematic is the fact that a lot of the regulars still orders these kind of Italian standard drinks, and you know what they say about old dogs and learning how to sit? In all honesty, I get annoyed each time I hear an order in Italian, maybe because I’m not from that tradition. But identity with the Italian is strong with habitual coffee drinkers. But one customer at a time, we’ll get the message through!
The rest of the week saw me spend a lot of time at the roastery. Situated in an old stable, its brick walls and warm ambience really makes this my favorite work place in the whole of Sweden. I am so in love with this space! Monday morning starting off with breakfast around the table with the bakers in the Panetteria, then hitting the lab cupping coffee. Now seeing the progress in the Gesha, it was very exciting. Next stop, learning some roasting basics from Torkel while popping the Passagen blend, and then do what I am qualified enough to do at the moment – packing the coffee into bags…
Arriving in time for the busy week before Christmas was both a very good, and a not so good idea at first sight. The roasters are busy roasting, packing and delivering coffee, which gave me great insight in what hard work it takes to produce the coffee we love and care about so much. In between all this, the coffee needs to be cupped, brewed, evaluated, roasted again and full circle. But mostly, just get a chance to indulge in the da Matteo ambience on site was something that I had been longing for, and even though I rarely had a moment of peace (Torkel and Tomas up to their shenanigans, Christian taking me around doing new things, sitting in meetings with Matts and various other coffee people etc.) I noticed how my pulse went down and I started breathing normally again.
What I really love, and wanted to experience close first hand, is what is known as the da Matteo feel/vibe. It’s hard to understand, and a lot of people outside the company might not see it at first. But everyone I worked with at the cafés, the guys in the bakery and the people behind the scenes are all happy, focused and hard working people with a feeling of being part of something. I guess from what I’ve seen at some places in Australia, church has a very central place in the coffee community there. This is something similar, without beeing too cultish. But just the fact that at one of the regular staff cuppings, the head of marketing is cupping next to the glassy is for me something I appreciate and understand as being vital in creating that vibe!
On my last day at the roastery, I had the chance to roast three different Single Origin coffees on the Loring; I roasted a Kenyan, a natural Guji and a CoE Nicaraguan (the last one for espresso). Now, this was very interesting to see how very differently different beans are approached in the roasting process, and what results to expect and then test it to experience if the outcome matches or not. I’m not claiming I now roast, but at least I got a fair bit of understanding what roasting is about, and it has definitely made me want to know more.
And to really leave on a high note, just before I left the Lunch Beat was organized at the Panetteria. This means the whole seated area was taken out and turned into a dance floor with a DJ and a soundsystem to match. It pretty much sums up what da Matteo is about; a good good vibe. I’m proud of being a team member.
Last but not least, I also had the opportunity to meet some great people and see some really cool events. Besides meeting with some of our clients in Gothenburg (too many to mention), I had dinner with former da Matteo legend Per Nordby, coffee with bloggers and coffee fanatics such as Brian and Reggie, and even a warehouse gig with new up and coming band Travels With Charly and some beers with various people. Gothenburg has really become my home from home. Can’t wait to go back! Thanks to everyone making my stay so lovely!
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