Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Gothenburg Experience

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.

Sita brewing some Vinter blend as V60

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.

These are the sizes available at da Matteo

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!

Christian busy packing the Xmas gifts

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…

Torkel caught in action

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.

Pernilla cupping our Gesha at the lab

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!

myself roasting on 8 Mile

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.

last lunch a DJ saved my life

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!

NP Cut Copy Hearts On Fire

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The Barista Road Trip

One of the really good and interesting things about working for Da Matteo Torrefazione, is the opportunity for me to engage in competition, not only for myself but for baristi that we sell coffee to in Stockholm. Joel, proprietor of Kafé Esaias in the heart of Stockholm, has a strong desire to be engaged in the barista competitions. Since he himself has competed before, he knows the benefits of competition, and what it does for your every day performance at the bar. His apprentice, Charl, a young and budding barista at Kafé Esaias, is aiming at a slot in the upcoming Swedish Barista Competition 2012, and together we’ve done some training.

For me, this year is really about trying to understand the basics and mechanics of judging the competition, so when Da Matteo announced they were doing their annual in house competition a couple of weeks back, Joel, Charl and myself jumped at the opportunity to visit Gothenburg and face the competition in reality.

Flying down to Gothenburg saw us experiencing true barista breakfast (triple cheese burger at the airport) and other shenanigans, before hitting the coffee lab at Da Matteo Torrefazione and getting down to business. We spent a vast amount of hours in the lab, going through the presentation, drinking coffee in unbelievable quantities.

In my opinion, Charls key strength is in his technical skill. He’s a natural, but learning from my own experience in competition, you have to fit into the format. It is really exciting, and I think I can speak for Joel here as well, to compete through someone else. You’re building a monster, and hopefully this will show in the finished product. For this competition, Charl was using the Vallgatan blend, that they use at Kafé Esaias, however slightly problematic since the blend was so fresh still, it took us some time to make it work with signature drink properly.

Hours of training, crazy dancing to African tunes, coffee, apple pie and more coffee, we were ready for the night. We went to the hotel and had a sauna, and then out to some crazy event in the suburbs where Joel had some friends, and arriving at midnight again in town the guys called it a night, and I went out for some more fun with my sister in law at a night club in town that has a coffee bar on one of the floors.

The next day saw us back at the lab again (yo!), this time with Joel and Charls old work buddy Robert of Non Solo Bar and Monmouth fame. More coffee, more assessing, more feedback, more of everything really. As the units of Da Matteo were closing down, the in house competitors gathered around to see what the night had in store for them. You could literaly feel the nerves in the air, all baristi awaiting their turn. So to lighten things up, mr Da Matteo himself, had a bit of a surprise for his staff.

Matts Johansson, a long time dedicated coffee person in the World Barista Competitions and new format WCE, has been part of developing the WBC into what it is today. Admitedly though, he has never himself competed in the format, so here was his chance to both amaze his own staff and to try it out himself. Last time he competed was in 1996, in the Swedish Cappuccino Championships (I picture mountains of foam), so I bet there was a bit of a rusty feel getting up on that stage. But what an extraordinary performance. We learnt a lot from it, and had some good laughs! Again, Matts shows what a delight he is to work with!

Charl was up after Matts, since we had a plane to catch. Seeing someone train, and then judge them, it was a really interesting experience being on the other side of that table. I basically knew exactly where Charl was on the money and where he was ad lib, and though I will not reveal any results here, I can still say I am happy to see so much of Charls every day barista and hospitality skill at Kafé Esaias, shining through in his performance.

For me personally though, regardless of how great it was to see Charl compete with Joels and my own input, the main thing for me was stepping up as a judge. Matts calibrated us, and the set up was basically the same as any competition; Camilla, Pernilla, Lina (who had just come back from Barista Camp with Fritz Storm, with great enthusiasm to share) and me did the sensory judging, Christian and Victor were technical and Torkel was head judge. What great insights of the protocol I got from just this small task. I now understand a bit more of what happens when competitors are assessed in the back room. I sure hope I will get the opportunity to pass the national tests this year in order to judge the Barista Competition in Sweden 2012.

So who won?

We’ll see a lot more of this person in 2012, I’m pretty sure! Anyway, it was a great event, and a lot for all of us to take in. In house competition, using the WBC format, is really genius since it offers the perfect training and fostering your staff, both as managers and floor staff. Thanks so much for having us, and I hope that next year will be even more intense!

NP: Whitesnake Young Blood

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