Straight after the Gothenburg Regional competition, I went back to Stockholm for some hours of sleep, then off again to the airport to catch a flight to Geneva, Switzerland, where Team Da Matteo were making coffee at Volvos’s stand at the International Car Fair for the press. Six eager baristi, divided on two sides of the stand with a bar each to attend to.
Although you can read up on Geneva here, we didn’t get to see much of it. Arriving rather late at night, at the hotel, then straight out for dinner with the crew. Unfortunately Linn, my fellow vegetarian participant, was ill, so she couldn’t come. Majority vote saw us end up at a, what I think is, a rather staple Swiss restaurant. Nice, cosy with an aura of cheese fondue that you could cut through with a cheese knife. Geneva was a bit of a contrast. This restaurant was situated in an area best described as “the old town”, with an ambience that was almost Barcelona-like. Lovely! But the hotel was at the main train station, and the surroundings there were more derelict and contemporary.
We went to bed around 11pm, and woke up again at 5.30am. Breakfast 6.30, bus to the Exhibition hall at 6.50, arriving at 7.15, started pumping out coffees on a massive scale at 7.30. This two group La Marzocco, together with a three group on the other side, saw us dose, grind and extract 54 kg’s of coffee in two days. Unfortunately, Linn was so ill she had to go back to the hotel, so on our side only me and Evelina worked, while the other side had three baristi (Jocke, Jannike and Pernilla).
It wasn’t the ultimate service, since we were also serving cookies, water and making sure only the press (and not competitor exhibitors with inferior coffee on their stand) were served. But we managed, and soon we had a massive line and regular visitors.
The purpose with this fair for Volvo was to exhibit the latest V40 edition. Now, I don’t know anything about cars, but lucky us there was a press conference on the first day which allowed us to have lunch and a bit of a look around at the place. Cars everywhere, various life style segments and approaches displayed, which was far more interesting than the cars themselves. The Italians with their models, pouting their lips and sending air kisses to anyone with a camera, the British with their stylish and gentlemanish approach, and so forth.
For this event we worked with the Magasinsgatan espressoblend, which is fruity and cuts through milk very well. For what I assume was 6oz glasses, we used single shots with milk, and doubles for espresso which was more than enough for the press to rave about the smooth taste. The narrowness of the glasses didn’t let me develop my latte art skills beyond the token heart though, but on the other hand, I think out of all those coffees I served, no more than 10 lattes were served without a heart, which was good enough for me at this stage.
One thing I wasn’t ready for though, was the massive use of sugar. The lattes were very sweet and balanced, but without even tasting it, people were pouring 2-3 sugars in it. Same went, obviously, with the expresso (yes, the French calls it expresso, but they weren’t alone…) Since this was a fair and about feel good environment for a customer, I didn’t question this but just took note of this bizarre behavior. Funny enough, very few Swedes added sugar at all. A couple of times, I was asked to just let the shot run forever, which I actually refused to do with an explanation. They often said they would have to come back for seconds then.. go figure?
Another cultural difference was the length of espresso. Pernilla was yelled at because her espresso wasn’t long enough (they wanted it to be ridiculously long) and called it a ristretto (guess what nationality “knew their espresso”?). A regular at Printa in Budapest was one of our regulars, showing up for Flat Whites which was interesting (since we served them in glasses) since the big chain in Sweden, Espresso House, just introduced the Flat White on their menu and was one of the recently discussed topics within the community.
It may come across as if I didn’t like this, but truthfully I had a blast! Once you get into that flow of just pushing shots across, steaming that milk, pouring those lattes again and again and again, it’s a kind of meditative state you enter which is actually relaxing and a (false) sense of control. False because anything can in theory happen. Glasses break, you run out of milk… etc.
The people working for and with Volvo and Da Matteo were completely professional and super nice. From a cultural aspect, the encounter with the European coffee drinker is actually a valuable lesson. But also one that is promising for the future of coffee in Europe! I am already looking forward to next event!
NP: Deep Purple Smoke on the Water