Italian Baristas, a little celebrity and a little voodoo

by Carlo Odello *

In New York I recently had the pleasure of meeting Anne Nylander and Neil Oney, President and Vice President respectively of Tamp Tamp, a consulting and training company for the coffee business.  They have a blog from which you can get a good cross-section of coffee reality in the Big Apple (and not only that).  And in this blog, there recently appeared a discussion about that which was effectively defined as Voodoo Barista.  Who is this figure?   Here is a synthetic and effective description: he works in an inconsistent manner, wastes resources, isn’t able to dose the correct amount of coffee in the filter and to tamp it with careful detail, he becomes confused doing all of this and in the end, tries to somehow pour an espresso.

In California in April, I attended an interesting debate in which the coffee trends of the American market were highlighted.  Among these trends emerged, more and more explosively, the Celebrity Barista.  He can tell you to go to hell.  Let me explain myself: if you enter his place and as good Italians you ask him for something that doesn’t quite fit his vision of coffee, at the least he will give you a dirty look, maybe not even prepare it for you.  This is because he, (or she as I have seen in New York) is the star of his or her coffee shop, and how dare anyone ask for a variation on his or her theme: he or she decides what you should drink.

Now in Italy, not to miss out on anything, we find ourselves at the mercy of these baristas, half Celebrity and half Voodoo.  That is to say at the mercy of Mr. Know-it-alls who are in reality some big bunglers.  A precise statistic doesn’t exist on how many there are, but certainly they are not rare.

* Trainer and member of the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters

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One Response to “Italian Baristas, a little celebrity and a little voodoo”

  1. Joanna Tabor Says:

    Well, on the other hand those are the people who know what they’re doing much more then italian baristas, I think! Especially about >manutenzione< (the 5th M).

    And on the other hand: once I was a person like this – but the longer I was working the more I realised that people _really_ know what they want to drink/taste. And they’re glad when you measure up with their expectations. Or when they’ve not decided you can spread up your creativity.

    So the best idea is to star at your bar but not to forget that contented consumer is a man who will come again at yours.

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