Looking for the perfect barista: Espresso Italiano Champion is coming

The Aibes, the Italian Association of Barmen and Supporters, and the Italian Espresso National Institute will work together in the professional channel of coffee with the objective to increase professionalism in this industry. This is the objective of the agreement signed between the two associations involving the intervention of the National Italian Espresso both in competitions and in training by Aibes. In particular in the regional and national Aibes championships, the section Espresso Italiano Champion will be created. So in 2010, through the regional championships and the national competition that will follow, it will be possible to identify the best barista in Italy.

"This agreement with the Italian Espresso National Institute – said Giorgio Fadda, President of the Aibes – allows Aibes to implement the skills of our members in the coffee area, which we consider of essential importance. The qualified support of the Italian Espresso National Institute will be then used as part of our training programs. Since we believe that our competitions are an important moment of confrontation between professionals, we included in the 2010 program of competitions the section Espresso Italiano Champion: a new exciting challenge for the industry".

"The agreement between the Italian Espresso National Institute and Aibes is a historical step for the bar industry in Italy – said Gianluigi Sora, president of the Italian Espresso National Institute – Espresso Italiano Champion will be a stimulus for growth in the sector because it will reward professionalism. However, the collaboration is not just limited to competition: in fact the Italian Espresso National Institute will support Aibes in the training in the coffee sector through its members. And the partnership with Aibes will allow our professional baristas, the Espresso Italiano Specialists, to enhance their culture in mixed drinks and in the high level hospitality".

The Italian Espresso National Institute, which includes coffee roasters, equipment manufacturers and other partners that focus on quality espresso, now has 40 members with a combined turnover of around 650 million euros. The Aibes deals with developing the professionalism and skills of people working in bars through a training program that includes courses, masters, study trips and moments of confrontation between barmen and other companies in the sector. Aibes has a history of 60 years of activity and more than 3,000 associated barmen in Italy.


Innovation, evolution or revolution?

by Luigi Odello

Secretary General of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters, he is also a lecturer at the University of Udine, Verona and at the Cattolica in Piacenza. In addition he is the Chairman of the Taster Study Center and Secretary General of the Italian Espresso National Institute

In the next few years it will not be easy to keep up with innovation in the coffee sector, but, no doubts, it will be a fascinating time. In this issue of Coffee Taster, we shall deal with sensorial trends and what the big companies say with regard to the methods they use to monitor quality. Not far from now, at EISday2008, the annual conference of the Italian Espresso National Institute on the 24th of February, we will focus on the findings of the biggest ever research which has been conducted into the quality of coffee.
This is precisely what made us think about evolution/innovation in our sector: how many operators are ready to benefit from it? And how many will suffer from heavily negative consequences? The fact is that, outside the micro cosmos of each operator, there is a world which is changing at an unbelievable pace, but many people seem not to realise this.
Many producing country are moving towards a European-type of qualification of their productions. This will lead them to offering a better product and to wanting more money. At home people will increasingly use single-dose coffee or coffee in beans as a result of the existence of new technology machines which are more reliable and effective. People at home will drink a better quality coffee and the same will happen at the workplace. At home, and perhaps even at the restaurant, coffee will be part of a new ritual: single origins coffees will become more and more popular, a pleasure to share with friends, maybe extracted with a moka pot so that you can actually see the coffee coming.
It is, therefore, reasonable to wonder whether roasters and, especially, baristas are ready for this. The former will find themselves dealing with producers of green coffee and with a different style of coffee consumption, both inside communities and at home. Most probably, those who have not done it yet will have to establish direct contacts with the producers of green coffee, meet a new type of demand for home consumption and for serving and take care of their coffee bars – currently suffering from a reduction in consumption which could become even worse in future – in Italy with a different approach. For many Italian roasters, coffee bars are a strategic sector which is being governed by new mechanisms. The methods for attracting clients and handling them will change. The magic word will be training.
The International Institute of Coffee Tasters, which has always adopted this approach, is currently a reference point at an international level – with a tested method and with effective training instruments. Through its research activity, it is also an attentive observer of the evolution of consumption and quality of coffee as well as the relevant machinery. In 2008, in addition, we will have a new edition of “International Coffee Tasting”: could there be a better occasion for monitoring world evolution?

McDonald’s launches classic coffee bars

McDonald’s is launching classic coffee bars. They will open at the 14,000 U.S. store and will be more similar to the Italian classic bar with displaying espresso machines and baristas prepare drinks. McDonald’s will add $1 billion to its annual sales. The move aims at contrasting Starbucks. According to a memo sent by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz in February 2007 a few changes in the theatrics solved a major problem in terms of speed of service and efficiency but removed much of the romance and theatre that was in play. In particular, the height of the new coffee machines would block the visual sight line the customer previously had to watch the drink being made and would jeopardize the intimate experience with the barista.

(Carlo Odello, sources: Reuters, Financial Times)

Baristas in Italy: which training?

by Roberto Sala

Barista. His bar, the Mary’s Bar in Costa Masnaga, in the North of Italy, was set up by his great-grandparents in 1928. He was brought up surrounded by machines, bags and cups. Fifteen years ago he started his job behind the counter: from 2001, he is a coffee taster and Espresso Italiano Specialist.In February 2007, he has been appointed to the board of the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. He is the first barista who has been appointed to such a role.

How do you become a barista in Italy? The reply to this question might surprise several non-Italian colleagues. As for any job, there are people who choose it and other who wind up doing it, almost by chance, but then they find out that it’s a fantastic job and fall in love with it. Then there are those who do it carelessly and they make, form morning to evening, horrible espressos and cappuccinos – maybe without even realising it. As for any other job, formal training is very important. Before being told that I am being too obvious, I would like to introduce one of the problems of the HoReCa sector in Italy: training.

The point is not that there are no courses; actually, there is plenty of offer. When I started this job 15 years ago, there was not that much, it is increasing now. We have courses offered by many organisations, first and foremost by professional schools for the food and hotel sector (where, unfortunately, too little time is devoted to the bar). Then there are the courses, with varying levels of competence and seriousness, proposed by the roasters. So we can say that at present, compared to the past, there are courses for just about any taste and any wallet.

Where is the problem? Here it goes: all too often several issues are dealt with in general terms. This makes them lose the focus and you are left with the idea that just scratched the surface of a lot of issues. In addition, all too often, theory wins on practice. This happens also in courses that are meant to be more focused on doing things. A typical example of this is coffee courses: in those I have attended, I would have appreciated a greater focus on doing things, something which is crucial for the daily activity in the bar.
In Italy, it might be difficult to make the right pick not only for the would-be baristas but also for the experienced ones. This is a problem that must be faced uphill, by carefully thinking of what we want the core business of our bar to be. This makes it possible to rate the courses according to the contribution they can make in the short-to-medium term to our activity. After which, we can upgrade the knowledge we have with other courses. Then, we must keep ourselves continually updated: books, magazines, DVDs, the Internet. Any source that might give information on techniques, trends and new products is more than welcome.

Apart from the courses, we can learn lessons from our colleagues. At the beginning of my career, I decided to acquire experience working in other coffee shops. My family has a bar from more than 100 years, but I did not want to immediately grow roots in our family business. I did some training in other coffee bars. Looking at other baristas doing their job was extremely useful for me. Even today, I take any occasion to drink a coffee prepared by other colleagues just to give at look at how things go in their coffee shops and spot things I might improve in my own.

As for any job, curiosity is of paramount importance: be curious!