THE ART OF MAKING A GREAT COFFEE
Baristas trained to treat every cup they make as if it were the first one of the day.
The secret to making a great cup of coffee, says barista trainer Tina Pakipaki, is caring. “We say to make each cup like it is the first — that is the amount of attention you should be giving to each one,” she says. “And that does come about from caring.”
Pakipaki should know what makes both a great cup of coffee and a good barista — it’s part of her job as a retail area co- ordinator for BP to help train baristas who work in the company’s Wild Bean Cafes.
She says the baristas who tend to do well are those who are able to focus and pay attention to each cup, even when they are working under pressure and there is a long line of people waiting for their favourite drink.
And that word caring — caring about everything from where the beans came from, through to presenting the finished product properly.
“A good barista not only wants to please the customer but is really interested in learning everything they can about coffee, says Pakipaki. “They understand what is involved in every part of making each coffee.”
The job attracts people of all ages, from all walks of life and cultures, but the one thing those who master the art of making a great cup of coffee have in common is truly caring about the process and the product.
Pakipaki did her barista training with BP
“A good barista not only wants to please the customer but is really interested in learning everything they can about coffee”.
“We check our baristas to make sure they are following the same methodology all the time so no bad habits or short cuts creep in. If you don’t do everything just right, the coffee will be impacted”.
five years ago after deciding to move from her administration job with the company into working in the retail side of the business.
“We do exchange days where you can go and see what different parts of the company do — I went along with the guy who was doing the role I have now and when I saw what was involved in working with the teams, and the camaraderie and the transfer of knowledge, I was really attracted to that.
“I set my career path to land that role when it became available. I hadn’t worked as a barista before, so I had a lot to learn.”
She underwent intensive training with a BP gold barista, so she knows exactly what new staff go through.
Training is very thorough, covering everything from how to get the perfect grind, correct extraction and how over or under extraction impacts on the taste, aroma and colour of the coffee. It also looks at reasons for why problems can occur when milk is aerated.
Another module looks at how coffee is harvested, the different types and how Wild Bean became the largest retailer of Fairtrade barista-made coffee in New Zealand.
The learning process continues with onthe-job training in Wild Bean Cafes, including spot checks to make sure new staff are sticking to the company way of doing things.
“We are strict on the way the coffee is made and presented,” says Pakipaki. “We check our baristas to make sure they are following the same methodology all the time so no bad habits or short cuts creep in. If you don’t do everything just right, the coffee will be impacted.”
Meticulous attention is paid to detail — for example, in areas like Auckland where humidity can affect the coffee beans, they are checked throughout the day while factors like air conditioning and where the entrance doors are in relation to the café are taken into account.
BP offers customers a barista guarantee, so if the coffee is not to their satisfaction they can take it back and get another one.
“Our baristas try not to be offended if a coffee comes back but customers are not shy in telling us if something is not quite right,” she says. “Not only do we replace it free of charge, but our baristas try to figure out from the feedback what can be improved.”
Wild Bean staff appreciate people can have very strong emotions when it comes to their cup of joe and constantly strive to create the best product possible, says Pakipaki.
To encourage this BP holds awards every year for its retail staff — The Retail Excellence (REX) Awards — with categories for Supreme and Best Rookie Barista of the year.
Pakipaki says competition is fierce. Winners of regional heats get to take part in the national finals, which are capped off with a dinner and the announcement of winners.
The competition runs throughout October with the awards being held in December.
“The REX awards are a big deal, everyone gets behind them and the buzz continues throughout the year,” she says. “People work really hard throughout the year so that if they get through to the finals it will just come naturally.”