Hey, I’m Kyle, barista and co-founder of Episode One. This blog will ultimately be a scrapbook of random musings and coffee experiences that I hope you’ll enjoy.
I started in the coffee industry approximately 5 years ago now (although it really doesn’t seem that long ago). I started in a very different setting from the one we have now created in Episode One.
I was 20, in university and in need of money. I got a job in a Coffee and Muffins store in a small shopping centre nearby. This was my first experience of the coffee world (albeit far from the speciality coffee scene) and I wasn’t even a huge fan of coffee -- “I’ll have a large latte with three sugars please”. I was making sub-par, commodity coffee, with over-steamed milk in cups so big you could use them as a mop bucket. But believe it or not this was my “foot in the door” to speciality coffee.
When I finished university, I also finished that job and moved 160 miles back to my little “not-so-metropolitan” town in the northwest of Ireland. Speciality coffee hadn’t quite reached the town but there was one guy, my soon-to-be future boss, who had seen the light of lighter roasts and smaller sizes.
I met him for an interview, during which he told me that all he wanted from a successful candidate was that they knew what a coffee machine was and were willing to learn. He spent the next few months teaching me what good coffee was, and thus planted the seed (or bean) of my love for coffee.
I’ve had a few jobs in different coffee shops at home, eventually moving back to the capital, Dublin. I knew this was the next step if I was to get where I wanted to be in the industry. I worked alongside some of the finest baristas and roasters around and learned so much in my time there.
My last boss, is, in many opinions, one of the finest baristas in the country. He taught me to see and taste coffee differently. – to think outside the box, and to always question traditional methods. This was a man who didn't involve himself in the politics of the coffee industry. He didn't suffer fools, or those baristas who came to "check out the competition", they would get the exact same coffee and service as everyone else. I felt that was one of the most important lessons I learned. If you're doing what you do to the best of your ability, then why should you feel any different around competitors?
My first day working there, the then Irish barista champion walked through the door. I was a very confident barista, but that scared the shit out of me. I asked my boss if he could look after that one, which he did, however, after we served the coffee and we were alone he told me something which has stuck with me to this day, "I'm considered the best in the business, by association that makes you the best in the business, and if you make every coffee like i've taught you to, you should be able to serve every coffee with complete confidence." He was right, the coffee industry is full of hype, but he didn't get involved in that.
He sent me to Berlin to train with what many consider the best roaster in the world. Here they taught me how to make coffee to the highest standard. I really do mean the highest standard, I've never had to throw away so many coffees because the Latte art was off by a degree or I touched the bottom of the cup instead of the handle. Some of these things were extreme, but I also learned things that I didn't even know existed and, honestly, this is the time period which ultimately made me the barista I am now.
This opened my eyes and led me to believe that if this is where the coffee industry is now, we have so many more things that we haven’t discovered yet, and that is exactly what I plan to write about in these blogs.