TOP 5 of 2016

It's good to share best experiences. And the timing is just perfect. 2016 has just passed.

And yet, I haven't written anything about it! Let's change it!

Here's the top 5 things of 2016 in coffee from my perspective:

1. Getting to work in the industry
It's hard to believe, but I didn't work in the specialty industry before 2016. Yes, I've been interested in specialty coffee before. I was drinking juicy juicy Kenya in Chemex. Attending and even organising cuppings myself. Reading about espresso extraction. On top of that I even worked as a barista - just not in a specialty cafe.

It took me 6 months to get that. Gathering basic knowledge, talking to baristas, researching companies. At the time learning possibilities, support in competition and company's know-how were main factors.

2. Finding a person to look up to
I could elaborate on my boss, head baristas and roasters. However this paragraph should be devoted to only one.

There was one person to bear with my miscommunication; find time when I was in pieces; answer all my questions when I failed for something I wanted so badly; talk me through my doubts; forgive spilled coffee, broken scales and more. Sometimes even accidentally drop a bit of knowledge that was life-changing. Let alone those training sessions

That is Diana. A walking inspiration, the strongest human I know, my favourite person in coffee.

3. Work on a sensory panel
That has happened so unexpectedly. I've just read a book about sensory evaluation techniques. And only a month later I found myself as a sensory panelist. Straight away I could apply theory to practice. And by the way I've learned so much: about my palate, sensory evaluation, espresso (object of evaluation).

Last week I've found myself explaining a flavour attribute to a fellow barista based on that experience.

4. Competition
I'm not highly competitive. More than an average person. But if you compare me to the best athletes I'm lacking the mindset. Even though I've spent countless hours on mental training in downhill.

Yet I always want to find ways to challenge myself, force to progress and even show off a little bit. Because I am an athlete. Years of competitive mountain biking, handball and running has created me in youth. And I will never be able to cut away from it.

But now I'm not in sports anymore. At least not in professional terms. Its place has been taken by coffee. So...

My first coffee competition ever.

And two more to come this season.

5. Roasting
This one is more of a direction I want to take. I understand my limitations as a barista. I love my job, I'm good at it. But I would never say I'm a permanent barista.

The strengths I have revolve around introverted nature of me. I know what customer service means, I have empathy and have several customers who I love talking to. However after 500 people cross the little space I work in, I'm drained.

I know I could be better roaster than barista. Why? Learning about green coffee or sensory skills don't make me much better behind the bar (given what I already know). The gain is marginal. However those aspects are essential for being good roaster. And these are the things I want to develop.

But let alone everything above, there is a reason I'm attracted to roasting so much. And I believe it's worth to follow that inclination.

Well, it seems that 2016 was the year of following my dream. Also I had some tough moments, but that happens when you're living the dream. I was lucky to find a mentor, who helped me with my doubts. After that I flourished again. 

Some things don't happen quickly. Sometimes it's good to fail, because you wouldn't learn otherwise. After 2016 I have a vision for 2017. And I already know it won't be easy, it will cost money and it'll need sacrifice.

But it will be worth it.

Photo 1 - Ray Kay
Photos 3,5 - Kuba


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