Coffee Pro-sumerism: The Journey to Becoming a Great Coffee Lover

Daniel Liew, Barista Guild Asia | The common question I have been asked often is “I love coffee and I want to learn more about it, but where do I start?” So here’s my 10 things you can do to speed up your learning process.


1. ATTEND A COFFEE APPRECIATION CLASS: Many cafes and coffee academies offer periodic coffee appreciation classes ranging from basic to advance. These are a great start to learning about cultivation and types of brewing methods. It’s also a great way to make friends. Not all coffee appreciations are the same, so it’s best that  you visit a few as a start. Stay tuned to Barista Guild Asia’s page postings on Consumer Classes. Many introductory classes are free or relatively inexpensive. But should you want to take your skills even further we recommend the Barista Foundation class. This would definitely get you started.


2. COFFEE CUPPING SESSIONS: Some specialty coffee cafes are now conducting Cupping sessions as a way of allowing customers to sample some new arrivals or freshly roasted coffee. During the cupping session you will be given a cupping spoon and a score sheet. It’s ok if it all sounds greek to you at first. But bear in mind there is a protocol at most cupping sessions. Typically it is rather quiet and there is a sequence of which flight of coffee to begin and end with. If unsure, just ask the host or the lead cupper. This gives you a head start to understanding how to detect flavor notes such as floral and fruitiness, nutty notes and mouthfeel. Pay attention to the evaluation of someone experienced in the group. But don’t be intimidated when you can’t detect some of the tasting notes they can. It takes practice.


3. ONCE YOU GO BLACK: When you ask the many who claimed to be coffee lovers about which drinks they prefer, their answers would often resonate those ice blended, sugar and syrup laden coffee beverages. I would encourage you to order espressos or filtered brewed coffee instead. This would give you an opportunity to experience different tastes and different brewing methods. Most places the Baristas are tasked to present the brew to you and explain its origin, roast profile and tasting notes.


4. VISIT A ROASTERY CAFÉ: There are many cafes that do onsite coffee roasting as well. Just do a quick search online and you will probably find one or two that are not too far from where you are. Most roasteries do sell their coffee beans retail and allow customers to even blend their own mix. A conversation with the proprietor there will gain you some insights into how intricate roasting can be and the ins and outs of being a coffee roaster.


5. SPECIALTY COFFEE CAFES: The next time you are looking for a café, instead of visiting an international or local chain type café, find a local independent café that serves specialty grade coffee. A simple way to find out whether or not this café serves specialty is traceability. Can the owner or barista reveal sufficient information about the coffee such as its origins, growing region, harvest period, varietal, processing method, roast profile and brewing method. It’s a good start for you to familiarize yourself with the flavor profile of the different origins and what you can expect from that brewing method.


6. BREW IT YOURSELF: Start with a brewing kit, all you need to begin with is a nice hand grinder, a brewing device such as Hario V60, Aeropress, Bodum French Press or even a Daiso coffee dripper. Then as you progress, get yourself a high quality weighing scale and kitchen thermometer, timer and a coffee pour over pitcher. These equipment can start from a budget and may escalate to literally hundreds of ringgits. But they can bring you much joy and excitement in brewing your own freshly roasted coffee. You can also watch the many brewing tutorials online to get you started. It doesn’t necessary have to be an espresso machine. I started my journey with a humble French Press and a Daiso coffee dripper.


7. COFFEE AND CAFÉ EXPOS: Whenever you hear of a coffee fest or café expo, go! Nothing beats a great day out at the exposition. The exhibitors are friendly and welcoming, there’s lots to sample and try. Not forgetting the many freebies you might be collecting along the way. It’s a great time to talk to these exhibitors and learn a thing or two more than before you stepped in. The right people to talk to are machine distributors, coffee roasters, café owners and also retailers.


8. ORGANIZE A CAFÉ HOP: This can be a lot of fun with your friends. Select a list of cafes you want to visit, gather a group of friends and just go. You do not have to order a meal but the least you can do is try their espresso or brewed coffee. If you don’t have any idea which cafes to begin you can always Google “Top cafes in XXX“. Many bloggers and online magazines would have already written some articles about these cafes. Before departure remember to bring along your camera, a note book and drink lots of water as you might get over caffeinated.


9. READ: There are books, magazines and online portals on coffee. There’s just so much written material to fuel your hunger for knowledge and passion for coffee. Most give you an update on the latest and the trends in the coffee industry. You can also look for special interests groups on Facebook. These are people just like you who are interested in coffee and have a passion to learn more about it. There are also groups that get together at selected cafes or when a new café opens up.


10. GET TO KNOW A BARISTA OR CAFÉ OWNER: Many of them in these industry love to share their knowledge about coffee. Especially to customers who are regulars with them. This builds a strong bond of friendship and eventually may even escalate to other ventures. It’s not uncommon to hear of customers who end up working part time at their favourite café or even partnering up to start one of their own.


Photo courtesy: Coffee Quality Institute

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Daniel Liew

Barista Guild Asia

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