As you might know, I love coffee! Though, only good coffee, which means not any filtered coffee that tastes like water also sold as “Americano”.
One of the first things I always look out for when visiting a new city are nice cafés, which offer special coffee like own roasted beans or fair trade. Brazil is one of the largest coffee producers in the world and hence I thought it would be easy to find decent cups of coffee everywhere. Unfortunately this is not true… Finding a “fine café” is rather a challenge. Coffee Lab was the first one I entered in São Paulo by coincidence and it is still my favourite one. I have tried several other places since and most of them could not meet Coffee Lab’s standards.
I already had the idea of doing a barista education a while ago when I was still living in Switzerland. Mainly because I wanted to learn more about coffee. When we moved to Brazil, the country of coffee, I thought it is the best opportunity to put that idea into reality. And with my favourite café in São Paulo (owed by Brazil’s most famous barista Isabela Raposeiras) offering barista courses it was even better. So I got in touch with Coffee Lab. Coffee Lab normally provides courses in Portuguese only, with a minimum of 3 participants but for me they hosted the first one in English. My teacher Leandro, who was a former lawyer before he decided to quit his job and enter the coffee industry to follow his passion, was amazing. He has so much knowledge about coffee and very good teaching methods. The junior barista course took 2 days, each day 6 hours.
About Coffee Lab
If you’re looking for a great experience of Brazilian coffee in São Paulo, this is the place to go! Coffee Lab is an industrial-chic café where the staff is dressed in in red and blue mechanic inspired overalls. It looks on the first impression rather like a lab than a coffee shop.
Isabela Raposeiras, the renowned barista and owner of Coffee Lab, has created a gorgeous coffee place with indoor and outdoor seating in São Paulo’s district Vila Madalena. She realized that Brazil has very few good coffee shops and opened the first Barista School in São Paulo that offers different courses from home brewing to real barista training.
What is a Barista?
The word “barista” was extensively shaped by Starbucks during the last years. Barista is a person who prepares and serves espresso-based coffee variations. A barista has been trained to operate a machine and to prepare the coffee based on the guidelines of the roaster. Similar to a sommelier is familiar with entire process of wine making, a barista should know all the methods about coffee.
Junior Barista Course at Coffee Lab
On the first day we started with a lot of theory about Brazilian coffee: the primary types of coffee like Arabica and Robusta, harvesting coffee as well as the roasting process.
We proceeded with trying 6 different coffees to get an understanding of what high quality coffee is compared to a lower quality one. Coffee is classified in three categories: traditional, superior, gourmet. We started to taste the coffees and talked about the body characteristics and to categorize the flavours, which is quite similar to a wine tasting. For instance: does it taste like wood, is it rather sweet or sour or bitter? I learnt that it is important to taste the same coffee three times: When the coffee is hot, medium hot and cold. Coffee changes its aromas and tastes differently with various temperatures.
On the second day we started to operate the coffee machine. How to make a perfect espresso was the first task. And I can tell, that was clearly not an easy one. There are so many steps involved. After grinding the coffee, to put the exact amount of coffee needed and press the coffee with an even amount of pressure before starting the process at the machine. And also there: the temperature, consistent pressure and the coffee crust are crucial. We tried many espressos with exactly the same beans but with uncorrect temperatures, incorrect amount of coffee etc. Surprisingly the coffee gets a different taste. After this we prepared milk foam. I love cappuccino and latte macchiato so I was excited to learn this specifically. First of all I learned that the amount of protein as well as the temperature is important to make a perfect foam. We started to practise with soap and water before we switched to the milk. Holding the pitcher (cub with milk) in the right angle and feeling with my hand when the milk got the temperature needed is really something I had to practise a lot. At the end making an espresso and milk foam at the same time entails the precise timing and experience. Making a perfect coffee with foam is clearly not easy and requires the faultless execution of critical steps like grinding the beans, extracting the coffee, frothing the milk and pouring.
I really have to say: making the perfect coffee is an art as well as a science and I am already excited to do the Curso de Barista Sênior which will take 4 additional days.
Are you interested to learn more about coffee? Then I can highly recommend the courses at Coffee Lab.