Viva Brighton Issue #28 June 2015




Barista Training

One Church, ten students, great coffee

According to a recent survey from the University of

Stirling, Brighton residents drink more coffee than

anyone else in the country. Which has led to a proliferation

of independent specialty coffee shops in the

city: 20 in Trafalgar Street alone, at the last count.

The trouble is there aren’t enough trained baristas

around to work in them. Making a good cup of

coffee from a Gaggia-style machine is no easy task:

it requires a complex set of skills as sensitive adjustments

frequently need to be made, depending

on numerous variants concerning the provenance,

quality and age of the coffee. All this at top speed

in front of an often impatient queue.

“Some of these cafés have invested in the right

equipment,” says Ben Szobody, “but they’re serving

a bad cup of coffee as they don’t know how to use

it properly. So cafés are either poaching baristas

who have been trained up properly, or using staff

who don’t really know what they’re doing.”

Ben is project manager of One Church’s charity

wing. One Church is actually two combined

churches, one in Gloucester Place, the other in

Florence Road, Fiveways. The group have moved

all their religious ceremonies to the latter, freeing

up the North Laine space for community-friendly

activities, from food banks to winter homeless

sheltering. And barista training.

Ben realised that Brighton was “full of youngsters,

many from deprived areas, with nothing to put on

their CVs, so no way to get started. How depressing

is that?” He put two and two together, and

successfully applied to get grant funding (including

£15,000 from the European Social Fund) to

set up a barista apprenticeship course for 16-24

year-olds, with three hours’ practical training at

the church on a Monday (followed by English and

Maths classes delivered by academic partner PACA

in Portslade) then four days a week working on

placement for a café.

We’re talking in the church, at the Monday morning

class, where ten students are being trained up

by the enthusiastic Laura, who performs that role

the rest of the week at Small Batch. Experienced

barista ‘mentors’ Kat and Philippe are looking on,

too, as the students try out different combinations

of dosage and yield (how much coffee to use, and

how much water to put through it) on three different

state-of-the-art double-cup machines (supplied

through an ‘amazingly affordable deal’ by UCC

Coffee). There’s a concentrated buzz of happy

learning about proceedings, and the church starts

smelling better and better.

I chat to Laura and Philippe and Kat and a couple

of the students, one of whom brings me a cup of

espresso. It tastes great, though Ben, a much more

seasoned judge, has a sip and pronounces that it’s

got a bit of a dry finish. A work in progress, then,

but the course is far from over. I get the feeling

we’re in a win-win-win here: most students will

come out the other end, heads held high, job

secure, capable of making blindingly good brews

for the city’s growing population of coffee drinkers.

Alex Leith

New courses start Sept.


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