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Viva Brighton Issue #28 June 2015

coffee

coffee ........................................... 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. ben@onechurchbrighton.org ....85....

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