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Barista Basics - Articles

Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Appearing in Bean Scene Magazine,

Issue 8, 2005

Postcards from Seattle






This month our regular writers David Gee and Matthew Gee paid a visit to the coffee capital of the United States of America. Whilst there to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s 17th Annual Conference and Exhibition, they spent a lot of time taking in the espresso scene. They found that whilst there are some things that Australians generally do better than the Americans, there is a lot we can learn from them about the importance of the barista in the whole coffee-making process. Flair, passion and personality – the US barista, it seems, has it all!





Seattle is home to many American corporate giants - companies like Boeing Aviation, Microsoft and department store Nordstoms are all based there. It’s also the city in which US show Frasier is set (think of the "space needle" and the skyline that features in the animation in the closing credits). Perhaps Seattle’s biggest claim to fame is that it is the official home of coffee in the USA. As coffee fanatics ourselves, it was great to be able to visit there. The USA has been the biggest driver of the coffee industry in the past 30 years and Seattle is where the coffee revolution all began.



As everyone talks up Seattle as the coffee hub of America it was probably fitting that our coffee tour started at the Pike Place Markets where a little street café calling itself Starbucks opened its doors in 1971. With polished dark-stained wooden floors, hundreds of cardboard boxes stacked in the storage space above the shelves and a couple of well-oiled espresso machines sitting on the bench, it’s actually quite a quaint little café. It has obviously changed a little over the years but only to accommodate the newer products which Starbucks now sells and to make their fitout a little more sympathetic to the new company look and feel. The original signage is still out the front. (For those coffee geeks reading this, yes the mermaid on the sign outside is topless. She has strategically placed hair flowing down in front of her shoulders on every other Starbucks sign in the world).

There is another standout coffee chain in Seattle with brilliant warm red colourings, called Seattle’s Best. It’s a cheeky name to give a chain in a city where Starbucks is so dominant – but these days it’s really a moot point as Starbucks bought them out a few years’ back. According to the locals it has still maintained its original look and feel and they have a different blend to Starbucks which the real coffee aficionados prefer for its fuller flavour and darker complexion.





Visiting the coffee chains in Seattle was fun but they were really no different to the ones that we have in Australia. The main exception though is that they have done away with the 8oz/240ml cup that we call "small" or "standard" and only offer what we call a medium, large and extra large. The extra large is an enormous 20oz or 600ml. That’s a lot of coffee when you think about it and if they were making it properly (they don’t) they would be putting 4 x 30ml shots in those bad boys. The "bigger is better" mentality in the US is amazing. (The documentary "Supersize Me" could well have focused on coffee outlets in the US and not on fast food giant McDonalds).

Unfortunately we had missed our flight<


Bigger is better in the US



Effective Barista Training, Tea and Coffee Asia, first quarter 2006
Coffee The Australian Way, Tea and Coffee Asia, fourth quarter 2005
In the End, It's All in the Blend, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
Tools of the Trade, Bean Scene, Issue 10, 2005
The Starters Guide To Coffee, Bean Scene, Issue 9, 2005
Cutting Edge Espresso - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Postcards from Seattle - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 8, 2005
Making Great Coffee At Home - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 2, 2004
Buying a Home Espresso Machine - Loreal's Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 3, 2005
Australians v Italians: Who Makes Better Coffee? - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 6, 2004
The Decline of Tea and the Dethroning of the Flat White - Bean Scene Magazine, Issue 7, 2005
Coffee Indulgence - Loreals' Club Matrix Magazine, Issue 4, 2005
Coffee Appreciation
How to be a Gun Barista - Bean Scene, Issue 5, 2004
Affogato with a twist of Mocha - Australian Table, May 2004
Hygiene in the Café Environment - Bean Scene, Issue 3, 2004
Grind It, Baby - Eat Drink Magazine, May 2004
Coffee Myths, Dispelled!, Bean Scene, Issue 4, 2004
Coffee Art - Eatdrink Magazine, June 2004
Questions: Hospitality Magazine, May 2004


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