The beach next to our house. Not bad, eh?
Some of you may wonder how that 18-year-old "coffee-expert" thinks that he knows everything about coffee. Well, claim to be any kind of expert. I won't even say that I know lot about coffee. I am just an enthusiast and I wrote how the coffees tasted, that's all. I hope I could be called an expert one day, but that day is still far away.
Espresso at La Torre
My history, or "career", with coffee began about two years ago. We had decided with family to move to New Zealand for a year. There was no any real reason for that, we just wanted to do something else for a while. Anyway, the coffee culture in NZ was totally different compared to Finland's.
We lived in Auckland, the largest city of NZ. In Devonport, the suburb we lived in, there was at least 10 cafés and maybe 10 000 inhabitants. In Lauttasaari, Helsinki (that's where I live) there is maybe two cafes and over 20 000 inhabitans. And the best thing in Auckland's cafés was that they were all good or at least proper. Well, I had only started my coffee-thing, but anyway the level of coffee served was totally different.
Alone in Auckland there were at least 10 microroasteries. Every café used freshly roasted coffee. At that time I could not really taste the difference between old and fresh coffee, but it was good. The reason for this, what I have thought myself and talked with a few people, could be that NZ has jumped straight from having no coffee culture at all to have one of the best coffee scenes in the world. They have not had the "filtered coffee -phase" and the largest coffee-drinking segment of population, 15-65-year-olds (or whatsoever) may not have tasted filtered coffee ever. But that is only my guess, I'd love to hear someone else's opinion also. (I'll write another post about Auckland's cafés.)
We came back to Finland year ago in summer and I noticed that there's no coffee culture here. For six months I tried to find a proper café in Helsinki but failed. In this January I happened to get involved with Kaffecentralen and went to their barista training. That was a eye-opening experience for me. I had not realised before how difficult it actually is to make an espresso. Earlier I had thought that it totally depends in the machine. Now I was told that it is the person, the barista, who makes the coffee, not the machine.
After that one-day training I started going to Kaffecentralen, also called KC, pretty much every day. KC is not only a café but they also import coffee and machines and sell all kinds of coffee stuff. The great thing there is that they change the espresso many times a day. Because of that I was able to taste different, always correctly brewed, espressos and learn their characteristic tastes. I had a coffee-diary where I wrote down all my thoughts about the coffees, about 30 entries overall. Another reason why I went there was that Ulrika Hannula, one of the pioneers of the special coffee scene in Finland. She has worked with coffee something like 14 years now so she had a thing or two to teach me. Maybe the most important thing I learned from her was that one can not learn coffee completely, ever. You can also learn something new, you are never ready.
This summer I traveld around Europe (Check my travel posts: CoffeeRail) and learned a lot about espresso. More about it in CoffeeRail. After my trip I got involved with Kaffa Roastery and roasting coffee. I had had no idea that roasting coffee is such difficult and complicated thing. Almost art, one could say. Whenever possible I went to the roastery (I have even made a few agreements with teachers so that I could go there during school...) and tried to learn something new. It is just so fascinating to see the transformation from raw green beans to beatifully coloured, roasted coffee.
Always when I drink coffee I try to analyze it: is the temperature right, how balanced it is, what notes does my nose find, how is the texture, jsut to mention few. That is how I tasted the coffees for my article. I used World Barista Championship's rulesheet (PDF) as a guideline, but mostly I just wrote how I thought the coffee tasted. Was it good or bad, too hot or cold.
As I mentioned before, I don't claim to be an expert or anything, I just wanted to tell people how bad the coffee scene in Helsinki actually is. I hope my arctile would make the café-owners realise that it is important to hire someone who is even a bit interested in coffee. That's good for us and for them.