Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: High on His Own Supply

Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: High on His Own Supply

Article excerpt

Coffee lover Dave Waller goes on his dream assignment, being a barista.

I'm off to Starbucks near London's Regent Street for a shot as a coffee barista. I sense trouble brewing, as I contemplate spending six hours surrounded by that aromatic black magic. Talk about indulging your vices: it's like sending John Terry away to a hotel full of his team-mates' wives and girlfriends.

I may be a certified caffeine user, but I'm hardly a Starbucks devotee Too much hoopla. I preferred the old Nescafe days, when you could woo people by simply shaking a handful of beans. But things have moved on, and my day kicks off with a tasting session, courtesy of Alan Hartney, Starbucks' UK coffee ambassador, who shares his knowledge of everything from harvesting the crop to brewing a cafetiere (optimum time: four minutes).

It's genuinely enlightening. We sit around in the store's basement, hands cupped around espressos held to our noses as we inhale the fumes 'What scent are you getting?' asks Alan. 'Grapefruit,' says Maria, the store manager. 'Coffee,' I say.

Alan enthuses that this blend, the Colombian Narino Supremo, goes well with potted shrimp. Jesus. He's only sniffed one and he's high already.

Time to taste. The technique is to inhale sharply, spraying the coffee along your tongue's sensors, from sweet back to salt, sour and bitter. Get it right and you'll have a taste sensation - and sound like the flush on an airplane toilet.

I'm flying in no time. I've only been here half an hour. 'Ambassador, with these fruity Kenyan notes you are really spoiling us,' I giggle to myself. By the time everyone else is detecting green pepper in the Asian-Pacific blend, my brain is vibrating and I'm halfway to manic.

Now that I'm suitably wired, Alan puts me 'on bar', tackling my first drink - a simple cappuccino. One shot of espresso for a tall (that's Starbuckian for 'small'), which should take 18 to 24 seconds to drip out of the machine. Steam the milk to 160 degrees and get the nozzle to the right depth to give it a smooth, aerated sweetness. It's harder than it looks.

At 11am things suddenly crank up. There's a queue building and I'm frothing. …

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