A guide to choosing the best café and barista for your coffee
If Tom Hespe taught high school he’d be the cool teacher; the one the boys wanted to hang with and the girls giggled about. He plays in a band, wears understated yet edgy shirts with slim cut jeans and is deeply serious about coffee. As the senior trainer for Toby’s Estate espresso school, Tom’s role is to educate would be baristas and coffee lovers in how to achieve that perfect cup of coffee. “Good coffee tastes very different and once you start drinking good stuff it’s really hard to put up with inferior product”.
“Toby’s Estate is about freshness. When you talk about coffee you talk about freshness and part of our role is to just transmit that knowledge to other people,” says Tom.
The school runs eight separate courses that include using a home espresso machine, home roasting, brew methods plus five levels of professional barista training and anyone is welcome to enroll. “We make the training really open to everyone, come and learn we’ll tell you all we know,” promises Tom.
The goal is to empower people by giving them access to knowledge and information. “One of the core philosophies that we have at the Toby’s Estate espresso school is that we talk a lot about the senses. What does it look like? What does it smell like? What do the grounds feel like? Our approach to training with everybody is that rather than relying on a set of scales or numbers or times or measures or things like that, we really just get people to use their own innate abilities.”
The reward for Tom is watching his students learn to confidently brew or roast coffee. “I enjoy watching people develop and gain those skills. As a teacher, what I find really interesting is that all students are different. It’s not about telling someone you have to do it this way, it’s about, well this is what we’ve got to achieve, how can we get you to that point where you can do it and feel confident with it and feel confident behind the machine and the equipment.”
This generous approach to learning has meant highly capable students graduate from the classes. “Over the years we have had a very interesting mix of people who come along to the espresso school. As a teacher it kind of humbles us and gives us a bit more of an appreciation of the complexity of the world and the people who are out there.”
Want to be sure your café can make a great cup of coffee? Here’s Tom’s guide to choosing the perfect café and barista.
First up, listen. “Do you hear the grinder being switched on? If the coffee is ground fresh you have a good hope of getting a quality coffee.”
Next, look. “Is fresh milk being used? Are they using jugs specific to the drinks that are being made?
Then, ask. Freshness makes a great cup of coffee. “Ask the barista, ‘When were the beans roasted?? Do you know where the beans were sourced from?’ If you’re lucky you’ll get a barista who’s got all that knowledge and information and wants to share it with you,” says Tom.
Finally, taste. “Bitterness is something that’s created by the person who makes the coffee. So, if you get a bitter cup of coffee it’s not the coffee or the roast, it’s the person who made it.” A well trained, expert barista will create a cup of coffee with a smooth finish and plenty of flavour, every time.