One of my most poignant character traits (whether it be taken as positive or negative) is my unyielding stubbornness. My Mum, an avid believer in personal horoscopes and the zodiac puts it all down to my being a Taurean but I think its mostly to do with being the youngest of three girls and the last to leave the nest.
So when I arrived in Paris late March this year and threw myself headlong into work, I was shocked a week later to make the realisation that it probably wasn’t going to pan out…
It all harks back to when I got my first taste of the specialty industry in 2006. I’d been at St.Ali in South Melbourne for just six months and only was beginning to feel like getting somewhere when the carpet was pulled from beneath all the staff and we were told the business had been sold.
Eventually, after figuring out that it had been bought by a rather unwholesome dude, I made the decision to approach my then bosses and tell them how it was: I found myself morally unable to pledge my loyalty to an employer whose sole interests were financial. There has to be some undercurrent of passion, some push for a greater good aside from monetary gain.
What that has to do with my life, six years later in France is that there was, not for the lack of trying, nothing I could do to bring this business to the level of my expectations. Every week there was meetings, discussions and lengthy emails detailing small steps that could be taken to move forwards. Some weeks were more optimistic than others. But this was a place that had already garnered the laurel crown of Parisian coffee simply by not being awful and felt that with this reputation, why try to improve.
I was mortified. I’d thrown every last penny I had made into flipping my life over and getting to the other side of the world. My life was officially Parisian, I wanted to stay here forever. My friends were here, my co-workers were incredible. This is where I became stubborn. I wouldn’t give it up without a fight.
So I battled, I raged. For 7 months I talked myself off the ledge of giving up to go and work in a bar until my holiday visa expired and see what happened next. Until magically, after paying my own way to the Nordic Barista Cup and having one of the most excellent, mind expanding, liver annihilating weeks of my life; I got an email. From my dream job, that I’d been pining for, for years after every bag a coffee arrived from mystic Norway. Tim Wendelboe in Oslo.
Apparently not many sane people get the urge to move to the top of the earth where its painfully cold and dark six months of the year but I always told myself that I will have “made it” if I ever had a position there. I was lucky enough that a spot needed filling and I might be just the lady they were looking for.
So I packed up my French life. It fit rather badly in four suitcases.
I cleaned my tiny little flat, had a raging goodbye party in an expensive haute couture dress, completed my last WOD at CrossFit Addicts Paris and rode my bike through the streets, late at night, trying desperately to soak the place into my veins for fear of that feeling ever leaving me.
Then I got on a plane and left.
After a cheeky week back in Australia to meet my brand new niece, Aurora and a pit stop in LA to visit a couple of buddies, I plunged into -15 degrees and will never look back. Oslo is mind blowing. The air is clean, it snows constantly, the people smile back at you and the most important part: I’ve never worked in a place I love more. Nothing is done without a purpose and all the folks that work there have only excellence in mind. No words can really describe it but after being so sorely disappointed, my hearts never been so over joyed.
Fancy that, who knew I’d end up here.
Six months ago I was in a right state.
I’d already taken a sabbatical from the specialty industry on the belief that caffeine was tearing at the edges of my sanity. So, humming away in Spotswood, learning a few things about food that I hadn’t known before, I eventually got sucked into that too. Babies were had and Duchess was growing at such an enormous rate that I barely had a hold on the reins of the shop, let alone my actual life.
So I stopped. Just packed up my house in Moonee Ponds, with my pseudo wife at the Ladies Lounge. Put everything I owned in storage and shipped four hours up the highway to my parents farm. They grow Hereford cattle on 200 acres just far enough out of town to not receive internet signal. Their place overlooks an enormous valley and from the front veranda you can see at least eight little towns that dot the rolling hills. Being in the thick of it in Melbourne almost makes you forget about how beautiful a place like this really is.
So ensued three months of swimming in rivers, reading books, baking sourdough, doing the crossword and drinking tea. But there had to be a goal to move towards. I couldn’t sit around drinking tea for the rest of my days.
And it appeared in the most bizarre fashion… A friend request on facebook. Now I am pretty dubious about social media from the get go, especially when I don’t recognize the face behind the supposed acquaintance. But my curiosity burned. This Frenchman accompanied his request with a message, telling me all about how he used to live in Melbourne and had since moved back to Paris and opened a spectacular (google proved him to be correct) specialty roastery named “Coutume”. We’d met at Brother Baba Budan a few years ago and he wanted to know… Would I fancy heading to the northern hemisphere and having a crack at lending a hand opening their second shop in the Marais?
It took some convincing from my Mum and sister before I saw any truth in the email… Surely it was some cruel hoax.
Apparently not though because next Wednesday evening at 11:55pm, I’ll be coasting down the tarmac at Tullamarine with one suitcase and one carry on bag. Heading to a continent I’ve never been on before, to a place where I barely speak the language and only know one person. My new employer, Antoine.
Everything really seems to have come together though and I’ve never been more ready for anything in my life.
Wish me luck.
Since the Victorian Siphon heats in March, Australia’s alternate brew method competition scene has really been heating up. Small Batch (Auction Rooms) hosted the first national competition in their brand new roastery in North Melbourne, unshackling baristas from the constraints of espresso brewing and releasing an extraordinary sense of creative freedom only evident when a new style of competition is explored. Up for grabs was a trip to compete on the world stage in Japan, a limited edition “Tabi” siphon, complete with Tokyo skyline etched onto the glass and a one of a kind engraved paddle.
The Saturday gave previous competitors a second chance at glory in the open heats with the Victorians, most of whom had been disqualified in the State competition on time issues, snapping up all four spots. Each barista was given the Colombian Las Mangas, ten minutes and was asked to present three siphons, two identical and one signature beverage.
Jonathan Bentley from Auction Rooms got the rooms attention when he discovered mid routine that one of the rubbers seals had gone missing. He had a terrific return to form and presented the only savory signature of the day, a take on the dressing from his Nonna’s tomato salad that was salty, balsamic and rich. Kiril Shaginov showcased his precision and playfulness with a melted turkish delight and vanilla pod, sticky sweet signature. Aaron Wood from The Premises and Duchess of Spotswood shone with simplicity and an undeniable rock solid technique, sharing a beverage that eventually won him the best signature drink award. A simple an seasonal blood orange and fresh cane juice creation that highlighted the coffee itself. Aaron also came in third place.
Will Glover from Auction Rooms knocked it out of the ballpark though with his WCG Las Mangas stout. Will cooled his signature siphon with dry ice in a dramatic fashion, mixed with malt extract syrup, caramelised sugar and molases and then carbonated the lot to exaggerate the boozy, herbaceous nature of the Las Mangas. The specially made coasters topped off the whole experience and Will repeated his performance the next night, with even more sass, to nab the top spot.
Tuli Keidar from Mecca in Sydney began day two of the proceedings with one of the most exciting coffees in Australia at the moment, the Panama Elida. He used a blend of the natural and washed to achieve balance and created a signature siphon entitled “Voltron” that utilised galaxy hops, juniper berries and orange rind to end up with a very gin like beverage. Voltron was a tie with Aaron Wood for the best signature drink of the competition.
Iain McRae from Coffee Alchemy in Sydney managed to cram a lot into his ten minute time frame. He presented a blend of Kenyan Kanocho, Ethiopian Guji and Bolivian Caranavi and a spectacularly beautiful signature drink named, “The Black Star”, that dripped through and soaked up mandarin skins, cinnamon, star anise, earl grey tea, apricot and cacao. The beverage was finished by dissolving orange blossom fairy floss and munching on a macaroon.
Johnny Vroom had the weight of a state resting on his shoulders and with most of his time being chewed away by his new venture in Kew, Ora he did well to be nipping at Will’s heels in second place. Johnny used a blend of two Geishas roasted by Proud Mary, the Don Pachi and Santa Teresa. He bottled a carbonated and chilled blend of a cold drip of the same coffee and his signature siphon that he sweetened with a small amount of vanilla syrup. Johnny even managed to find time to cap the beverage in neat little bottles with, “sip”, written in gold lettering across the front.
Kris Wood also represented Proud Mary with their new season Geisha, the Santa Teresa. He was right on the money when describing this coffee as so perfect that there were absolutely no improvements that could be made on it in regards to a signature beverage. So he took a simplistic approach, resting the roasted beans for two days with fennel and bay leaf. Even after the onslaught of beverages, the judges touted his identical siphons as the best of the evening.
Will has been furiously training to go head to head with the worlds best in Tokyo on the 30th of September. I have no doubt Australia is in very good hands. Lets hope they like hip-hop. You can find out more about the competition here.
Mark Free has been the captain of the good ship Brother Budan for a while now and no surprise, the dude is sick of espresso. Black Coffee is a ridiculously hard to find pop up at Somewhere Gallery in Royal Arcade. It serves Aeropress, Syphon and Pourover and has been generously donated coffee by every big gun in the roasting business. This morning I spent the few maiden hours catering to a thirsty crowd of revelers. My favorite brew of the day was the Elida, a naturally processed Best of Panama. So lavender.
Big round of applause for Mark Free, he’s onto a winner. There is no milk, no sugar and no bullshit.
You can find out a little more about it here.
Last week, after my first two wheeled tumble on Elizabeth st, someone jokingly said, “Oh be careful Talor, you know bad things always happen in three’s”.
I’m not sure if that idea planted itself somewhere deep in my unconscious but later on in the week, just after getting my British cycling green Raleigh back from the bike shop and making tracks for Prudence to celebrate the Easter long weekend. I cleaned up a pedestrian on Swanston st. I’m glad they are changing that street from its current lay out because as I crossed the intersection, a drunken punter from the pub on the corner rushed out ahead of the green signal and right into where I was planning to ride. Everything happened so fast that before I knew it, I was being hauled onto the sidewalk out of the way of traffic, dealing with the glares of cyclist hating citizens.
I brushed myself off, gratefully accepted the water given to me by a concerned security guard and tried to salvage my dignity by walking my bike away from the scene. Only to then be followed by who I soon found out to be a single father of one from Glenroy who was in the city celebrating his football teams win. He was concerned for my health after the accident. Also my current marital status. Obviously he thought a woman that could so gracefully take out a drunken idiot would be a great role model for his child.
The only thing I took away from the accident was some fresh grazes and bruises on top of the ones I already had.
Then came number three. I rolled over and peered into a drizzly morning over Moonee Ponds. The rain was light enough so I wouldn’t have to take my chances being late for work on the train, so at 7:30am, I pumped up my tyres and hit the road. I made it all the way to Footscray before the car in front of me slammed on its breaks at a free intersection and I, with rain slicked wheels, hurtled into the back of it. Genuinely, it was my most pain free accident of the whole three but my bike had finally packed it in.
So, goodbye my beautiful trusty steed. You served me well!
On Monday morning while riding down Elizabeth st on my way to the Tim Wendelboe talk at Market Lane, I was blind sided by a taxi and knocked off my bike in a rather horrific manner. Sitting on the curb, various kind folk draped me in a blankets and waited until the ambulance arrived. After they had given me a once over, removed the gravel from my badly road-rashed knee’s and made sure I wasn’t suffering from a concussion, I made to get back on the bike and continue towards Prahran. Unfortunately though, my bike didn’t fare as well as I had through the accident and I had to leave it with the friendly crew at BSC. In a strange coincidence, Remy from Little Wish was also having bike troubles that morning and just so happened to walk into the same bike shop as me. We hopped in a taxi and waltzed in just before the morning began.
The talk was interrupted at various stages with slide photos of team Wendelboe partying it up, which salvaged my badly spaced mind with much needed humor. The most relevant piece of information which punctuated the haze of post-accident was the importance of green buyers and roasters forming partnerships with growers. Not in a sense of labeling the coffee that you have bought as, “Relationship Coffee”. But entering into written or spoken agreements in which, in return for their loyalty to you, you continue to buy their produce, regardless of quality. As Tim pointed out, coffee trees have a five year cycle of quality, with some years faring better than others.
Later on in the day, we hit the cupping tables and were lucky enough to taste a Geisha grown in Honduras. It was only planted two years ago but it knocked everything else on the table out of the running. Really looking forward to what it might come up with in a few years time.
After mopping various spit stains from the floors and rearranging the chairs for the next days service, Will Studd breezed into the building laden with styrofoam boxes, overflowing with a plethora of deliciousness. The stragglers of the day crowded around the table to be entertained by a broad spectrum of the cheesiest kind. Everything from the softest goats curd to Taleggio and Cheddar. We got an enthralling condensed version of the ins and outs of the Australian cheese industry and finished off with the infamous Roquefort (which after a 2 million dollar paper commissioned by the Australian Government is actually allowed to be imported. It was AMAZING).
Doesn’t really matter what flavor passion comes in but this one was particularly delectable.
One thing Matt Perger and I have in common is our shared appreciation of deliciousness. On one of the rare days of our pounding the pavement at Market Lane we were discussing the topic, pastry in particular. This led to the unexpected lending of a rather interesting title called Bourke Street Bakery on the premise that I would put together a meal in gratitude.
We set a date in the very distant future and I was suprised when I looked in my planner last week and discovered that it was coming up already. It just so happened that the night I had planned on cooking was the culmination of a 14 day working stint and the mammoth task was seeming a little more than daunting. Intent on proving my domesticity I began to cook late into the evenings, testing the interesting pastry recipes (Vinegar? Who would have thought!) and gifting jars of successful lemon curd combination to grateful friends.
What I came up with was a giant meal that was intended for two but ended up feeding six with left overs. I really need to reign in on the portion sizes!
First up was pea and pancetta soup with white truffle oil, then only stuffed portobello mushrooms with thyme and lemon zest. After was a chicken and leek pie with fennel and radiccio salad with a lovely lemon curd tart for dessert.