Barista of the Week… Ben Morrow
Barista at Plantation Specialty Coffee,
Shop 253, Lvl 2 Melbourne Central,
300 La Trobe Street, Melbourne
The Coffee Guide (TCG): What coffee do you use at work?
Ben: Plantation, it’s our own.
TCG: If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Ben: Probably a musician.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Ben: Generally I don’t drink coffee at home, I feel like my body probably needs a break from it after a long week. Though if I really felt like it, French press is always good.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Ben: Definitely trying to create that magic experience for my customers, especially for people who give something different a go (like filter).
TCG: What is your favourite music?
Ben: For work I’m pretty into soul, RnB (the older kind) and jazz. Generally I have a pretty broad taste in music… anything from The Mars Volta to Notorious B.I.G.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Ben: Anything vegetarian, especially if it’s something I’ve never had before. Though if I had to pick it would be mushrooms for sure, they have such a variance in taste and texture. I’m really getting into chestnut mushrooms at the moment, they have a long stem that is kind of like asparagus in texture and kind of grassy in taste, the cap is reminiscent of a baby Swiss brown, so delicious.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Ben: My first coffee experience was with my parents at the kitchen table a long time ago- I think I would have been maybe 5-6 years old. They’d invited a few friends over for lunch and finished it off with an enormous French press; I think it made something like 12 cups. Needless to say it wasn’t that great, that said though, coffee was so different then to now.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Ben: Tea if it’s a caffeinated beverage.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Ben: When I was at uni I was working on the side in a café. Working on the floor, it always seemed to me that the progression from that point was to barista, considering that coffee was such an important part of the work itself.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work? Have you ever taken the offer up?
Ben: Only a few times. No comment.
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Ben: Food that makes you feel comfortable. There’s nothing like batch brew in a mug and a toastie.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Ben: Depends how long the shift is, but maybe like 800 assisted for a full days work.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Ben: I have no idea. When I worked at St. Ali you made so much coffee there wasn’t really anytime for counting. Loved it.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
Ben: Well I guess so, for the most part I only really drink black coffee. Though I’m not really into long blacks… just espressos and filter for me. I guess that just makes me a bit of a snob.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Ben: I have no idea- but I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?’
Ben: Godzilla. Godzilla always wins.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
Ben: Not really out of this city so far, that said, most of the best crops in the world end up here, so why leave?
TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?
Ben: Definitely competing in the national latte art championships. I had to win the repecharge/open heat to make it in the last two years and managed it both times, this year I came second as well, that was fantastic.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Ben: Probably the variety of coffee’s we’re getting imported. Honestly it’s the best year it’s ever been for drinking coffee, you can get multiple varietals from the same farms, micro lots, day lots, OCR coffee, as well as extremely rare and unusual varietals that have amazing cup qualities (like HR61A, HR61B and more bizarre bourbon’s like Orange and Pink).
TCG: If you could pick one spot in the world to sit and have a coffee, where would it be, and what coffee would you have?
Ben: Kenya, Kayu region, Straight sl28 or pea berry, and it would probably be a chemex or pourover. I’ve got a Kenyan obsession, honestly it could be any other region and I would be equally satisfied.
TCG: If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice (anyone- past or present), who would it be and what coffee would you make them?
Ben: Too many people, not enough coffee.
TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
Ben: Well I probably need a holiday, but besides that I just want to expand my knowledge even further, there’s so much to know about coffee. I’m definitely comp-ing next year, so hopefully the world stage.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Ben: Hard to say. The best coffee in the world isn’t that great in the hands of a talentless barista. That said, coffee can taste pretty nasty if it’s not processed cleanly or is defective. Nothing tastes worse than potato defect. Nothing.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Ben: Not in my mind. Though nothing is dirty really…
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
Ben: Doubt it.
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
Ben: Oolong, love the delicate nature of it when brewed correctly.
TCG: What is your favourite alternate brewing method?
Ben: Probably v60, but I’m always keen for a good clever or aero-press.
TCG: Where do you see alternate brewing methods going?
Ben: Well, they’ve already been commercialized in things like the fretco batch brewer. So I guess something a bit more clinical, perhaps something involving roto-evaportion.
TCG: What ever happened to the Clover?
Ben: I’m not really sure. In all honesty I never really liked them.
TCG: Will other methods fade away?
Ben: Perhaps the more complex and harder to use methods, but traditional coffee instruments will be around forever (like ibriki or French press).