Barista of the Week … Ralph Jenner
Head Barista at Small Victories,
617 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North
The Coffee Guide (TCG): What coffee do you use at work?
Ralph: Wide Open Road’s House blend Bathysphere is our everyday, roasted locally in Brunswick. We also select a single origin to use week by week too.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Ralph: At home I make pour-over, using a hand-mill and a cheap plastic filter cone with an old pyrex serving jug. I take it straight up, hot or over ice.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Ralph: The customers at Small Victories are really rad. The cafe draws lots of different and creative people. It’s cool to be part of my regulars daily routine.
TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).
Ralph: Lately it’s been loads of different 60’s and 70’s soul and rock. From Al Green and Marvin Gaye to Lou Reed and the rolling stones. I also DJ Rap and Dance music, so it’s nice to get away from that during the workday.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Ralph: This changes more then the music does. Lately with the warmer weather it’s been salads again. I keep craving this roasted cauliflower one with fresh celery, hazelnuts, parsley and pomegranate. It’s from the book “Jerusalem” by Yottam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Ralph: It was pretty amazing judging the finals of the New Zealand Barista Champ’s two years in a row. As a sensory judge I got to taste some really delicious and innovative drinks.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Ralph: Rum. I like trying different rums from different places.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Ralph: I cooked before I got into coffee, but that’s just too hard. I wanted to talk to people, so coffee seemed like the smart transition.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work? Have you ever taken the offer up?
Ralph: From time to time. It’s actually how I met my girlfriend.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Ralph: It varies heaps. Weekdays we make way less then weekends. Round the 200 mark most days.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Ralph: Years ago I worked in an espresso bar at the airport. There wasn’t really anywhere else nice in the airport, so we got hit hard everyday. Three two groups with two baristas on each machine. Some days we would make 1000.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Ralph: Some make it as famous people following their dreams, others get old and tired and wind up drinking away the pain from their boring corporate jobs.
TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?
Ralph: It would be a pretty big coffee machine, but Godzilla. He’s more worldly.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
Ralph: Pretty much all round New Zealand. As a coffee trainer I worked with people in their cafes all over the place. Since moving to Melbourne it’s been a crash course in Australian coffee culture, which has meant visiting lots and lots of spots round the city.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Ralph: It’s coming into summer, which means heaps of cold coffee! I’m looking forward to some fruity, sweet and refreshing iced filter made on our new Moccamaster by Technivorm.
TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Ralph: My girlfriend and I like to have a coffee at ‘Everyday Coffee’ on Johnston Street. It’s a short walk round to one of my favourite stores in Melbourne ‘Spares’. After that we caught the tram to Northcote to hit the Greek supermarket. Then it’s home to cook for the evening feast.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Ralph: 80% beans, 20% barista. With a tasty coffee that 20% is the icing on the cake though.