Barista of the Week… Mariella Traina (Marz), owner and barista at True Religion Espresso Bar, 2/415 Darling Street, Balmain.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Marz: Celebrity chef.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Marz: I use an old school Italian Caffetiera, with our house blend. Simple and black, same as my Nonno used to make it.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Marz: I love meeting someone new everyday – you get to hear about different lives and different stories.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Marz: Cheese and bread.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Marz: I’m Italian, so my first drop was at a young age… My Nonno used to make his own blend at home, and I used to get little sips of goodness from the age of about five.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Marz: If I’m not drinking coffee, and it’s a sunny day off, I’ll be having a campari on ice.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Marz: I used to be a chef, and I fell sideways into being a barista when I opened my first café. I found out I loved making coffee the same way I loved making meals – taking a raw ingredient and producing something that is unique, tasty and satisfying.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work? Have you ever taken the offer up?
Marz: Yes. Five years later, I have now opened up a café with the last customer that chatted me up at work!
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Marz: Breakfast. Coffee can compliment sweet and savoury foods, so breakfast is the perfect accompaniment.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
Marz: I drink a piccolo at work, which is strong and a bit nutty… so there might be something in that…
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Marz: You’ll find a bunch of them at Bar Sport on Norton Street.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Marz: I’m really excited about the developing coffee culture in Sydney right now. People in general are getting more and more educated and interested in all aspects of coffee, and it’s inspiring cafes to pick up their game and constantly be developing and learning about different brewing techniques.
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?
Marz: I would be at a beach in southern Italy, hung-over, having a coffee granita with brioche.
TCG: As a barista, that’s your next big plan?
Marz: A tan.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Sydney?
Marz: I love my new apartment in Summer Hill, my favourite place to hang out is on the balcony, in the sun, reading the paper.
TCG: What is your guilty pleasure?
TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year?
Marz: Spring, there’s amazing produce around to cook with, and it’s the only time of year when you can wear a cardy, thongs and sunnies all at once.
TCG: What are you reading right now?
Marz: I just started reading “Uncommon Grounds” by Mark Pendergrast
TCG: What is your favourite thing to do in Spring?
Marz: Have a picnic at Balmoral Beach with friends, campari and a frisbee.
TCG: What is your favourite movie of all time?
Marz: Cinema Paradiso and Notting Hill. “I’m going to tell you a story that will make your balls shrink to the size of raisins”.
TCG: Where did you grow up? And what is your fondest childhood memory?
Marz: I grew up in Five Dock, and my fondest childhood memory is closely linked to the question about my first coffee.
TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Marz: I’m on my day off now! I just went for breakfast and coffee at the café up the street, and am about to go get my car washed, then hang out in the sunny sun, then be taken out for a fancy dinner that I won in a bet. Great day.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Marz: There’s three parts to making a good coffee – the beans, the machinery, and the barista. When you’ve got specialty coffee roasted beautifully, ground perfectly for a good quality machine, and tended to by a barista that knows and cares about every shot they pull, it’s a recipe for a gorgeous and consistent coffee. If any of these elements are compromised, then the end result gets compromised.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Marz: No way. Today we are able to produce great decaf coffees, and if it is freshly ground and pulled correctly, there’s no reason a beautiful decaf coffee can’t be produced for whoever is unfortunate enough to not be able to order the real thing.
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
Marz: No. You can’t replace a classic.
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
Marz: Earl Grey, white with one.