Barista of the Week… Nick Xipakis, barista at Ten Buck Alley, 1/185a Bourke Street, Darlinghurst, NSW.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Nick: If I wasn’t a barista… I’d be wary of other people making my coffee. But I love it if they can make it really well.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Nick: Probably a piccolo latte, or short flat white. But it really depends on my mood, so maybe and espresso. I’d have to see what’s going on around me.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Nick: Well, it’s been a bit like being a legal drug dealer. You get people hooked on your coffee and they get a shot every time they come in. It’s great to be able to provide a legal buzz every day.
TCG: What is your favourite music?
Nick: Anything- I love music, anything with a beat. Something that I can tamp to the beat. No one notices but me and I tamp the coffee in time to the music. It can’t be too hyped up though. It’s got to be groovy with a nice beat. There’s nothing as bad as having a nice coffee ruined by annoying music.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Nick: Well, I’m a chef by trade too, so I couldn’t pinpoint one. But anything made with love is good. It’s got to be prepared by someone who loves their job. I have a Greek background and my wife Portugese, so there’s lots of good food in our background. Anything made with love.
TCG: Tell us what your first coffee experience was.
Nick: I’m remembering a cappuccino when I was maybe 10, because we had friends who had an old Greek take-away in Bondi and the owner gave us a cappuccino because ‘it’s just milky, frothy coffee.’ But for a 10 year old, there was a full shot of coffee in there and I thought it was great!
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Nick: I don’t drink coffee in afternoon, so Hendricks with cucumber. Or a nice herbal tea.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Nick: When I was at Sideways in Dulwich Hill I was the chef, but I started making coffee too before the girls came in the morning. But at Ten Buck Alley, we had a great chef when I took over, so I decided to stay out front- there was just no reason for change, expect for me to interact with the customers. And I have a passion for the industry, kitchen or otherwise. It’s about being involved with good coffee and food.
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Nick: A great pain-au-chocolate or almond croissant. Or Greek shortbread. Something for dunking. I love dunking.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Nick: In excess of 200, Maybe 250.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Nick: Don’t remember exactly. But there was a stage last year, when I was on the machine alone, where I was doing over 300 a day. Just non-stop. I remember the amount of cups and seeing how few were left at the end of the day.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Nick: Some of us are still here… but I really don’t know, they get married, or they go to barista heaven with good coffee- Bolivia, maybe Colombia.
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?
Nick: That’s a hard one. I did enjoy it in Paris, even though the coffee was bad. The baguette was good and the Eiffel Tower view was great. You can’t have it all. I’d go somewhere peaceful up in the mountains. Not too many people.
TCG: If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice, who would it be and what coffee would you make them?
Nick: The guy at my local café, so I can show him how to make a damn coffee. I’d show him how to do the milk and everything.
TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year?
Nick: I love winter. I’m a winter person when it’s cold and everyone is cozy and wants a nice warm coffee. I love spring, but winter is special for food, wine and comfort.
TCG: What are you reading right now?
Nick: I Just finished New Earth by Ekhart Tolle, and now I’m reading a boring finance book and thinking about my Super.
TCG: Where did you grow up? And what is your fondest childhood memory?
Nick: I grew up here and in Greece, back and forth, but mostly here in Sydney. I have this great memory of my mum and dad and a couple of their friends in extravagant 1970’s bellbottoms standing under the Martin Place Christmas tree for photos.
TCG: Do you have any pets?
Nick: A cat named Luna. She’s a big fat British blue shorthair. She weights about 6.5kilos.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Nick: People say it’s about 50/50. If you can get a nice bean that’s been respected from tree to bag, then you’ve got to show the same amount of respect to get the best out if it on the machine.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Nick: No. Definitely not. I’m just against flavours. I’m anti-caramel. Mocha is good though, it can compliment the coffee. We don’t get too many flavour requests, but if you don’t like coffee, don’t flavour it.