Barista of the Week… Jen Marks, barista/roaster at First Pour, 26 Bond Street, Abbotsford, VIC.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Jen: When I was little I wanted to be a vet, but seeing injured unwell animals would be too upsetting. Or I would like to learn to be a jeweler.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Jen: I don’t have coffee at home very often. It’s good to give my body a break, unless I’m out, when I usually will get one. At home I will either make a Chemex (black) or Stovetop (with a little milk).
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Jen: It has got to the great bunch of people that work in this industry and the customers that love and appreciate what we do. The amount you can learn in coffee is endless and it’s an industry that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously.
TCG: What is your favourite music?
Jen: For work, ‘Gorillaz’ never gets old for me. For home, I love hip-hop, ‘The Roots’ and ‘Atmosphere’.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Jen: Eggs, for their versatility and grapes for being so refreshing but morish.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Jen: Sadly I can’t accurately recall my first ever coffee experience, but I do remember adding sugar to my coffees in the early days to sweeten up my nasty shots.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Jen: Water and Whiskey. Because they both assist with the shakes.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Jen: My first coffee job was at ‘The Daily Bagel’ in 2001 back in my hometown Christchurch. I loved working there. I was trained up by the owner of our coffee supplier, Bernard Smith of Vivace Coffee Roasters. Later I got a job there as an account manager/trainer and it flourished from then on.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work?
Jen: Not particularly. But if I had $1.00 or every time I’ve heard “I’m sweet enough love” when asking a customer if they want sugar in their take away, then I would be a rich lady!
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Jen: A decadent date from ‘She Cafe and Chocolat’ in Governors Bay, NZ. Or a gingerbread man.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Jen: Anywhere between 50-250. My days are sometimes divided between the espresso bar and the roastery.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Jen: Approximately 600.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
Jen: No, that is what’s so great about coffee. It’s all subjective, different people like different coffees at different times of the day, depending on their mood.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Jen: Not too far from coffee in some way I hope.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
Jen: I used to drive around the countryside of New Zealand’s South Island, visiting cafes. That was a great perk to that job. Also, across the ditch to Australia.
TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?
Jen: Being able to mount an over-sized novelty cheque in the lounge was pretty cool.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Jen: I started roasting recently which is great being able to learn another facet of the industry. I have been swept up in the whirlwind of competition and proud of myself for facing the fear of getting up in front of people to pour some coffees. It really scares me!
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?
Jen: I would like to visit origin one day. It would be cool to sit having a coffee overlooking rows and rows of coffee trees. What type, I don’t know, depends what part of world it will be.
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?
Jen: I like making coffee for family and friends and making it to the best of my ability for them.
TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
Jen: Coming up for me I have a great friend coming to Melbourne for Christmas, going home early next year to NZ for a wedding and family time. Also got to get some latte art practice in.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Melbourne?
Jen: Getting to other coffee shops when I can and the gardens Melbourne has to offer. Lying on the grass in the beautiful surroundings, with a view of the city skyline.
TCG: What is your guilty pleasure?
Jen: ‘Reece’s Pieces’, buying handbags, ‘Beauty and the Geek’ and living in Australia.
TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year and why?
Jen: I love the colours of Autumn and walking/crunching through the fallen leaves.
TCG: What are you reading right now?
Jen: ‘This is a Book’ by Demetri Martin.
TCG: What is your favourite thing to do in Spring?
Jen: Playing hacky with friends listening to music.
TCG: What is your favourite movie of all time?
Jen: I pondered this one for a while and have concluded it is too difficult to answer. I love a variety of movies and all for different reasons!
TCG: Where did you grow up? And what is your fondest childhood memory?
Jen: Christchurch, New Zealand. I have fond memories of family holidays to our Bach, fishing and collecting cones for the fire or going to Queenstown in the caravan. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in beautiful Christchurch, NZ.
TCG: Do you have any pets?
Jen: I have a cat named ‘Senor’. My friend and I got him from the local park, he had been abandoned so we had to take him home. There is also my New Zealand cat ‘Rodney’, he is grumpy and wise now. Mum and Dad adopted him for me when I moved here. I miss him dearly, but he is living in a loving home.
TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Jen: Spent the morning chilling at home and then went to my friends place for a BBQ in the city.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Jen: I think it needs to be a balance between the barista, the roast and the quality of the green beans. We all have to work together for the best outcome in the cup.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Jen: No I don’t think so. Decaf isn’t my coffee of choice. But I have tried some pleasant drinking decaf before, just make sure you go for Swiss Water Decaf. It is the friendlier method of decaffeinating.
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
Jen: I think filter coffee is a form of brewing that’s increasing in popularity. It has a tea-like quality to it. Magic is the new cappuccino.
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
Jen: Peppermint…delicious with dark chocolate.