Barista Of The Week… George Georgiadis, barista at HAM (Harry and Mario), 3/17 Gerrale Street, Cronulla, Sydney.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
George: A musician. I guess I do that currently, but I would probably do it heaps more.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
George: I work at HAM in Cronulla. If you’ve been there you’ll know this is an easy question to answer. It’s run by two Greek brothers, Harry and Mario, and they’re Greek mum works the kitchen/deli, alongside some of my best friends. I’ve been there since day one and I’m still not sick of the food or the people… It really is a great place and I often find myself back there on my days off.
TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).
George: I like music with soul. The Doors, Zeppelin, Lennon, Joe Cocker, Hendrix, Fleetwood Mac, The Band.
I like more recent stuff too. The new Gotye record is great. Kings of Leon, Incubus, The Kooks…90’s rock, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots…I don’t like working without music.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
George: I think it’s pizza. Or popcorn…I can eat either at any time of the day. I really do love them. Straight up butter on the popcorn. Pizza…it’s hard to go wrong really. Just put things that taste nice on it, and it’s going to taste nice.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
George: A good rum, followed by a good cigar. Siglo 6, if I can afford it.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
George: It definitely wasn’t the pay or the hours (although that has changed!). My first café job was at Grind in Cronulla. Prior to that I had been using my parent’s home espresso machine and liked making it more than drinking it. Working in a café was heaps better than the office job I had, so I just went with it. At Grind I learnt how to use a commercial machine, and use it fast. I loved the social aspect of a café too. When I started at Ham, I was trained by ’03 world champ Paul Bassett, and I learnt what good espresso really was, and what’s required to achieve it.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work? Have you ever taken the offer up?
George: There’s not many stories…This one time a hot, blonde girl gave me her number in a slightly indirect way…met up with her a few days later. Her name was Rae; she seemed pretty cool…We’ve been together for over 3 years now.
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
George: Honestly, I think Harry and Mario (Ham) have nailed it. Pick your Panini, get a side salad, and take a seat. Today I had 2 ristrettos…and a serve of Pastitsio (Greek style Lasagna) and salad with Tzatziki on the side. If the coffee is good, the food has to match.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
George: Christmas time is a busy time at Ham. We opened mid December 2008, and hit 23-25kg days consistently. It was real busy. I got RSI at one point, but I’m alright now.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
George: Yeah for sure. There’s those that like it extra hot and 2 sugars. They more often than not fall into a 50+ age bracket. Then there’s your soy-decaf-latte drinkers. They’re either pregnant or not sure if they wanted a chai instead. It’s funny sometimes how you can pick what a person will order by the way they appear. It’s never a bad thing…it’s just how it is sometimes…not always though. Sometimes there’s that one school kid who orders a double ristretto and wrecks it for everyone.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
George: I can’t say I have travelled because of my coffee making. I competed in my first competition last year in Danes. It was a great experience. I’ve realized that competitive coffee has it’s own code and politics and I enjoyed making coffee for different reasons than a comp might allow for. Not to say that I won’t compete more…
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?
George: I’ve never been, but I would love to go somewhere great in France. I don’t think I’d care what coffee I have.
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?
George: Probably Al Pacino. I saw this ad on TV once where he said he knows coffee…I’d like to make him a long black and see if he knows coffee…and also see if his scripts really do have coffee stains on them. Scarface though….hell of a movie.
TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
George: My band, I Am Apollo, put out our debut record about 5 months ago. We’ll be in the US in May next year. There’s a lot of work going into it all. Film clips, single releases, studio time. It’s like a second job, so it’s never really quiet.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Sydney?
George: In the ocean. Usually on a board, and hopefully standing up. There’s nothing like surfing. If you don’t do it, you don’t know what I’m talking about…but if you do, you’re probably smiling.
TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year?
George: Autumn. I find it super motivating. I love the temperature. April, to be exact. Also there’s this rad old Liquid Amber in my front yard and when the leaves turn orange/red/brown and then coat the lawn it looks amazing. I have enjoyed several coffees up in that tree.
TCG: What are you reading right now?
George: Richard Branson’s ‘Screw It, Let’s Do It’. I mean, the man is a Sir. He’s got some things to say.
TCG: What is your favourite thing to do in Summer?
George: BBQ, drinks, friends, and some good vinyl playing.
TCG: Do you have any pets?
George: I have a dog. We called him Samson cause he’s got heaps of hair. He’s a golden retriever. He is possibly the worst retriever ever, but he’s a great dog.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
George: The world’s greatest Barista can’t make a good coffee without good beans. I think people forget about the stages coffee goes through before it ends up in their grinders. I try to expand my knowledge and techniques and palette so that I can make the best coffee I can, and I am lucky that Ham uses some of the highest quality coffees in the world…it also means I have to really lift my game as the barista so that I can do the coffee justice. To talk percentages doesn’t really make sense though, because if the beans are spot on and the barista doesn’t know what they’re doing…the coffee is no good…It’s not 60% good. It’s just not good.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
George: I guess not. Some people like their beer without alcohol right?
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
George: Is 30 the new 40? No, but go with it if it helps…
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
George: Chamomile with honey. It’s an old Greek remedy for just about everything. Seriously, didn’t matter what I was sick with as a kid…my grandma always made me chamomile with honey. She’s a great lady.