Barista of the Week… David Xu, Owner/Barista Essence Coffee, Shop 3, 148 Wycombe Road, Neutral Bay.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
David: Out of a job! A bus driver. When I was a kid that’s what I dreamed of, but maybe not so much now.
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
David: I have mostly espressos and flat whites. But if I find a really good coffee, I’ll make a pour-over with my Hario V60.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
David: Definitely customers. When you get a regular customer who comes in every morning and you get to see how they are. It’s like hanging out with friends all day. It’s funny when a customer doesn’t come in for a few days and when they’re back they say things like ‘don’t worry I haven’t been having an affair, I haven’t been getting my coffee elsewhere!’
TCG: What is your favourite music?
David: I like jazz, and pop. But I like a lot of different things depending on my mood.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
David: I love pho. It’s my favourite. I go to Bankstown and Flemmington for it.
TCG: Tell us what your first coffee experience was.
David: Instant coffee as a kid. I thought it was bitter. Not so great.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
David: Coke. It has quite a complex flavour.
TCG: What made you become a barista?
David: Love of coffee, making coffee, especially espresso. I used to be in I.T., and I got out of it to become a barista. It was a big change and a bit scary at first.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
David: 150-180 at the moment.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
David: I used to work at Toby’s Estate, so a lot. Maybe 800 in a day at one time.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
David: Tough question. Either to own their own café, or they retire with sore hands!
TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?’
David: King Kong… he has bigger hands.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
David: There are so many choices for what’s exciting right now. But maybe all the great coffee that’s available now. 10 years ago, there weren’t so many options out there. Now we have single origin, micro-lots, direct trade with farmers, focus on terroir. There are just more options now.
TCG: If you could pick one spot in the world to sit and have a coffee, where would it be?
David: Iceland. It’s cold. Have a hot coffee.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Sydney?
David: Newtown and Marrickville. It’s just so diverse. There are so many different things going on. So many different ethnicities and cultures. It’s so interesting and full of life.
TCG: What is your favourite movie of all time?
David: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
TCG: Where did you grow up? And what is your fondest childhood memory?
David: China, Shanghai. I was 11 when I came to Australia. I have great memories of cooking with my Grandma. I loved being in the kitchen and experimenting with stuff, and the smells. And I remember burning myself!
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
David: 70% Barista, 30% Coffee. A good barista will not choose a bad coffee.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
David: No. But this is interesting, I’m always arguing about this. I love serving a good decaf. People drink it because they love the taste of coffee but can’t handle the caffeine. So I try to make it as tasty as possible. If you don’t like decaf, don’t serve it. But if you make it, like it and make a good one.
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
David: I always like tea. For me coffee and tea always go with each other. I don’t think one will really take over the other. You’ll always have dedicated, really passionate drinkers of both.
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
David: My favourite is a Chinese tea called Iron Goddess or Iron Buddha. Some people call it oolong; some people call it green tea. It’s a semi-fermented tea. It’s kind of in the middle.