Barista Of The Week… Tara Cairnduff

Barista Of The Week… Tara Cairnduff, barista at 8 Days Cafe, 1184 High Street, Armadale.

The Coffee Guide: f you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Tara: If I wasn’t a barista (and this was in the future, after I have my degree) I’d be an International Human Rights lawyer – I’m going to close down Guantanamo Bay and change the world, stop the abuse of power from governments… all of that wonderful stuff. Realistically though? I’d probably be a bartender, waitress, cafe owner, coffee retailer or something else hospitality related!

TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Tara: Just black at home, I don’t have a machine at home. No sugar.

TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Tara: Talking to people all day. I love getting to know customers and having a sense of community and of place. It sounds cheesy, but I love taking responsibility for that little piece of someone’s happiness in a day. I like that we can give someone a good coffee and make their day that bit better. And that we can make friends with people everyday.

TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).
Tara: For work is a bit hard, we can’t play anything too rocking. It’s not café appropriate. So at work we get a lot of jazz and swing. At Home I like anything with a good beat, anything upbeat. Right now I’m going through a rediscovery phase of The Hives. I work with a Swedish girl and we were talking about all the things we love that are Swedish and that’s how it came up. And rock’n’roll.

TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Tara: My favourite food genre is breakfast. Does that count? I’m a huge believer in breakfast at all times of day, or cheesecake. There’s not much that I wouldn’t do for a piece of cheesecake.

TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Tara: I remember when I got into coffee. It was when I started Uni. At Clayton in the Eastern suburbs. It took over an hour to get there, so I had a coffee. It was really cold, so I had a coffee. There were lots of breaks with nothing to do, so I’d have a coffee. By the end of the day I’d be pretty wired. But they were long days and you needed a hot drink to get you through. I’ve calmed down a lot since then. But I quickly found best coffee ion campus.

TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Tara: A G’n’T, or a glass of wine and lots of cups of tea. I’m on my third cup of tea today. It’s peppermint.

TCG: What made you become a barista?
Tara: I’ve always worked in customer service rolls, they facilitate study quite well. I was in retail and there weren’t enough hours, and I couldn’t fit it around my uni schedule. So I got into hospitality and a huge part of that is coffee. I learnt bar tending and waitressing, and then uni kind of fell off to the side of it all. I went hard in hospitality, working in St Kilda, and fine-tuned my coffee skills. I worked on my technique and presentation. I think it’s fantastic; I love learning about coffee- anything I can learn about it, I want to learn. Each coffee I make is about trying to get better. I’m in competition with myself, always trying to get better.

TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Tara: More coffee? I don’t know. I love coffee and cake. The combination of the sweet and the bitter is good. A really good piece of dark chocolate. Something small.

TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Tara: Hundreds. Heaps. About 4kg on a weekday and more on a weekend. About 150-200 on weekday. I could go through their names. It’s all about getting to know your regulars.

TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Tara: I have done an 8kg in a day. And then I went home and napped. I was very tired. I was alone on the machine, but I was in my groove. I kicked the other baristas out because I love a chat, but only if it’s not a distraction and they were slowing me down’. I look at coffee orders and its like playing Tetris in you’re head. You can see how it all fits together.

TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Tara: They stay and eventually own their own places. You can’t get rid of them, they try other careers and then they always come back. They move up into management and take over places. I worked with a guy who went to ‘get a real job’ and then came back. We can’t stay away.

TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?’
Tara: I have to go with the opposable thumbs on this one. King Kong. I don’t think Godzilla would be able to texturize milk or multitask and keep an eye on the espresso. And he’s got little arms, which is no good for a barista.

TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you?
Tara: I’ve learned so much and I have a huge appreciation for coffee now. It’s inspired me to want to travel to so many places – but the irony is that baristas don’t earn enough to do that kind of travel. I was head hunted once too. It made me feel pretty special. It creates a sense of value in the community.

What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Tara: I’m excited for the international coffee expo. It’s on in a couple of weeks. I’ll be working there for a few days.

TCG: If you could pick one spot in the world to sit and have a coffee, where would it be?
Tara: On my front lawn with a bunch of people who all really like coffee. There are no decaf drinkers in my happy place. We can all just sit and drink really great coffee.

If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice who would it be and what coffee would you make them?
Tara: I’d make a coffee for someone who doesn’t drink coffee yet. I’d make them a long black, so that they can get all of the flavours and body of the coffee in it, and learn about just how much you can get from a cup of coffee. Or I’d make one for Oscar Wilde. He’d be a fun dude.

TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Melbourne?
Tara: I love Il Fornaio in St. Kilda, it’s just so relaxed. You can mind your own business and have a coffee and that’s all I want from people. And I love the beach and being near the ocean. And anywhere with sun and grass and where I can take my shoes off.

TCG: What are you reading right now?
Tara: I’ve just finishing the The Sleepwalkers Introduction to Flight. It’s about a daredevil kid, who climbs a tree and then falls out of it and lands on his head. After that he can’t sleep at all, so the story is about the fact that he has two weeks to live, because that’s all anyone can survive without sleep. It’s very funny and I love a good laugh.

TCG: What is your favourite movie of all time?
Tara: Casablanca- how could you not love it? Bogart, beautiful women, villains, heroes and romance. What more do you need?

TCG: Where did you grow up?
Tara: I grew up in Lake Boga. Yes, it’s a real place. I got out as soon as I could. I worked in a petrol station/fast food place. Technically that’s where I made my first coffee. Get a polystyrene cup, place it under the nozzle, press the yellow button for cappuccino, press the red button for hot chocolate. I’ve come a long way.

TCG: Do you have any pets?
Tara: I wish. I love dogs, but landlords don’t.

TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Tara: Well, I did some arts and crafts- I’m making a going away present. I finished an essay I’ve been working on. I’ve been kicking goals today.

TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Tara: Look, I can’t rant too much. But I just don’t get it. I don’t know why people make it! You wouldn’t go to a bar and ask a mixologist, who’s trained for a long time to make really great drinks, for a cocktail without any alcohol in it would you? I just don’t understand why people drink decaf. Have a hot chocolate instead. Or ask me about alternatives, I have lots!

TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
Tara: I love chai, with heaps of ginger. Actually the guys I used to work with made their own chai and I’d help. And I love lemon and ginger tea if I’m sick, it magically heals me.

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