Barista of the Week… Eldric Stuart, Barista at CoffeeHead, 8 Railway Parade, Camberwell, Melbourne.
The Coffee Guide (TCG): If you weren’t a barista what would you be?
Eldric: Unemployed! I would also stop getting a lot of free coffee, which would complicate the part about me no longer having a job. Such a vicious cycle!
TCG: How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Eldric: I make cold drip coffee in a tower I got from Taiwan. And I like it how I like my whiskey; neat, nothing added and nothing to hide behind.
TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Eldric: I love that customers will come up to you and tell you how wonderful your work is. Really, how often does that happen with most jobs?
TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).
Eldric: My favorite new artist is a young lady and fellow Canadian named Grimes. Not saying that you should check her out, but you should.
TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Eldric: I like cooking, and even more than that, I love innovating; had some amazing pancakes with coconut milk yogurt, plums, mint and honey a few weeks ago.
TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Eldric: I’m Canadian, so my first coffee experience is hardly worth talking about. Best, however? That’s easier. The first time I had a Geisha coffee done on a pour-over, it quite frankly blew my mind.
TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Eldric: I drink a lot of tea at home. It’s very relaxing and of course amazingly healthy (just don’t put milk in your black tea!).
TCG: What made you become a barista?
Eldric: I don’t even remember! I know I was managing a clothing store and it seemed like such a great environment, and I thought it would be a very relaxing environment to work in.
TCG: Do people often try and chat you up at work? Have you ever taken the offer up?
Eldric: Oh, no, no, never happens. As far as I’m aware at least. I do highly recommend to people that they flirt with their baristas, because once we come down off our caffeine overdoses, we need something else to keep us going.
TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Eldric: Chocolate, citrus, or berries. Or all of them. When people taste coffee, those are the predominant flavours people pick up on, and that is mostly because they are flavours they love already.
TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Eldric: It really depends on the day. Anywhere from 200-300, though I’ve worked in cafes where I’ve been far busier than that.
TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Eldric: I worked as a café manager in Vancouver during the Olympics, and it was so busy that I don’t even know how to compare it. Huge line-ups out the door for takeaway, all day long. It was a blast.
TCG: Does your coffee style (or how you drink it) say something about you?
Eldric: I will absolutely judge you based on what you drink, without a seconds hesitation. Though like anything, you will often be completely surprised and someone will order something you really didn’t expect.
TCG: Where do all the old baristas go?
Eldric: They all leave to open up their own hip cafes.
TCG: Who would make a better coffee, King Kong or Godzilla?’
Eldric: King Kong. Godzilla is Japanese and most coffees there are made on a siphon, which are known for being delicate; though he’s not exactly the most delicate of monsters.
TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you? (Around Australia? Around the world)?
Eldric: So far just Canada and Australia, though I plan on travelling through Europe at some point, with nothing but a backpack that is more than partially full of coffee making tools.
TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?
Eldric: Coffee is a great connector, and I’ve met quite a few celebrities because of it. I think my best moments are yet to come, when I’m able to travel to the bean growing regions and meet with the farmers and explore the process at it’s core.
TCG: What is the most exciting thing happening in coffee right now for you?
Eldric: I’m excited about the new wave of filtered coffee in Australia, which is something I’m used to, but that I think will take a while to catch on here. Also having a lot of fun experimenting while coming up with a signature coffee for CoffeeHead. I think every café should have one drink that is different to everyone else.
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?
Eldric: French press coffee in Central Park, NY for sure. A nice bold, smoky roast to compliment the early morning chill.
TCG: If you could make coffee for one other person of your choice (anyone- past or present), who would it be?
Eldric: Heath Ledger, and it would most definitely be a long black (though I would try to talk him into having an aeropress), and have a chat about what’s going on in his head.
TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
Eldric: Biggest plan, that’s actually a certainty, is after learning absolutely as much as I can here in Melbourne, returning to Vancouver in about five years time to open my own café- as you do.
TCG: Where is your favourite place to hang out in Melbourne?
Eldric: I assume this doesn’t include at work? I have an affinity for Fitzroy because I spent my first three months in Melbourne living there. Fond memories. Adore the Black Cat, but wish their coffee was better. Otherwise, great café.
TCG: What is your guilty pleasure?
Eldric: I have a weakness for potato chips, though they don’t carry some of my favorite flavours here, so it’s been easy to keep it under control, after the initial withdrawal.
TCG: What’s your favourite time of the year?
Eldric: Late summer/early fall. I adore the fashion, scarves, hats, jackets! But it probably harkens back to the ‘back to school’ excitement you experienced at that time of the year.
TCG: What are you reading right now?
Eldric: Just finished “Surviving the Killing Fields” and before that was “A Song of Ice and Fire”.
TCG: What is your favourite thing to do in Autumn?
Eldric: Call it Fall, and have Australians look at me funny. No, seriously.
TCG: What is your favourite movie of all time?
Eldric: Primer. Still can’t figure that one out.
TCG: Where did you grow up? And what is your fondest childhood memory?
Eldric: A couple hours away from Detroit. Oh, the joy of getting an NES for Christmas. Didn’t stop grinning until 1991
TCG: What did you do on your last day off?
Eldric: Volunteered. Jeez, I’m lame.
TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Eldric: It’s a total symbiotic relationship. You could take good beans and give them to someone who really just doesn’t care that much (making really good coffee is less about ‘ability’ than it is about ‘passion’) and it will be terrible. At the same time, there are a lot of beans that I really can’t do that much with. It’s like a perfect storm; really nice roast with a barista who has the time and the knowledge to get the most out of it and voila, you just cured cancer.
TCG: Is decaf a dirty word?
Eldric: Yes. If my café had a swear jar, it would be double for using the d-word. Although, you can get some decent tasting decaf, and I’ve done some great latte art with our decaf roast. But it’s like non-alcoholic beer; just don’t bother. You’re much better off drinking tea.
TCG: Is specialty tea the new cappuccino?
Eldric: Considering that there are more tea drinkers in the world than coffee drinkers, I would say it’s the other way around. In Australia though? There is a long way to go before people really start appreciating tea. I know of a handful of places that do really good tea in Melbourne. It doesn’t get the same attention, though it should.
TCG: What is your favourite kind of tea?
Eldric: Genmaicha tea. Reminds me of being back in Vancouver, sitting in a restaurant on the ocean and having some amazing sushi.