Barista Of The Week… Joseph Capra

Barista Of The Week… Joseph Capra,
Barista at Foyer Cafe, 207 Kent Street Sydney

The Coffee Guide (TCG): How do you have your coffee at home? How do you make it and how do you take it?
Joseph: I have a single group Vibiemme on my kitchen bench top with a Mini Mazzer Grinder. Can’t go past a ¾ double Rizzi warm latte.

TCG: What’s the best thing about your job- the one thing that you really love aside from the coffee?
Joseph: Mingling with our regular customers on a day-to-day basis. We’ve become like family with some customers. We’ve had a number of staff social outings, which have included a number of our regular customers. We’ve shared many experiences including the ups and downs at work, births of babies, promotions, etc. Essentially, it’s the strong friendships we’ve built over the years.

TCG: What is your favourite music? (For work or for play).
Joseph: It’s got to be AC/DC. Away with the doof doof music- let’s get down to basics and rock hard…. just have a listen to the song  “Thunderstruck” and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

TCG: What’s your favourite food?
Joseph: I’m Italian, so I can’t go past the classic Italian dish: Spaghetti Bolognese i.e. the pasta, sauce and mince all has to be home made; sprinkled with grated cheese and fresh chili, topped off with a nice red wine.

TCG: Tell us what your best (or first) coffee experience was.
Joseph: My grandmother used to brew a large percolator of coffee every morning and at the ripe age of nine, I’d have a bowl of Special K with percolated coffee sprinkled with raw sugar and a dash of cold milk. I’d repeat the exercise when I got home from school and used to tell my grandmother that I could smell the beautiful aroma of the coffee as I got off the bus.

TCG: If you’re not drinking coffee, what is your drink of choice?
Joseph:  Got to be a cold, crisp, cleansing ale from a chilled beer glass; there are certain pleasures that we cannot deny.

TCG: What made you become a barista?
Joseph: My Brother Adrian Capra from Art of Espresso Coffee (Roaster/Trainer/Barista) introduced me into the coffee world about ten years ago. I was always fascinated with the skill required to be a good barista particularly watching the champions pour amazing latte art, and believed within myself that with the right mentors around me and plenty of practice I could achieve some of these amazing beverages. The WOW factor associated with latte art also keeps customers coming back for more.

TCG: What food do you think is the best compliment to a really great coffee?
Joseph: My lovely wife Joanne makes the most amazing friands and chocolate brownies when working on our Coffee Cart on weekends. So many mums at weekend soccer games have asked Joanne to email them a copy of the recipe as they’re absolutely awesome, so in short, the best compliment to a really great coffee has to be Joanne Capra’s Friands, Chocolate Brownies and Raspberry/Coconut Slices.

TCG: How many coffees would you make in the average day?
Joseph: With the team at the Foyer, on average 1300 – 1500 cups a day.

TCG: What’s the largest amount of coffees you have made in a day?
Joseph: Myself personally, on one of my own coffee cart jobs, I did about 700 cups in 5 hours i.e. did shots, steamed milk and poured… all on my own. It was the most agonized day I have ever experienced, but I’ve gained incredible confidence in my ability to perform under pressure.

TCG: Where has your coffee making taken you? (Around Australia? Around the world)?
Joseph: My Mobile Coffee Cart has taken me to amazing places; places which are poles apart. At one extreme on one occasion, I was providing coffee services to a group of Agricultural Students, Researchers and Students. It was a practical day out in the middle of a cow paddock with my coffee cart. Here I was making espresso coffee in this paddock and literally five meters away was a cow grazing and looking at me wondering what all the commotion was about. I should have plugged her into the machine! At the other extreme, I was invited to provide coffee services for a corporate function held in a BMW Showroom, which included a range of TV & sporting personalities. In a nutshell, on one hand, in a cow paddock, on the other, BMW Showroom- and the one common thread…love of a great espresso coffee.

TCG: What has been your favourite moment as a barista? Is there one story that only happened to you because you are a barista?
Joseph: Winning the National Prize for the MyCoffeeMyBarista Competition. Many customers have come to know me better; many visitors who have recognized me in Bean Scene or in photos posted in the café and have come up and congratulated me on the win and have been grateful for having had the opportunity to have their coffee made by a National Winner. It humbles me greatly and it only spurs me to learn more and do better.

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?
Joseph: I would love to go to Sicily (Italy) where Mum & Dad were born. That’s where my roots lie and that’s where I’d love to sit and have a coffee. The coffee I would have would have to be as the locals drink it so as to experience it ‘their’ way in its purest form (as is commonly known in Italy, ‘Un Caffe’). If the weather is warm, I also enjoy ‘Un Affogato’.

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?
Joseph: It all started with my grandparents, my mother’s parents, whom we were living with at the time. Back then (thirty years ago), it was percolated coffee brewed on a stovetop. Essentially, coffee was served as a cup full of percolated coffee with a dash of cold milk. Now with the caliber of Equipment we now have on offer, I’d love to brew them an awesome long-black with a dash of cold milk and whilst I’m at it, I would get them to try a variety of awesome blends and single origins available. My brother Adrian Capra (Art of Espresso Coffee) has a ‘Kombi’ blend, which won a Silver Medal in the Espresso Class and the ‘Xavier’, which won a Bronze Medal in the Australian Single Origin Class at the 2012 Golden Bean Awards. I’m sure my grandparents would be most impressed. Cheers!

TCG: As a barista, what’s your next big plan?
Joseph: Looking forward to my Trip to India (Elephant Hills Region) after having won the National Prize of the MyCoffeeMyBarista Competition for 2012. I have never had the opportunity to visit a Coffee Plantation. To experience the whole crop-to-cup process is most intriguing, in particular meeting the people at grass roots level and what it is they go through on a day-to-day basis. It adds a whole new dimension to what it is we, as baristas, do on the front line.

TCG: In a good cup of coffee, how much of it is due to the barista and how much is due to the beans?
Joseph: It’s got to be 50/50. A good/great barista cannot make up for inferior quality/bad coffee beans. The two go hand in hand.

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