Who is Scottie Callaghan?

Look up the winners of the World Latte Art Championship in 2006 and the Australian Barista Championship in 2007, and see who walked away with top honours. Today, the name “Scottie Callaghan” is known in the coffee hubs of the world as someone who really knows his beans.

Scottie has worked hard over the last eight years alongside some of Australia’s most reputed roasters, baristas and barista trainers – learning the art and the science of coffee that looks good, tastes good.

All the hard work eventually paid off. Here’s a quick line-up from Scottie’s personal hall of fame.
2007 – Australian Barista Champion **
2007 – 9th place – World Barista Championship
2007 – NSW Barista Champion
2006 – World Latte Art Champion **
2006 – 2nd place – Australian Barista Championship
2005 – Sydney Barista Champion
2005 – Pura Milk Latte Art Champion
2004 – 2nd place – Danes Gourmet Coffee Institute
Grand Barista Championship

I cut into Scottie’s coffee break the other day, to find out a little more about the man who can serve up the most perfect cup of coffee in the world.

1. Did you always want to be in the café business?
I think I was destined to work in the café industry, for as long as I can remember – I have always appreciated the importance of flavor.

When I was young, I would cook a lot for the family – traditional Australian dishes like roasts, porridge, Shepherd’s Pie – and my family didn’t mind when I cooked. These were humble beginnings in a large family of nine. Mum use to make porridge in the morning before we all got up, some mornings I use to beat her to it and make the porridge for everyone. Some might thing I was sucking up, but I honestly just loved cooking and I still do.

2. And what does work mean to a world champion?
I work full time for Belaroma Coffee as their Coffee Champion, working on blends and barista training to make sure the coffee served in cafés that use Belaroma Coffee is at the highest standard possible. I also sell a range of packages to suit people’s budgets and then show customers how to be a personal home barista.

Before joining Belaroma, I worked as a consultant to cafés, baristas and coffee companies – teaching people the finer points of espresso preparation.

3. Do you share your magical trade secrets with people?
For the home DIY enthusiast, I offer a complete Home Barista package – this is all people need to make great espresso coffee at home. My personalised inputs here include setting up the machine and showing customers how to make a great cup. This can be invaluable as it helps people skip the minefield of department stores with lines of espresso machines and no one to tell you what to buy and how to use them.

At another level, baristas also need a guiding hand. And I go to great lengths in helping baristas make a better cup of coffee, at their café or place of work. My orientation is in-depth – right from the basics of grinding, dosing, extractions and milk texturing, to the overall appreciation of high quality espresso. I help them acquire a knowledge base that will be useful on the job.

4. What does a barista need, to earn his stripes?
A natural feel for the sensory aspects of making coffee and familiarity with technical aspects that can get the optimum out of machine and process. A little understanding about the roasting side of coffee also goes a long way in honing skills. According to me, what tops it all is a deep understanding of customer service – and this can take years to learn because it involves people skills.

5. Should barista’s competitive spirit aim at winning prizes?
I guess prizes are not everything but who am I to comment? Barista competitions have been great for me – I have learnt a great deal, met great people, travelled all over the world and built a business on the back of my prizes. But there are baristas who are brilliant at what they do and make a great living for themselves – without entering competitions.

6. What are the five key tips to making good coffee?
A great cup of coffee is an awesome experience; a bad cup of coffee? Well after the good one, one might say, “That’s not coffee.”

So here are five tips that can be useful. Tip One: Always buy freshly roasted coffee – look for a roast date not a use-by date. Tip Two: Buy a good grinder – if you want to make truly great coffee, you need to grind the coffee fresh. Tip Three: Keep your machine clean, which means regular cleaning and maintenance. Tip Four: Adjust the grind to achieve a correct espresso pour. Tip Five: Before you adjust the grind, make sure you achieve the correct dose.

7. Over these years, have you invented any tools for the trade?
I always tell people that the correct dose can make a big difference to taste. And what I mean by that is how much ground coffee to put into your filter basket (the handle that inserts into the espresso machine) and the importance of dosing the same amount for every coffee you make. With my experience in the field, I have come up with some tools that will help users achieve a correct dose and be consistent – cup after cup after cup.

8. Do you make a beeline for espresso bars on your holidays?
The coffee industry is full of beautiful people who I have been privileged to get to know. And I have been fortunate enough to get to travel. Over the last two years I have been to Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Tokyo, London, Singapore andCanada. And I have been able to stop by at some of the best cafes and espresso bars in the world – like Café Europa in Copenhagen or Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, London.

9. Is there an interesting offbeat café that comes to mind?
Café Lambre in Tokyo, a small café owned by a 93 year old man named Sekiguchi-san – my all time favourite café owner and one of the true legends of the international café scene. I once asked Sekiguchi-san what he thought of espresso. Waving his hands in the air, he started with an aghhghhghhgh!! “When you are making coffee, everything should be done by the hand – not a machine. Coffee needs to be treated with respect, not with all these electronic gadgets.”

10. Scottie, is there life beyond being a barista?
Oh yes, there is. I am in the middle of a great book called Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts – a great read about someone who escaped from prison in Australiaand fled to India. I also love snowboarding and wakeboarding; I have spent many weekends out on the Hawkesbury on my friend’s boat. And a great weekend for me would be to go shopping for grocery, veggies, fish or meat – and other bits and pieces. I then get home and cook for friends, with a glass of red to keep me company before my friends arrive.

you want to invite Scottie to your part of the world
to organise a training program or just give your boys
some pep talk, here’s how you can reach him.

Image source : Scottie Callaghan

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