Bath’s Georgian streets and renowned golden stone are well supported by a collection of excellent specialty coffee shops. Declan Ryan is one of the baristas at Picnic Coffee on Saracen Street in the Walcot neighbourhood, also a Photography graduate from Falmouth University. In this interview, Declan outlines his journey in coffee and provides an idea of which areas of the supply chain he’s looking to explore next.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
I started in the industry in 2017, working in a coffee shop in Cardiff. It was a great introduction to the world of specialty coffee as I was relatively new to drinking coffee myself anyway, so I was a bit of a blank canvas when it came to what there was to know. It gave me new insights into the full coffee lifecycle, and I suppose into the community within the industry. Working here I got my first taste of different events like AeroPress and latte art competitions, and it just generally gave me the opportunity to explore the local scene by meeting other local baristas, roasters, and suppliers.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Bath?
Bath has a prevalent specialty coffee scene, and has done for many years. There are a number of independent shops offering a huge array of brewing methods and roasts, generally to a very high standard. What is most important is the variety of shops that Bath has to offer. There are places that you can go for your daily coffee run, for a sit down with a pour-over, or to try something you may not have even heard of before.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
I’ve never really seen it come down to one type of person that would be suited to working in coffee. Having people from all sorts of backgrounds and with different things to offer can only be beneficial to creating a good team. But one thing that I think is definitely key across the board is good people skills. It’s a hugely social job, so being able to build rapport and relationships with anyone who walks through the shop doors helps to build a strong community.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Getting to know the local coffee scene. Explore different shops, see what things are on offer, and find what you like before seeing how it’s done everywhere else. Also, ask your barista! Have conversations and express that interest to learn, because most of the time they’ll be happy to run through different beans or brewing methods, or just have a nice chat about coffee.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
Social media has become a place that holds a real wealth of knowledge. There are some great people out there on the likes of YouTube and Instagram that are sharing their know-how and techniques. James Hoffmann is a great starting place, he has a ton of videos covering a huge range of topics from beginner all the way up.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I’m on a steep learning curve with my career at the moment. What is next for me is to get more to grips with some of the more technical elements of the coffee process. In particular, I’m interested in learning more about the harvesting and roasting of coffee, as I’ve come across a few niche processes recently that have really sparked an interest into the possibilities in this area. Regarding goals, I don’t really have anything set in stone, not particularly for the next three years. A few more years down the line I would love to open my own shop, but having the knowledge to back that up and make it a success is what I would focus on now.