England’s South-East coast is studded with a handful of art towns, with Brighton a centrepiece and coffee haven. Barista Kate Allen works for the prestigious Small Batch Coffee Roasters in Brighton, pouring specialty coffee after a stint with Caffe Nero. In this interview, Kate outlines some of the key characteristics that make a successful barista and how she intends to deepen her knowledge via Small Batch.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
I started my career in coffee in 2019 at Caffe Nero, learning the basics of coffee. From there I moved to Small Batch Coffee Roasters where I have been learning about speciality coffee for two years. I came across the industry through my love of drinking coffee! My interest grew through my own research online, and watching YouTubers such as James Hoffman!
What's the status of specialty coffee in Brighton?
Speciality coffee has been booming in Brighton for many years, with the number of independent cafes and roasters growing and growing. It's an exciting place to be for coffee!
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
People that are suited to working in coffee are those with great attention to detail. This is needed in order to follow specific espresso recipes, and other methods of brewing such as V60 and AeroPress. Having an interest in the science behind coffee is beneficial, as this can help a barista understand why things are done a certain way. Working in a coffee shop also means you need to be ready for those morning rushes, so being able to work under pressure is a must.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
I recommend starting out at one of the main coffee chains. Although their methods compared to speciality coffee are simplified, they have great initial training programmes that will have you master the basics. You can then deepen your knowledge in more speciality places, while using the skills you have already learned. Also I recommend scouring YouTube, there are tonnes and tonnes of helpful videos from tamping to perfecting milk steaming!
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
I mostly watch James Hoffman's videos on YouTube. Also his book, The World Atlas of Coffee, is basically the Barista Bible, and has lots of information about the different growing regions for coffee, which I have found immensely interesting! I also recently started listening to The Coffee Podcast on Spotify where they discuss many different coffee topics, and have episodes with guest industry experts.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
Next for me would be deepening my knowledge of single origin coffees. Small Batch have an amazing roasting team, so I have the opportunity to try many changing single origins. From this maybe a particular goal would be to explore the roasting side of the coffee industry more, understanding the different flavour profiles of different bean varieties, and how where they are grown effects this.
Follow Kate via Instagram via @aokayte