Though the Australian capital is best known for its politics, Canberra hasn’t forgotten a patriotic commitment to specialty coffee. It’s where barista and coffee trainer Hany Ezzat got his start, working through the industry from the shop floor and taking any opportunities that came his way. In this interview, Hany outlines his journey and provides some tips for different character types when thinking about which role would suit them in the industry.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?I started my "Coffee Career" at a very young age, from 12 years old I was working in a Turkish restaurant as a kitchen hand for a few years. When I turned 15, I was introduced to the bar, where I got my first ever experience making about two coffees a night. The one person working there was able to do latte art and something about it really drew me in. So for a few more years I helped open another cafe with the same Turkish family business. This is where I truly stepped my game up in latte art, so much that I made an Instagram account to learn more and share my art. Still, I didn’t really drink coffee because i didn't like the taste of it, we were using a super dark coffee and it was just too bitter for me.
I got introduced to the specialty coffee industry a year or two later when I went to one of the best cafes in Canberra, The Cupping Room. I remember the waiter - my friend at the time - asked me if I wanted to try a coffee that tasted like blueberries. After that coffee, my whole perspective on what coffee is and could taste like changed forever, inevitably altering the trajectory of my life and career - from then, all I wanted to know is "how?"
Fast forward a few more years, a several shops with Ona Coffee, and I now take care of multiple cafes across Australia, travelling regularly doing consulting, competing in coffee competitions, quality control, training, events and setting up new shops. I absolutely love my job.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Australia?
I believe Australia has some of the highest standards of specialty coffee in the world. In coffee competitions, Australia is always doing a really good job and getting through to later stages and in some cases, winning. Obviously now we’re in mid-pandemic, so a lot of Australia is in lockdown. There's a shortage of baristas and cafes are really struggling. It has been a huge challenge yet our industry has stepped up to the plate and found ways to persevere, innovate, and thrive during these trying times. Australia is definitely a specialty coffee destination, with every city boasting with specialty coffee and talented workers.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
One of the best parts about working in coffee is there's a place for everyone. The "people" people thrive in the cafes and behind bars, the "reserved & quiet" people are roasting and the "geeky" people are out there running experiments, quality controlling and really pushing the boundaries. There really is a place for all personality types and circumstances, with our industry that is very progressive and always moving forward.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Starting out I would recommend you find your favourite cafe that you think has the best coffee/baristas. Get a job there, even if it isn't making coffee and let managers know your goals and aspirations of making coffee there. If there is no room or you don't make the cut, keep trying elsewhere and don't give up. When I applied for my "dream cafe" job, I didn't get the job straight away - it took over a year for that opportunity to arise. Grab all opportunities with both hands and put yourself out there. Enter competitions, go to courses, seminars and speak with the people that inspire you. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help. All you need to do in our industry is have the right attitude and determination to become very skilled.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
James Hoffman, Barista Bustle, Ona Coffee are some of my favourite resources for coffee stuff. I have also launched my own website with a blog you should check that out too - baristahany.com.
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
With the current climate it's hard to look more than one year ahead. However, I do plan on competing in WBrC again, I also hope to launch my first ever coffee tool within the next three years. I really love what I do right now - so long as I continue to learn and grow, that would be my goal for the next few years.
Follow Hany on Instagram at @barista_hany