High street coffee can be a powerful place to learn about coffee, with different standards and seeing how the industry fits into the broader business model. This is where barista Joseph Rahim-Smith made his start during this teenage years. In this interview, Joseph outlines his journey in the industry and how he came to run a venue for Cardiff-based Little Man Coffee Co..
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
I started out in Marks and Spencer, aged 16. I worked on the menswear section, but they needed a hand because they were so busy - long story short, I fell in love with coffee and trained up as a barista.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Swansea?
For a long time, the coffee here was what I would refer to as 'restaurant coffee' - places served coffee for the sake of it, and it was overrun with big chain coffee shops. But in the last few years, a number of speciality shops have gradually moved in and Swansea looks to be attracting more, which is great to see. Very much a small but growing community.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
I think anyone really, as long as you're passionate about it, you won't struggle to learn and get involved in some aspect of the beautiful process.
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Start with chatting to a barista - they should be able to provide you with some basic knowledge to help you decide what drinks you might like - how you want explore coffee, filter or espresso etc.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
I think the internet is packed full of useful information, maybe even saturated. I think a good place to start would be James Hoffman's YouTube channel - he's done great videos on many many aspects of coffee, and even a few total basics like a guide to buying good coffee (perfect for beginners).
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I'm planning to stick with Little Man for the foreseeable. My new role has taught me so much already, both business and coffee-wise. I think mostly to just continue expanding my knowledge, having worked almost exclusively in coffee shops, I think I'd like to visit some roasters, learn a bit more about the behind the scenes.
Look up Joe at Little Man when you’re next in Swansea