I met with Nolo on a Friday, about four in the afternoon. I recognized him easily. You do not forget his face. Or his beard. We chatted for a while and he showed me how to make a real coffee and the differences between each type, a true master class . After which I realized I had spent 28 years drinking something which I called “coffee” but actually it is not.
First, what is a barista?
The barista has existed since the time the coffee was born. It is a kind of coffee sommelier. He is in charge of selecting varieties, meeting sources, treatment processes and preparation of all types of coffee-based beverages, as well as the different methods of preparation with the different tools: espresso machines, filter methods (V60, Chemex, Aeropress), siphon, cold infusion, etc. He is also responsible for serving a good cup to the customer and respecting the role played in the process by producers, importers and roasters. He has many other’s work in his hands, and he realizes that.
Right now, in Federal Madrid , we are working with Cafes El Magnifico and Right Side Coffee Roasters. Both have good origins and give two very different approaches, both in the selection and in the roasting.
How can we apply the skills of a barista to our everyday life? Or, to put it another way, what can we recommend to improve all of the amateur coffees out there?
It is essential that the coffee is fresh, it usually lasts about 4 weeks. You also need to grind the exact amount you plan to use and should always have a French Press or an Aeropress on hand. They are simple to use. It is also important that the provider will recommend the best method for grinding and the best water/coffee ratio.
The problem in Spain is that we are a country with high coffee consumption but no coffee culture. In most places we serve poor quality, strong black coffee and “torrefacto,” coffee roasted with sugar to make it more dark and bitter.
How did you get into this cafe world? When did you discover it was your calling? And what did you do before?
I’m from Galicia, and when I was 19 I went to live in Barcelona intending to get into graphic design, as does everyone who goes there. I have always combined my studies with work, mostly in catering, and when I started working in the Federal it completely changed my idea about the profession. More than a place with fixed schedules, it was a place where you can have anything you wanted to the time of day you wanted. That’s where I met Mark ( Satan’s Coffee Corner ) and we got on very well. Now we both have specialized ourselves as baristas. I also began to meet people related to the coffee culture Spain. We are few, if we compare to other countries, but we enjoy what we do.
While in Federal, I wanted to know more about coffee and talked with our distributors, Cafes El Magnifico. They taught me to care. I also met Joaquin Parra and Javier García of Right Side Coffee, Jordi Mestre, Miguel Lamora, young people eager to do things in our country and beyond. They are people who shook my hand and have shared their knowledge with me.
The internet has also been very important in this learning process. I’ve always been aware of many things and have followed trends outside our country, I have traveled to see what is done, I visited the London Coffee Festival and other events, etc. It is an area where you never stop learning. There is always someone on the other side of the world that is two steps ahead.
I know you’re new in town, but how would you rate Madrid’s gastronomic level? Do you already have your favorites?
I have been in Madrid for a couple of months and I’m delighted with the city. Especially with the Conde Duque neighborhood, where I live and work.
Among my favorites is undoubtedly La Lata de Sardinas. I think almost every day I make a stop there, either to eat, drink it or just say hello. The Maria Bonita is a Mexican place that I really like. I also like the Coco Bar. El corner has DiverXO in El Corte Inglés and StreetXO is definitely a hotspot . There isn’t much more I can tell you about at the moment. I have not had time to investigate as lately I have been putting the Federal together. Now that I’m more relaxed, I’ll get back to you on that.
And finally, what Italian coffee maker, filter or Nespresso?
I prefer the filter coffee machine, if it was only possible to bring a Chemex home and share with friends. Although it is important to have good coffee and treat it as it deserves to be treated.
As for Nespresso, I prefer not to speak.
Interviewed and Photographed by Diego Etxeberria in the Federal Café in Madrid, 2013.