#HtH Hometown Heroes of YYCfood – Jeremy Ho, National Barista Champion

RT  with #HtH or #LMSF & Comment throughout the series for a chance to WIN a brand new copy of your choice of John Gilchrist’s Cheap Eats: Calgary or My Favourite Restaurants. Unlimited entries.    

Now, the second last Hometown Hero I’ve chosen to highlight is a friend, so if this sounds somewhat biased.  It probably is.

What food culture does a town have without a coffee culture?  Some may say, lots, but I disagree.  I am a coffee lover, and since Phil & Sebastian have pushed coffee culure to a new level in Calgary, I feel it  fitting to tell you about the new Canadian Barista Champion!


[the DownLow]

For those who aren’t in the coffee industry, this is kind of a big deal – like the Honens for piano, World Cup for soccer, Olympics for athletes, the barista championship is for coffee.  This is the industry event that allows for baristas to show their creativity, technicality, and understanding of coffee – the product, process, and customer experience.  This year, two of P&S’ own baristas made it to the Nationals – and brought home first and second, which is amazing representation on a national level for our city.

Barista competitions are, in short, a gathering of talented baristas. They have 15 minutes to present three drinks to a panel of four sensory judges, while describing what they are doing throughout the presentation and telling their story.  There are another set of judges that watch their every move, tamp, pull, and shot!  Talk about pressure!  Baristas who succeed are generally engaging, knowledgable, practiced, and all-roud great story tellers.   [three drinks: espresso, cappuccino, and signature drink]

Jeremy, he is a passionate guy!  He is most enthusiastic about almost anything he is excited about, his passion is palpable and visceral.  Every Thursday, he and Jeff (coffee roaster, Phil & Sebastian) lead a coffee tasting at the Marda Loop location talking through topics such as coffee bean origins, processing, roasting, brewing, etc.  Whether you want to enjoy better coffee, understand the process, or meet other inquisitive coffee minds, it is open to anyone.  Jeremy is encouraging to talk to about coffee because no matter your level of coffee knowledge or enjoyment, you can learn something, or find the conversation exciting, informative and helpful.

He thinks outside the box and always brings the experiences of a great meal meal back to coffee.  For example, in food it is often the balance of flavours in a dish that make for a great tasting meal.  This can be applied to coffee, in that acidity and sweetness can be balanced.  While training for the barista championships, each barista challenges their own thoughts about coffee, its production, and the conventional way that it is being served.  The preparation pushes them to be better.

In our discussions, I asked Jeremy if he thought participating in a barista competition is essential to a barista’s growth and experience. ‘There are things you take for granted as a barista, like in the daily routines that can always be improved upon.  It is a very valuable experience for any barista to train/prepare for the competition.  Then again, I know baristas that haven’t competed and are great.  But training pushes your boundaries and causes you to scrutinize each part of your routine.  Down to the very movements of serving the espresso – is it smooth or awkward, have you well though-out your actions’   As a barista, it is important to be an engaging communicator that is able to tell a story about the coffee.  

Talk me through developing a signature drink (sig drink)

There are two ways one can develop a signature drink, both require lots of trial and error.  The first way is to have your full theme developed and create your sig drink on that theme, others develop the signature drink first and make it fit their presentation.  The theme can surround the flavour profile of a bean, and develop a sig drink based on the taste of their bean.   You think about the types of flavours that you want to bring out, and then incorporate that into the concept of your creative idea.

Sometimes it can be inspired by something you have experienced and applied to coffee. For example, Jeremy spoke about a drink he tried in Berlin that was foam and vaourized into a liquid.  I thought how awesome would it be if you could make into a coffee drink.

Things to consider in the sig drink are; How does it taste, and whether the technique or concept tie it into the theme.

The Despair 

Depending on the cafe in which you work, you have base knowledge from the training that has been imparted on all staff.  Jeremy spoke about the commodity exchange in Ethiopia and this was something he knew before the competition, but through research he came across so much more valuble experience that can be shared with staff and customers.  It’s not all fun, though.  Many times during the stress of developing the concept, you feel discouraged and feel like you might have to abandon the idea.  But then the final product comes together and voila you have  sig drink that accentuates the taste of your coffee in a creative and simple idea that the judges will love.

People are understanding a better cup of coffee and gaining an appreciation for specialty coffee in recent years.  We talked about where coffee may be in the next five years, either in Calgary or on the internatonial level.   There are many facets that we can gauge it [the industry] by, there can be more diverse types of cafes –  currentlly we have to sell a high volume of coffee, and interact with customers behind the machine.  But the customer experiences can become more interactive; either at table-side or even molecular gastronomy-styled coffee drinks at the table. Just a different tasting experience.   

Thanks for the engaging conversations, great laughs and of course, raising the bar for food and coffee culture in Calgary.

Best of Luck at Worlds! (World Barista Championships)


[the Generics] 

What is your background in studies?

Science, Biomedical Major, Population Health  – discovery process and chemistry of brewing 

What’s your most fave thing to make at home?

I don’t know what my favourite thing to make is but I like roasting things, like Roast chicken.  I think it is nice to share a meal, and a roast chicken is a meal you have to share.

Coffee at home: Aeropress.

Fave place to eat & place to get coffee in Calgary?

Place to eat:  How many places can I name?  I can’t name one.

Anju is one of mine right now. Their wings are really yummy, the food is well made, you go and share food and it’s relaxing and not pretentious.

Coffee: Ben Puts house, I mean… don’t put that.

What do you think is your most valuable tool?

….silence…. my mouth.  In coffee, I think your palate is important for honing in on what you taste, dialing in the coffee, etc. Also, being able to convey what you learn about coffee, and tasting what you are serving.

My aeropress, because it’s my brewing method.


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