Barista Spotlight: Alica Bánszka

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Hello, what is your name?

Hi, my name is Alica, but most of the people call me by nicknames and the list is too long to count!

Where are you from and where do you work?

I come from Slovakia and right now I moved back from The Barn in Berlin and currently, I am a barista at a coffee shop called "pán Králiček" (Mr Bunny in translation). So I went to the rabbit hole, just like Wonderland Alice.

What peaked your interest to be involved in the specialty coffee industry?

The first specialty coffee that I tasted.  I did not put sugar and milk in my cup, I enjoyed the taste completely and I was amazed. Washed Kenya served by our head barista and that now is one of my best friends. His passion for coffee got to me, also it was something new and I wanted to know all about it.

How do you define community?

Group of people finding a way to cooperate and bring the best out in each other. Supporting each other and not fighting or gossiping about each other. Focusing on what we all love—coffee finding strength and working really hard on the current standard of coffee culture.

What made you want to get involved with the BGE?

Community, people and BGE events. I attended Colab in Berlin and last Barista Camp. It was so overwhelming seeing so many people basically doing "the same thing"—coffee—with similar passion. It was at the time that I started to burn out a little bit, being in stereotype, but each time it made me realize that we are doing a really great job, not only for us but for the people behind the cup—roasters, farmers, importers, people of each country of origin. And I am so grateful for that.

What did you take away from your experience at the BGE event you attended/volunteered at?

That people aim for same goals as me all over the world and I am not alone. Anything I am struggling with there are people able to help me and last—I made friends with different backgrounds and approach in the field, each one of those experiences is valuable and you can use it for a good cause.

What is your most memorable coffee moment to date?

Being really frustrated, hating my job, feeling helpless and the watching "A Film About Coffee" where is this beautiful scene when farmers taste their coffee for the first time. That made me cry and realize that in the end, it matters—I matter as a barista and it is my responsibility to bring out the best to the table. And also new fermented methods of processing that taste like rum. Yumm.


About the Barista Spotlight Program: One of the goals of the BGE is to put the focus on the experiences of the baristas that make up the rich and diverse European coffee community. We have decided to reach out to our membership to learn more about their journeys so far. Learn more.

If you would like to contribute a Barista or Community spotlight, fill out the content submission form or contact us at communications@sca.coffee.

Interview with Domas Draginis of The Block Cafe

Ahead of Barista Camp Portugal, we had a chat with Domas Draginis who is a barista and social media manager for The Block Cafe in Lisbon, Portugal. Read on to learn about the growing Portuguese specialty coffee scene and the first ever Portuguese Aeropress Championship! 

 

How long have you worked in coffee? What is your story?
I’ve worked in coffee for over a year now, however, I’ve been a needy customer for longer than that. I’ve studied and lived in Denmark for over 6 years and related my future mostly to IT. However as a student, I naturally had to power up on coffee. At some point during my studies I joined the student-driven cafe at my University as a volunteer, so I could start brewing my own cup of Joe. Not only did I realise how fun it is, but also I started understanding and deepening my knowledge of all the different stages of the coffee chain. Since then I’ve started exploring the specialty coffee scene in Copenhagen and upon graduation took an opportunity to move to Portugal to work with specialty coffee. 

 

What is the Lisbon specialty coffee scene like? Have you seen it grow in the past few years? 
Lisbon at the time of my arrival (1 year ago) was scarce of places where you could talk coffee, not only drink it. The local scene is quite conservative and one track minded towards their coffee traditions. It’s just a commodity and not an experience nor a topic of conversation. If you order coffee at any regular cafeteria, you’re most likely going to get ‘bica’, which is a bit longer than espresso and usually a lighter roast. As much as there is potential in making local coffee taste better, there seemed to be a lack of effort in most cases. 

However, in just under half a year the number of specialty cafes and roasteries almost tripled in Lisbon alone. The community of artisan coffee promoters has grown and initiatives such as Lisboa Coffee Evolution (LCE), who are trying to unite people of the industry through monthly cuppings and such are making a significant impact towards people’s approach to their cup of coffee. I’m really stoked about being part of this growth of the specialty coffee scene in Portugal and having a chance to contribute in any possible way. 

 

What does the future of specialty coffee in Lisbon hold? 
The future of specialty coffee in Lisbon is undoubtedly very bright and promising. I am sure that it will make a big mark in the world’s coffee history books. While the major coffee companies don’t rush moving in to Lisbon, the small coffee shops get to “stir” the market with a quiet approach. In other words, the specialty cafes that opened up recently such as Benjamin Coffee House and Olisipo Coffee Roasters are operated by 1-2 people and those people behind them are extremely knowledgeable with decades of experience. The most important thing to mention is the respect that they pay to the traditions. Their third wave coffee approach does not push it to the local customer, but rather informs, before offering. As an expat myself, I consider this to be the most appropriate way of collaboration. With Lisbon running into the issue of 'over-tourism’, third wave coffee has to be introduced with caution, patience and persistence and while these are kept in mind, the future will be really good! 

 

What are your ambitions?
From my own standpoint, I’m making sure to be up to date with what’s happening around the coffee culture in Portugal and while my degree is rather technical, I might as well be continuing that way. However, my biggest ambition is to remain in the centre of the specialty coffee growth in Portugal and around the world, even if I won’t be directly associated with it. I’m working in a tech savvy environment, where people more often than not are involved in blockchain related industries. Since I’m lucky enough to be getting the best knowledge out of it, I am very curious how decentralisation and transparency due to blockchain can be applied to the coffee industry as there are plenty of challenges in any given stage of the coffee supply chain. Projects of such kind is where I would like to excel the most since it would combine my passion for technology and coffee. 

 

You’re hosting the first Portuguese Aeropress Championships this year - tell us about that? 
AeroPress is my first (and so far my only) home brewer. My heart fell for its simplicity yet flexibility in how one can brew their coffee. While the Scandinavian coffee scene is much more advanced and developed, the innovation is somewhat slower. Therefore, right after moving here, I noticed there was no AeroPress competition (the other competitions are very vague and almost closed doors too…), so I didn’t doubt much when I met the head roaster of “7g roaster” in Vila Nova de Gaia - Porto. I went there to write an article about 7g, which is a specialty coffee roastery and bed & breakfast apartments experience. I got to know David Coelho, who has represented Portugal in the World Barista Championship a few times in the past and I proposed to him we get this gig together. 

While he has more experience in coffee and the local network, I take care of the practical stuff to plan the event. Our idea is to make the AeroPress championship a gateway and a bigger step to the specialty coffee movement in Portugal. I like ‘getting things done’ so my language barrier nor being ‘an outsider’ is going to stop me from putting it together. There’s so much interest from people, I’m confident we will have a great AeroPress fest on 7th of September! 

 

Why should we come to Lisbon? 
I have to warn you, if you do come to Lisbon (and Portugal in general) you will find it really hard to leave. While it’s got the best climate in Europe, definitely the highest waves for surfers, outstanding gourmet cuisine and local wines that make any sommelier update their wines collection, the coffee scene is on the take off now! Combine all these together and that’s what makes Lisbon such an attractive destination. 

 

What are your local recommendation to Barista Camp attendees? 
There are people who work in the coffee industry and have extensive experience while their colleagues might be behind with their skillset (and that’s the problem I’m running into at some of the bigger cafes in Portugal). Barista camp will be a few days of intense learning where baristas can up their level and stand out personally and professionally. There is nothing more charming then a specialty cafe with artisan samurais! 

Also, it can definitely be a good boot camp for the AeroPress championship, that will take place right after! 

 

 

 

Interview with Lisa Zancanella of Combi Coffee Co.

We had a chat with Lisa Zancanella, Barista from Combi Coffee to discuss her coffee career and the Porto specialty coffee scene. Read on to get familiar with the Portuguese coffee scene ahead of our upcoming Barista Camp in Evora.

How long have you worked in coffee? What's your story?
I started with coffee when I was 19 years old, 3 years ago. Before that, I was a professional dancer but at 19 I got an injury and after coming back to Italy I simply started to work in a cafe and I immediately fell in love with the sensorial part of the coffee. I started to take SCA courses and do some competition with the International Institute of Coffee Taster. Italy didn’t give me enough challenges, so I decided to move: my heart belongs to the Berlin coffee scene but while I was on holiday in August 2017 in Porto (my first time in Portugal!) I just had a talk with the guys of Combi Coffee Roasters, and I ended up for moving 2 weeks later to work with them. Here I immediately started organizing monthly coffee cuppings, sharing our research on quality without any compromises and desire of changing how things have been set up for years, developing new ideas and projects. 

 

What is the Porto specialty coffee scene like? Have you seen it grow in the past few years?
Porto specialty coffee literally started on September 2017: with us also other few coffee shop/ roastery opened. It has been hard as the Portuguese people (like Italians) have a strong coffee culture made by dark roasted Robusta, so has been a beautiful challenge to introduce them to the specialty’s world of flavor and origins. This is why organizing our monthly cuppings has been our first idea: every month we are welcoming a lot of Portuguese people but mostly tourists from abroad with already a great culture of Specialty Coffee. We can’t impose our approach, we just want to show them that there is another way to think about coffee, making it interesting: luckily the Portuguese are very curious and open!

 

What does the future of specialty coffee in Porto hold? 
In this year more coffee shops and roasters have opened, now we are around 10, thanks to the big wave of tourists very interested in specialty coffee. The risks lie in not taking the specialty coffee element of opening a cafe seriously – those who do that will fail. Our approach is different, we don’t want to lower the quality level and we are focused on the sensorial part and the relationship with the farmers and origin countries more than branding or marketing. For Porto there is a big future I think, it is a very open-minded city always answering positively to new input.

 

What are your ambitions? 
I want to work directly with the farmers and try to improve their conditions in a concrete and real way. For now, the best I can do is to organize these events like this first one in September, we will have another one in the following months about the situation of the women in the farms, with other associations. I want to change how things have been set up and try to make people aware of the faces and the stories behind the 18gr of coffee we serve them in the cup. 

I want to go finally to an origin country in the following months and for the future, I would definitely find a way to work more there. I want to dream big, I’m sure we can change things if we really do our best and try different approaches, but we have to act. 

 

You’re hosting a new coffee festival this year - tell us about that? 
On 8th of September, we have organized an international event with different panels of discussion and several cuppings, about Sustainability, Transparency and the reality of the coffee farmers. We don’t want to portray the fairytale of roasters who go to farms and play at Indiana Jones. We want to show people what’s behind a package of coffee, the faces working for that 18gr we are putting in their cups, we want to be honest and shake a bit. We want to present different approaches and prospectives, ideological but also geographic and cultural. 

The speakers that will join us are: Klaus Thomsen from Coffee Collective, Michal Molčan from Standart Mag and Alejandro Cadena from Caravela Coffee 

Last but not least: we constantly feel that speaking is not really enough, we need to do something more active and immediate so we will devolve the money charged for the entrance to Long Miles Coffee Project of Ben and Kristy Carlson, supporting the Trees for Kibiri Project in Burundi. 

 

Why should we come to Porto? 
You should come because it would be easy to go to Berlin or London, where Specialty coffee is a culture and has been improved for years. Coming to Porto is a challenge, nothing is sure and everything is new, every goal we achieved, every person who came to our cuppings, is already a victory for us, what seems small and not relevant for the others in Porto is something to be proud of. We started from zero and we have the opportunity to start directly with quality. 

 

What’s your local recommendation to Barista Camp attendees? 
You should definitely visit both Lisbon and Porto: they are totally different cities, especially for coffee, Porto is more personal, you can feel the dedication of the people working there and because the coffee scene is only young it is already looking for great innovations and new developments. 

 

Join us at Barista Camp Portugal 3 - 6 September 2018. Register here.