Dan Fellows reveals the real secrets behind his success
Why do you love the coffee industry – what made you want to become a coffee professional?
My coffee and cocktail story starts on my 18th birthday. I grew up very fussy around food and when I was working in a kitchen I was fascinated by flavour combinations and how ingredients worked together. I worked my way up from washing dishes to being a chef but soon realised the one thing I loved was being able to talk to people and communicate what I was doing on a personal level.
By the age of 19, I was working in the bar called The Hub on the harbour front in St Ives and that was the turning point. I was introduced to great coffee and that was the first time I ever used Origin Coffee. As soon as I started making cocktails I was hooked.
I was really ambitious and wanted to learn everything I could. I read the Diffords Guide, which is the cocktail bible and tried to learn as much as I could about coffee. It took me a few years to bring them together.
I went to study business management where I got a first class degree from the University of York. At the same time I was the doing the UK Barista Championships every year and the Coffee in Good Spirits Championships every year, fitting that in with study and work at Origin Coffee, where I was trainer/wholesale manager at the time.
What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?
It was winning the 2018 World Coffee In Good Spirits Championships. In 2012, I actually won the SCA UK Coffee In Good Spirits Championships and I went to South Korea to compete. I had a bit of a disaster because of inexperience. I made a small mistake with an Aeropress and didn’t recover from it. But it made me hungrier and I think that maybe I had got ahead of myself. If I had gone straight through to win a championship in my first year I don’t think I would have got the satisfaction of coming back to get that redemption. I competed over and over again working towards various goals and trying to develop difference skills every time.
I won the UK Barista championship in 2016, which was a great moment. That was the biggest shock I have ever had in a competition because I had no idea that was even possible. But it gave me some more confidence that I could do it. Then the Coffee In Good Spirits Championships road to Brazil started in 2017, where I won the nationals after a lot of hard work and development. I practiced long and hard for Brazil, which was an incredible learning curve.
What are the key challenges facing baristas and coffee shops at the moment?
Being a barista is a career in itself but there are many career steps they can take. But baristas aren’t sure what those opportunities might be. There are just hundreds and you just need to follow your interests, which is why I focused on the coffee cocktails.
There is an element of consolidation in the industry and lots of rapid expansion. I definitely don’t think the bubble is bursting. It is good as people have to work a bit harder to be successful as the market is pretty saturated. Hence the introduction of evening service whether it be wine, beer or cocktails. There are huge opportunities and the challenge for these operators is to create an environment where all of these things feel normal. You don’t go to a coffee shop to get drunk and you don’t go to a bar to drink coffee in the daytime. I think there are a handful of companies and businesses that have found this middle ground. It is a challenge because they are difference experiences.
You are showcasing at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo Barista Masterclasses? Why do you think Barista Masterclasses are great for the sector?
I enjoy talking about my interest in coffee and cocktails and I am very fortunate to have had some amazing experiences. I want to introduce that to as many baristas, bartenders and aspiring food and beverage professionals as possible. To explain to people that there is more to coffee cocktails than espresso martini. Equally, coffee does not have to be dominant, it can be a support ingredient to give complexity and body, and it can even be something as simple as injecting coffee into a drink if you want a pick me up in the evening. It can be a phenomenal ingredient within itself.
I love talking to people and the Expo is a great opportunity to get in front of people. It is going to be a great show.
- For more information on European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and check out stand and sponsorship options.
- Visitor registration is now open for the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. For FREE fast-track entry click here.
- The Barista Masterclasses will take place at the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo being held at London’s Olympia on 21 to 22 May 2019.