Elan Cafe: Joao Almeida on the industry challenge to create a coffee culture

Elan Cafe: Joao Almeida on the industry challenge to create a coffee culture

Joao Almeida is head of coffee operations at Elan Cafe, the chain that has often been described as “instagrammable”.


Why do you love the coffee industry – what made you want to become a coffee professional?

In Portugal, coffee is just part of life. Coffee for me is not about the caffeine intake but it is about the celebration.

It is the idea of the craftsman. I wanted to be a chef but once you get into the kitchen you realise that the flare and creativity is not as abundant as you are given to believe. In coffee you can still feel the reward. I hate to be the guy that puts a stamp in a book. Either I like to be the guy who writes the book or the guy that prints the book.

For me being a barista is like being a baker. I think that life should be celebrated with delicious chocolate, friends, company and family, and it is all about the search of improving your day and delicious coffee does that.


What has been the proudest moment in your career so far?

I don’t have the time to look back, but the proudest moment in my life is every day. When I get a chance to look back I am very proud. I wake up every morning and think ‘wow’ I am so proud of my career.

I believe that you have to work hard for a living but you shouldn’t suffer for it.  I have this great career where everyday is hard but is not painful and I enjoy it. 


What biggest challenges facing baristas and coffee shops?

One of the biggest challenges is to create a coffee culture that moves beyond the coffee scene. The coffee scene was something for insiders, when we were trying to establish something different from the multi-nationals, such as Costa and Starbucks.  You need a scene and a group of crazy, like-minded people, to come and rock the boat. Now we are too big to be a scene and now it is about creating a coffee culture like Italy. Italy may not have great coffee beans but they have a great coffee culture. London has great coffee beans but does not have a great coffee culture. Coffee should be like a good wine. You don’t drink wine to get drunk but you drink wine to increase the experience.  The culture is about you trusting the barista to make delicious coffee. If it is delicious coffee it is a delicious coffee. It is not about it being a single origin from Guatemala.


You are showcasing at the Barista Masterclasses at European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo. What 
made you want to become involved?

As a professional it is for me to give something back. I think a healthy coffee culture does not come just from a group of professionals but comes from groups of normal people. A guy might come to the show from Coventry and he doesn’t have all the cool coffee shops but is willing to learn. This is why I wanted to focus on milk in the Barista Masterclass. It is 99% of your drinks beverage as we are a nation that drinks latte and not espresso.  You never know if the guy from Coventry, who may have a part-time job while he goes to University, might come back and do some cool stuff for the industry.





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