Q&A with Dale Harris, World Barista Champion, 2017
As World Barista Champion, what are the challenges facing coffee retailers in 2018?
Well-trained, motivated staff and equipment are important to any successful coffee retailer - but so is coffee quality and having a supportive relationship with your suppliers. I’d say the key to good coffee is good ingredients!
Each business has different needs - I would say that finding the right partnership for your business, particularly finding a coffee supplier whose values and products you believe in, comes first. From there, you can build longer term solutions together on the tools you use and the wider package of training and support you offer your baristas.
What does it take to become the best? And how can employers help make their staff world-great?
It takes a great deal of support and investment in training from both the staff and the employer - that investment can be a little scary when you might lose the individual you’re developing, but I think building a business that has a reputation for supporting its staff pays for itself if you have a queue of people wanting to be a part of your team when you look to recruit.
Embracing the cost of ongoing development as part of the business and using industry tools like the SCA training programs or barista camps as a framework to keep your team learning can be solid ways of building that reputation and ensuring you’re in line with current standards.
Where do you see the greatest innovation coming from, in terms of great coffee?
I think independent cafes in the UK are going through a very business/finance focussed phase at the moment, which has led to growing pains and challenges through saturation that get in the way of actual innovation or improvement in coffee service/product. I actually think that the highest potential for business growth - and innovation - comes from a focus on the customer experience, particularly improvements in how you help your customers value the coffee you’re serving them.
As director of wholesale at HasBean, what are the biggest challenges and opportunities ahead for you?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is finding the best way to reach people who are just beginning to set-up their cafe businesses. Historically, we’ve built our business on serving those who don’t have local roasteries focussed on quality, but with a lot of growth in new roasters, we now have to find ways to connect with new, quality-focussed businesses.
What are your three key things to ensure a great cup of coffee every time?
- Buy coffee with clear provenance that’s delivered fresh within a few days of roasting
- Use tools like on-demand grinders and volumetric machines - they maximise freshness and consistency, allowing the barista to focus on customers and shot quality
- Ensure scales are at hand for both espresso and brewed coffee - but these aren’t helpful unless you also make sure your staff understand how to develop and use brewing recipes!
What's your favourite gadget and why?
Sadly - or maybe, boringly - I’m not actually one for gadgets!
Finally, what's your favourite cup of coffee, when do you most like to drink it and why?
The coffees I enjoy the most are the ones that surprise me - it’s not unusual when drinking a mug of brewed coffee for me to notice a new characteristic as it cools, and that’s exciting.
- Dale Harris is wholesale director at HasBean, suppliers of green and roasted beans, coffee makers and home-roasting equipment.