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September 27, 2018

A coffee journey – by Lucky Salvador

My coffee journey began right after completing university in 2007. Coffee is something that II was not really a fan of, maybe because every time I heard the word ‘coffee’, straight away I thought of instant coffee – if not terribly bitter, it’s insanely sweet. Life was tough during college. Obtaining a coffee from a commercial coffeehouse was a bargain after not having a meal for three days. That’s why the first coffee I had from a commercial coffeehouse was the time when I started working in the coffee industry.
Immediately after university, I was on the hunt of finding a full-time job. One day, a good friend of mine at the university asked me if I was interested in working as a barista? I didn’t have any idea what she meant when she said ‘barista’, but I just said yes! So, I went for an interview (something I’m terrible at) and got lucky, I was hired! After a couple of days, I got called in to attend a coffee training session before we were to be deployed to our designated outlet. That training we had was an eye opener. I realised that there was so much to learn about coffee, and that’s how I got hooked on it and was the start of my coffee career.
I began working at a commercial coffee company known as Bo’s Coffee, which is a local brand in the Philippines (similar to Starbucks). My first few months was really fun, I just loved everything about coffee at that moment. Another thing that helped me to love coffee even more was how it connects with people, and from that point in time, I knew that coffee was meant for me, and was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
As I mastered the art of making coffee on the commercial side in general, I started asking myself how I could do better, and that curiosity and hunger for learning led me to a totally different world in the coffee industry – specialty coffee. From then on, I spent an hour or two after my normal working hours researching, studying and exploring more about specialty coffee. I even joined an online group focusing on specialty coffee. I was overwhelmed with what there was to learn.
The biggest break was in 2010, when I found out that there was an upcoming national barista championship and without a second thought, I registered myself in that competition. What really drives me to compete, is the curiosity and the eagerness to learn and to explore. Despite the challenge of not having someone to help me in preparation, and the sleepless nights watching videos and practicing my routine in my mind over and over again, it was worth it. I managed to win the National championship. I believe that everything is possible, with hard work and dedication.
A few months later, I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to be a part of the specialty coffee industry in Singapore. I started as a service staff at Forty Hands Coffee, owned and run by an amazing Australian from Perth (Harry Grover, also the founder of Common Man Coffee Roasters) which serves Five Senses Coffee from Australia. The first time I tasted the coffee, I was blown away. I never expected that coffee could taste so amazing. It was also my first specialty coffee experience.
A short time later, the company opened another brand, which was a café/bakery concept (Tiong Bahru Bakery), and I was given the opportunity to lead the coffee program. Due to the lack of man power, I was running the whole coffee bar – open to close each day for three months, serving 300 – 700 cups a day. That fast-paced high-volume café helped me to develop a lot of skills, not only in terms of speed and consistency, but also my sensory skills. I always found so much fun exploring the complexity of the coffee, settling for just an ‘ok’ coffee is not really in my nature. I always want to serve a coffee that I really care for and enjoy, to my customers. That being said, I spend a lot of time understanding the machine, and how different variables affect the taste of the coffee, and I have become really good at it. There was one time when I noticed something wrong about the coffee, and I was so confident that there was really something wrong. After I sent some honest feedback to the company, they came back to me and told me that I was right. There was an error on the roasting of that particular batch and they hadn’t noticed it…until they received my feedback. That event made a big impression on my Bo’s and Five Senses guys.
After a year, that company and Five Senses Coffee decided to collaborate and start up a café, roastery and academy. Another blessing came my way as I was chosen to lead the bar team. Fortunately, I was able to deliver the company’s expectations. After two years, I was given another break, this time as a head trainer in our Singapore academy. To prepare to be a trainer, I was sent to the Australian Barista Academy in Melbourne, Australia.
That’s where I met Andy Easthope, one of the coolest guys I’ve met in the industry. He didn’t only teach me how to become a good trainer, but also how to be a better coffee person. He said, being a trainer is not just about how good you can teach, it’s also about how you influence your students with your passion and being able to bring out the best in them.
Australia’s coffee culture has been a huge influence in my coffee making, and I always take it with me, so that I can share it with other people. Apart from feeling at home there, Australia is the place where I go every time I feel that I need to learn something new, or if I want to see where my skill levels are at. Because of that, I’ve been very active in joining a lot of coffee events in Australia, some of those are competitions. And what I love about competition is the opportunities to meet a lot of amazing people in the industry, as well as to share and to learn. If it wasn’t for the incredible people that I have met on this coffee journey, especially the Cafe Culture family, I would not have had the opportunity to travel and meet people from London and China. The recent Fushan Barista Cup for me was an eye opener. Learning the coffee culture in Hainan China and sharing the stage with so many talented barista’s from across the globe, was once in a lifetime experience.
Coffee is just so amazing, as well as the people in the industry and I have never taken them for granted. I love coffee as much as anyone and I see myself working with coffee for the rest of my life.
My advice to all the barista’s out there – get out of your comfort zone. Go for an adventure, and find as much treasure as possible.
Sincerely yours, Lucky Salvador.

Original article and pics (pg 82) Cafe Culture Magazine





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