July 31, 2013

Barista Profile – Aaron Le

Aaron Le’s debut into coffee was for the same reason that many young people are introduced and hooked on the bean … he was studying engineering at uni and needed a part-time job to get him though. His first job was as a barista trainee at Gloria Jean’s in Prahran, and since then he has been obsessed. After working, training and competing with some well known baristas around Melbourne, Aaron won the Pura Latte Art Competition at Café Biz 2013.

Café Culture caught up with Aaron to try one of his coffees and have a quick chat.

1. Hi Aaron. Can you tell us little more about your background and coffee history?I’m 24 years old, I live in Melbourne, and I haven’t stopped making coffee since my first job with Gloria Jean’s five years ago. I’m obsessed! My obsession and intrigue has enticed me to explore the world of coffee, so I’ve worked at several cafés around Melbourne. The café that really helped me get to know about specialty coffee was at Outpost in South Yarra four years ago. Then I moved to 65 Degrees (the flagship outlet for Gridlock Coffee Roasters) in the CBD, where I worked for Con Haralambopoulos, World Champion Latte Artist (2008). Following this, I spent a short time working at Axil Coffee for David Makin (World Barista Champion) before I joined Dukes Coffee Roasters.

2. Dukes roast and serve coffee. What is your role there?

I’m working at Dukes as a full-time roaster, so I don’t work on the bar anymore. I also help Ben look after his store, as he is going to Argentina to start some projects with underprivileged children. In addition to this, I also work Saturdays at The Final Step in South Yarra. Benjamin Whitaker, the owner, is one of my best buddies in the industry, and he has been very kind in letting me use his shop for competition training after hours. We’ve known each other for a very long time. Before the Pura Latte Art Competition, I asked Ben to roast my competition coffee, as he’s been roasting some solid coffee in his store for a while now and has an enthusiastic following.

3. How many hours of practice do you do, or is it all on the job training?

Normally, I’d train around once or twice a week for 3 months before the competition – 3-4 hours each time, depending on what I can fit in.

4. Who do you consider as you mentors and idols?

I think I’m very lucky, as I am able to know and work with a lot of great people in the Melbourne coffee scene. I don’t have an idol, but there are 2 people who have had a very strong influence on my career development so far, and I’m very grateful for that. Benjamin Whitaker of the The Final Step is one. We often share a lot of information and thinking related to coffee and life. The other is my former boss and only mentor, Con Haralambopoulos, co-owner of 65 Degrees Café and Gridlock Coffee Roasters. He was the 2008 World Latte Art Champion and I believe one of the most successful competitors of his generation. His advice has been invaluable.

5. Have you had a chance to travel overseas to experience coffee, cafés, growing regions?

Not yet, but I’d love to do it one day! It is definitely in my plans, and I am working hard to save some money first!

6. What’s next for Aaron Le? 

I am keen to continue with coffee roasting,  so I have a strong focus on learning about green bean and lots of cupping at the moment. Hopefully this will take me on a trip to origin one day.

Thanks Aaron, and good luck with your coffee endeavours!

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